Bradenton Southeast star didn't live to see full fruits of motherhood

vmannix@bradenton.comSeptember 13, 2013 

BRADENTON

The three girls gazed at the photo album while their grandmother slowly turned the pages, pointing to different pictures of their mother, Olivia "Libby" Bradley Reddick.

Mom soaring toward the basket for Southeast High School.

Mom skiing in the Swiss

Alps.

Mom holding her oldest daughter when she was 5.

"We've looked at these pictures a thousand times," said Ve'andrea Houston, now 18.

The images are forever in their hearts and help fill the gaps left by meager memories they share of their mother.

Reddick died 13 years ago from an autoimmune disease.

She was 36.

Ve'andrea was 6.

Toni was 2.

Danielle was 10 days old.

Mom may be gone, but she is definitely never forgotten.

"She had to leave us so early and they didn't get to enjoy life with her," said their grandmother, Willie Bradley. "I see something of her in each of them. What she had in her heart she left behind, and it lets these girls know how proud they should be of her."

Especially Saturday.

They'll all be in Morgantown, W.Va., when Reddick is inducted posthumously into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame. She was an All-America power forward for the Mountaineers and her career record 1,484 rebounds -- more than WVU legend Jerry West -- still stands.

What a sentimental journey it will be for the little family.

"It's like she'll be there in spirit," said Toni, 15, a Booker High School student.

"I can't believe it's my mom they're going to be talking about," said Ve'andrea, a State College of Florida freshman.

"Everybody's going to get a good feeling out of it," said Tony Reddick, father of the two younger girls.

Pardon the widowed family matriarch if she feels a bit melancholy during the ceremony. Reddick was the third of her four children.

"That she's not here to receive this award is emotional because she was my daughter, and I wish she could've been here, but the Lord knows best," Bradley said. "But this will be exciting for the girls."

"I can't wait," said Danielle, 12, a Booker Middle student.

Saturday's event has deep meaning for others, too.

Cindy Denison was Reddick's teammate on Southeast's 1981 state champions under then-coach Buzz Narbut and now has two daughters of her own.

"Libby's always been looked up to for her athletic abilities, but she was a good person and even more of an inspiration on top of it," said the Gateway Bank group vice president. "Whether it was basketball or motherhood, she was devoted and determined. It's so tragic she didn't get to enjoy the fruits of motherhood."

Reddick's daughters feel that impact in their own ways.

Perhaps none moreso than Ve'andrea. She played basketball at Lakewood Ranch High School and used her mother as a role model.

"People who knew her would tell me different things about her as a player and it inspired me," said the SCF student.

Yet there are things Ve'andrea feels she missed out on.

Girl things.

"There are things dad can try, but moms can always do it," she said. "Like helping me with the first day of school. Or what I should wear if I have a ceremony to go to. Trying to get through teenage stuff and not having a mom to get through it."

Danielle can relate.

She did not get a chance to know her mother at all.

"I wish I could've had some mother-daughter time," Danielle said. "I heard she was nice, kind and sweet and that she was a good basketball player."

Southeast coach John Harder said Reddick helped set the foundation for a Lady Seminole program that would win three state championships.

After graduating from WVU, she played basketball for four years in Europe, then returned to Bradenton, coaching at Southeast and Manatee High School.

"Libby was compassionate," Harder said. "She brought a lot of love to those around her. I never saw her have a bad day. I cried the day I heard she died."

According to her mother, while Reddick played overseas she developed scleroderma, an autoimmune rheumatic disease affecting the skin and other organs of the body.

It didn't become serious until she returned to Bradenton and raised a family despite the risk.

"Being a mother was the ultimate sacrifice for her," Denison said.

A sacrifice that will resonate with Reddick's family Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.

"I want these girls to have the courage to carry on," Tony Reddick said. "To always know their mother will be with them."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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