Behind the scenes, there were few like Kendall

Thoroughbred racing has had a rough couple of months, losing the marrow of our sport to early deaths. Not just horses. Humans.

We were just getting over the stunningly brutal, question-filled demise of 34-year-old jockey Chris Antley, when the sad news of Marjorie Clayton Cordero's death hit the papers. The word is tragedy, and it fits snugly but uncomfortably between those two names.

Chris and Marjorie were public figures. Fans have read their names in newspapers and magazines and seen them on television countless times through the years. Many times I talked horses with those gracious athletes -- on and off the air.

Now comes another death. A name you probable won't recognize; a member for more than a decade of the ESPN television crew I have worked with for so many years. But because ESPN does not roll credits at the end of a program, you never saw his name.

Kendall Durfey was one of the unlucky ones aboard the ill-fated plane that crashed on Jan. 27 in Colorado, killing all ten of its passengers, including two Oklahoma State University basketball players.

Kendall's full-time job was at OSU, where he worked as a producer and engineer on the university football and basketball radio broadcasts. But on many weekends throughout the year, Kendall would work as an audio technician for ESPN, primarily on its horse racing telecasts.

Besides being likeable and good-hearted, Kendall was also extremely talented. So much so, that the company who contracted him on a freelance basis for the ESPN horse racing shows, repeatedly tried to hire him away from OSU for a full-time staff position.

But Kendall loved his life in the little town of Stillwater and was extremely loyal to Oklahoma State, so he passed on those offers.

Doug Wren, who directed many of the ESPN shows that Kendall worked on, summed up what the loss means to those who worked so closely, for so long with him. "Live television production is all about teamwork under pressure, and he was the epitome of a team player. He had a strong work ethic and was always helping others. Kendall had a great attitude, and will be simply irreplaceable."

Durfey was only 38-years-old, and was married in 1998. He leaves behind his wife, Patti, and 10-year-old adopted daughter, Ashley.

He also leaves behind a great number of friends who loved being with him. We will always treasure those fun and poignant moments when Kendall would catch a smoke just prior to going on the air at any one of the racetracks from Del Mar to Delaware. It was there that we all worked on solving the problems of the world, while having a few laughs.

Kendall, your crew -- your other family -- will miss you.