Coaching and cooking were how Greg Bey showed love. He’d feed more than 100 people each Mother’s Day, inviting them to his Chicago Heights home for a feast that might include prime rib, crawfish etoufee, greens, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese — with six kinds of cheese.
“He cooked all of it by himself because that was his love language,” said his wife Tracy.
His only requirement for attendance? You had to have had a mother.
Mr. Bey, 62, died unexpectedly last month at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey.
He was a role model for many grade school kids he coached for 20 years in the Jaguars football program, now based at Jackie Robinson Park at 105th Street and Morgan Street.
“He was so positive,” said Roosevelt Martin III, 25, who with his twin brother Russell started with the program in fourth grade. “It made us feel so great.”
He and his brother both now coach for the Jaguars and try to pass along lessons they learned from Mr. Bey.
“We teach our players to encourage and uplift each other,” Martin said. “If something doesn’t go right, just pat each other on the back, let them know they’ll get it next time. At the end of the season, they’re all brothers.”
Just a look from Mr. Bey was enough to let players know they needed to up their game.
“Whenever we would pull up late to practice, he would just look at us and say, ‘Start running!’ ” Russell Martin said. “You learned if you’re late to work, there are repercussions.”
“He’d do visits when the seasons were over to make sure they kept academics first,” said the twins’ father, Roosevelt Martin Jr., the director of the Jaguars. “He taught integrity. Then, he’d teach football.”
“If a student was having a problem in school,” Tracy Bey said, “he’d tell them, ‘We’ll get you a tutor. You’ve got to keep your grades up because you’ve got to go to college.’ “
Mr. Bey grew up in Harvey, a son of Essie and Herman Bey. His father was a union steward at Reynolds Metals in McCook. He played football at Thornridge High School. He liked skating at The Rink, a popular 87th Street spot that was owned by relatives and patronized by generations of skaters. He excelled at “JB skating,” inspired by the moves and music of James Brown.
Young Greg skated in a 1977 play at the Medinah Temple, “Look Mama, No Hands.” To promote it, he appeared on WGN-TV’s “The Ray Rayner Show.”
“Even as an adult,” his wife said, “he would dust off his skates. He might not be able to kick as high as he did at 13, but he’d certainly get out there.”
Mr. Bey graduated from Illinois State University in Normal. Later, he joined Phi Beta Sigma.
He went on to sell telecommunications equipment and Internet services to businesses including Walgreens and State Farm. He worked for companies including MCI, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and, most recently, Cogent Communications.
Once, after finding out he didn’t get a job, Mr. Bey immediately pitched his fraternity brother Jason Easterly.
“He said to me, ‘I interviewed with them. They didn’t give me the job, but I told them about you,’ ” said Easterly, who landed the position. “I am forever in his debt.”
The Beys were married in 2000 after a courtship filled with culinary delights.
“When we were dating, he invited me over to his house,” his wife said. “He made a baked catfish, oh, my God, with a lemon sauce that was the best lemon sauce I had ever had.”
She said their daughter Christian said it best: “He was an alchemist in the kitchen.”
He’d map out ingredient itineraries to shop for specialties at different stores.
“He was so heartbroken when Moo & Oink closed,” his wife said.
For Thanksgiving, he’d deep fry turkeys for friends and relatives.
“He would give you your time slot,” his wife said. “He had an assembly line of turkeys.”
A week before he died, he volunteered at a college scholarship fair put on by the organization 100 Black Men of Chicago, for which he also worked on Christmas toy drives.
“He loved being able to help kids have the kind of holiday that he had when he was a kid,” his wife said.
Through his membership in the group The Chicago Assembly, he also helped raise scholarship money for young Black men who want to become educators.
Mr. Bey enjoyed traveling to “anyplace that had beaches, sand and sun,” his wife said.
Services have been held. In addition to his wife and daughter Christian, Mr. Bey is survived by his sons Gregory Jr. and Garrett and granddaughter Jaden.