Samantha Cullen, 9, and Chris Molash, 10, go fishing together in August 1995. Molash drowned in Lake Springfield on April 3, 2011, and Cullen delivered a eulogy at his funeral. Photo by David Spencer/The State Journal-Register.
An endless summer; indestructible fishing buddies
The State Journal-Register
In August 1995, this newspaper went looking for those special places where kids make summer memories. We found Jensen Woods Camp in Brown County, we found a homemade golf course on the edge of Springfield, and we found two friends who loved to fish.
One of those kids was Samantha Cullen. She was 9. The other was Chris Molash. He was 10.
From our 1995 story, which was written by Mike Matulis: It’s not every kid who can walk out to his back yard, bait his hook and land a 7-pound channel catfish.
But that’s the kind of summer it’s been for Chris Molash. Molash, a 10-year-old who lives in Spaulding, is on a fishing mission this summer. Every day since the school year ended, often as early as 6 a.m., Chris and his 9-year-old friend Samantha (she goes by Sam) Cullen head to the large fishing pond Sam’s dad built behind their houses. The plan: Catch enough fish for a big end-of-summer fish fry.
Chris was 25 when he drowned, along with his friend Travis Christopher, in Lake Springfield on April 3. They were competing in a fishing tournament at the time.
Chris and his childhood fishing buddy, Samantha, had remained friends all their lives. She gave a eulogy at his funeral on Monday.
Her friends still call her Sam. She works at a bank in downtown Springfield. She told me that the summer of 1995 was their usual summer. She and Chris fished, caught tadpoles and threw sticks in the water for dogs to fetch every summer when they were kids.
“Every day from sunup until it got dark and we had to go inside,” Samantha says. “We were pretty close friends from the time I was 3 and we moved in next door to them.”
As they grew up, Chris and Samantha were just a year apart in Riverton schools. After graduation, they didn’t see each other as often, but whenever they did, it was as if they had never been apart.
Her eulogy on Monday was full of reminiscences of their childhood, pranks pulled and fish caught. Chris was, Samantha said on that mournful day, “a true friend for life.”
As people grow up, things happen. Sometimes they are bad things. But newspaper stories stay frozen in time. They are clipped and put into scrapbooks and baby books, and we can look at them now and we can look at them 16 years from now and they will be the same. The moments captured are forever, though the people in them are not.
We are fortunate to have this old newspaper story to remind us there was a time when Chris Molash was indestructible, just a kid whose biggest worry was catching enough fish for a fish fry. The ending of that old newspaper story gives us a good way to remember him:
Sitting on his green tackle box, Chris isn’t catching anything this morning. The sun’s already high in the sky at 10:30 a.m., and it’s a bit too hot for an earthworm to really interest a catfish.
As they throw sticks into the pond for Bo, Tug and Babe, three neighborhood Labrador retrievers, Chris and Sam discuss their dream fishing accommodations — an air-conditioned cottage with mirrored windows overlooking the pond.
Even when the fish aren’t biting, real fishermen and women still enjoy remembering the times when they were.
“I like pulling in fighters,” says Sam.
“Catfish, those are the best fighters,” adds Chris.