Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Dad

I have been thinking a lot about my dad lately. I am not sure exactly why, except there have been two instances in the last couple weeks when I have run into former athletes that played and/or ran for my dad. They were both at Gopher basketball games.

One encounter was outside and very cold so it did not last very long. A man that ran for my dad approximately forty years ago went out of his way to say hi and tell me to tell my dad hello for him. He did not know dad passed away in 2006. Although it was cold, he stopped and wanted to know some details about dad's passing.

He wanted to tell me how much of an impact my dad had on him when he coached him in track and cross-country at Worthington State Junior College in the early 1970's. We were all in a hurry to get out of the cold, but he wanted to stop and tell me a couple stories about my dad and how he had affected his life at an early age. That kind of thing happens to me all the time.

My dad had a tremendous impact on young people he coached, taught and counseled throughout his career. He had a tremendous relationship with his student athletes, that sometimes did not to his own  children. That was the conundrum in his relationships, both personal and professional.

Here is a picture of dad at age thirty-five just after he had been named to coach in Worthington in 1968:

Click on the image to make it larger:

It is hard for me to believe I am now twenty-two years older now than he was then!

The second encounter happened inside Williams Arena, when a woman put her arm out in front of me to stop me. I looked up at her and knew I should know who she was, but could not come up with her name on the spot.

She identified herself, as Brenda Stoel. it was not ten seconds later when her husband came up and embraced me with a huge hug and a little ketchup. Leroy, better known as Punky, played basketball, baseball and football for my dad in Edgerton in the early to mid-1960's.

We shared some fun stories and Punky told me how much of an impact my dad had on him in the short time he was his coach. He said hardly a day goes by he doesn't think about something my dad taught him.

Their son, Mike, also had a spinal cord injury, and is doing very well. His injury is lower than mine and he is actually able to do some walking. They told of how my visiting them when Mike was in Sr. Kenny Institute had such a positive effect on their entire family. So much so, when Brenda was a United States Postmaster in tiny Leota, Minnesota, she volunteered to introduce me to her peer group. Brenda is terrified of public speaking and yet she wanted to be the one to introduce me to the group. It is the only time Brenda has given a public speech!

Whenever I speak, I provide a written introduction. It is a humorous piece meant to get my audience ready for my presentation. Brenda strayed from the script and gave her own introduction I can only say was very touching! She had the group of postmasters in tears. Now I had viewed up there and make them laugh! It was not easy for me to do that; but it was especially difficult for Brenda. She told me that night in Williams Arena how petrified she was that she gave that speech, but she really wanted to give it!

There have been countless times when I have run into someone and something happens that relates to either my accident, my dad and all the people he touched with his coaching and mentoring or one of my siblings or my mom. They all have their own stories about how dad affected our lives. I miss him tremendously!

Here is a picture of him teaching me how to keep score with a basketball scorebook when I was only five or six years old:

Click on the image to make it larger:

He was teaching me at an early age. That picture was taken in McLaughlin, South Dakota when I was the team mascot. Their mascot was the Mighty Midgets! Doesn't that image just strike fear into your heart?

I have a picture of me with the team when I was five in my book, I Still Believe I Tomorrow.

In fact, let me include it right here:

Again, click on it to make the image larger:

I was a CK, commonly referred to as a coaches kid. I got to hang around with my dad all the time, and thoroughly enjoyed my childhood getting to be involved with the big boys in every community we lived in.

My dad played a big part in my development. I miss him every day, as I am certain some of you can relate.

Please feel free to comment.




Richard G Evans said...

Your post caused me to be gently reminded to call my dad this weekend. Life just moves too fast.

Great pics too friend!

Jeff said...

Great you have such good memories of your dad. My dad too was great and I miss him too. We're kind of looking more closely at the "Circle of life" where we're almost as old as our dads were when they died. All my siblings are older than my dad when he died.

angmag55 said...

This really touched me as I grew up on a Farm near Rushmore, Minnesota. My Dad passed away in 2007 and there isn't a day goes by that I don't think of him.
What a wonderful Dad You had to include You in all the goings on with the teams he coached!
Thanks for sharing these Memories!

Steve Phillips said...


You wrote this at the right time.

I have a good relationship with him, his birthday is Monday.

The most important memories to keep are those father-son bindings.

Earl Hipp said...

You are rolling along in his footsteps. You have a long trail of lives you have impacted in your career. Your dad would have been/is proud of you! I know I am.

Howard said...

I always like looking at old pictures. Really enjoyed the three of your dad and you. Brings back the good old times and memories. Howard

Richard G Evans said...

Mike for some reason I have lost contact with your FB account and cannot locate it. However I wanted you to see what Doreen Gross posted yesterday, I do not know the details but Wayne Gross passed away and I thought you should know. Here is what she posted:

Doreen Sarette Gross
Yesterday at 3:26pm · ..

‎"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." A faithful warrior, Wayne Gross, went home to heaven today. He will be greatly missed, but was a blessing to many in his lifetime. For him, now the real fun begins! Funeral tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, 11:00 am at Bridgewood Community Church.