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The Suburbanite
  • Remembering a special friend

  • Sometimes we are fortunate to have a special person walk into our lives. They have an influence that lasts a lifetime and help make us who we are. We are better for having known that person.

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  • Sometimes we are fortunate to have a special person walk into our lives. They have an influence that lasts a lifetime and help make us who we are. We are better for having known that person.
    His name was Harold Parsons, one of my teachers and a coach at Coventry in the mid-1960s. He was one of those old-fashioned, no-nonsense teachers who expected his students to follow the rules and behave. He demanded we do our best but was fair and never expected us to do something we weren't able to do.
    I first met “Coach” in gym class when I transferred from a parochial school to the junior high. As the year progressed, that overweight little kid named Jim slowly began to slim down and build some muscles from all the push-ups, pull-ups, rope climbing, tumbling and assorted exercises Coach led us through. I slowly gained confidence as he challenged us to do our best in whatever activity in which we were involved.
    He wanted me to try out for football when I got to high school, but I really wasn’t interested. When I later saw him at a game, he told me in no uncertain terms that he was disappointed in my decision, but he didn’t hold it against me when I played baseball for him that spring. Coach was always fair in that respect and didn’t let past actions cloud his judgment.
    When he became the head coach at Coventry, he asked again me if I planned to try out. I knew I couldn’t disappoint him this time, so I did it. As the second team, we were always taking the full brunt of the varsity as they practiced against us. But Coach always tried to help us improve at the same time. It wasn’t fun, but I stuck it out because I didn't want to let him down and be a quitter. I think that would have been worse than all the cuts, bruises and assorted pains we went through that year.
    I finally made varsity my senior year. We weren’t very good, but Coach tried to instill confidence in us. We had the potential but never could pull it all together. It frustrated him, but he never gave up on us. I learned a lot about not giving up that year even though we got beat pretty bad sometimes. He always stood by us if we did our best.
    He left Coventry the following year and taught in Akron until he retired in the 1980s. We stayed in touch, and I visited occasionally at his home in
    Copley. After he retired, he and his wife Mac moved to New Jersey to be closer to his daughter and their grandchildren.
    Page 2 of 2 - Over the years, we exchanged Christmas cards, and I would call him once or twice a year. He always asked about his former students and I filled him in on what was going on around the area. They were just good conversations. I wish now we had talked more often.
    As we both grew older, I knew that the day would come when I wouldn’t get a Christmas card back from him. This year, I was going through the mail the Thursday before Christmas and saw a letter from New Jersey with a name on it I did not recognize. As I opened the letter with trembling hands, I knew what it contained. The letter was from his daughter telling me Coach had passed away from cancer on July 4. His wife had passed away 10 days earlier. I just stood there looking at the letter in shock. There were no tears, though they would come later. There was just the realization that I would never again hear his gruff voice and enjoy talking about the “old days.”
    He and his wife had requested they be returned to Ohio. They were laid to rest at the Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman. Next to my father, Coach was probably one of the biggest influences in my life. He taught me things about honesty, respect, perseverance and courage that have stayed with me throughout my life.
    It was a privilege to have known this man, and I will be forever grateful for what he taught and instilled in me.
    Thank you, Coach, for everything you did. God bless you, and may you and Mac rest in peace.