The True Meaning Of Friendship

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As teachers and coaches, we are questioned almost daily about why we chose our professions. We are told they are thankless jobs that offer few financial rewards. Outsiders wonder why we chose careers in which disparagement and vilification are commonplace.

I must admit, I, too, have sometimes questioned my motives in becoming a teacher and coach.

In the darkness, some things often happened to make our career choices completely clear.

For my wife, Kay and I, that scenario unfolded last week.

An unexpected turn of health events sent Kay to Dr. John Vandruff, the Payson Regional Medical Center emergency room and finally to the hospital's intensive care unit.

I first learned of Kay's illness Monday during my first hour Pre-Algebra class at Rim Country Middle School. After hearing she was being treated by Dr. Vandruff, I quickly left the classroom to be with her.

Thankfully, fellow eighth-grade math teacher Nicole Ward was just across the hall to instantly take over and ensure classes ran smoothly.

I didn't worry. Nicole's a good teacher and a strong person. I learned that when she was a starring member of the Lady Longhorn junior varsity basketball team I coached in 1984-85. Knowing her tenacity, I was completely confident she could manage the classes.

Her commitment that day was never slowed by the 60-plus students of both our classes.

Dr. Vandruff, a physician I first met on the sidelines of the Payson High School field, was quick to evaluate Kay's condition and sent her to the emergency room. For more than a decade, Dr. Vandruff has been the sideline M.D. at all Longhorn football games.

After Kay was taken from ER to ICU, retired Presbyterian pastor Victor Joe visited to console both of us with prayer. Victor's wife, Gloria, a fellow RCMS teacher and friend, had heard of Kay's illness and asked her husband to check on us in our hour of need.

That evening, RCMS PE teacher and Lady Longhorn girls soccer coach Randy Wilcox stopped by with prayers and words of encouragement.

Gloria and Nicole also were in the hospital that evening to ask what more they could do.

Literature teacher Louie Crabtree was there with his unique humor that can't help but make you chuckle.

Payson High School football coaches Jack Morris and Mike Loutzenheiser, a pair of fine young men I helped coach on the Longhorns 1986 state runner-up team, called when they heard Kay had been hospitalized.

Both were eager to help anyway they could. The following day, the two, along with their beautiful wives, sent bouquets of flowers that went a long way in helping cheer Kay. After my wife was discharged from the hospital, Jack drove to our home in Pine to offer even more help.

I'd like to think that I, and all the other coaches Jack and Mike had at PHS, played some small role in helping the two become the fine coaches they are.

Years ago, I persuaded the pair to help me co-coach the Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade football team. Since then, you might say the two are suffering from a severe case of the coaching bug.

When I thanked Mike about going so far out of his way to help out, he replied, "You're like a big old grandpa to us."

Forget that nonsense. I'm a puppy.

RCMS assistant principal and athletic director Tim Fruth, who I coached both basketball and football along side, was there to provide his own brand of support.

Tim's concerns meant a lot to both Kay and me.

When our friend Pat Derksen, the hard-working varsity boys basketball coach at Tucson Amphitheater learned of Kay's hospitalization, he called immediately.

Pat and I built a lifelong friendship during our years coaching and teaching in the Show Low School District. When you spend as much time as we did on school buses traveling hours and hours to games, you develop trusting relationships.

I'm certain, that if I'd asked Pat to drive to Payson, he'd have been here in a heartbeat.

We are eternally grateful to all those who were at our side during our time of need. Thank you from the depth of our hearts.

We also know there were plenty of others in the education and coaching fraternity who were rooting for Kay.

To all of you, Kay and I will be forever thankful. You helped both of us understand the genuine camaraderie and loyalty that bonds the greatest professions in the world -- teaching and coaching.

Another huge thank you to Drs. Eric and Scott Anderson and all the kind staff where my wife works. It was their quick thinking that got Kay to Dr. Vandruff where she could be expertly treated.

To Richard Haddad and all those at the Payson Roundup, we also say thank you for your unwavering support.

Food for the poor

Just two cans of food will earn basketball fans a $2 admission discount to the Longhorns' Dec. 2 game in Wilson dome against Scottsdale Coronado. The regular admission price of $4 for adults and $3 for students will be reduced to $2 and $1 for those who donate the food.

The food will be given to the PHS Key Club, which will in turn donate it to local food banks. The food ultimately helps the less fortunate during the holiday season.

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