A Tribute to a Coach, Mentor and Philanthropist I Never Met

Bernie Ward lived in the same town but never crossed my path.

This attempt at poetry is dedicated to Bernie Ward. “Scotty” passed away last week. He was a soccer coach, mentor, and philanthropist. He was co-organizer of the Farmington Bank Labor Day Shootout. He was a father, a husband, and a friend to many. We lived in the same town for over fifteen years. We never met each other.

Later in the week I sat in a chair and watched the parade of sorrow as it struggled to move along without its coach. Many of the former players are grown now. They’d planned on sending their own children to the coach. The coach would’ve remembered all their names and the names of their siblings. And when they became parents he’d remember them again.

“Some of these kids could bring a tear to a glass eye.”
-Bernie Ward

Two Men Who Never Met

A man died suddenly last week. I did not know him
personally. He’d seen fifty years and I am almost there.
We were two men who had never met. Turns out we once
celebrated at the same wedding. And if we shook hands
I’m sad I don’t remember his grip or celebrated humor.

His sport was round — mine was oblong with laces like the
ties of his jersey. He was patches of black and white while
I was brown and leathery. Of course, being Scottish as he
was, his ball was football to him and mine was football to
me. But children were children to us both because they are

all acquiescent. Because a child is like that ball. Conforming to a
field of slippery dirt or a length of bright turf because everything
seems bouncy to a child. When it’s fun they are back for more of

it. Or else they deflate with self-doubt and lose that hop that
some will not relocate. Or find difficult to rebuild trust in

themselves. Somehow two men were sprinkled into the same area.
And slept in beds a few miles apart from the other. Yet they never
met. Perhaps it was a part of a big plan where we are like snowflakes
falling on a huge tree. Clumped together with other snowflakes and
staying on our own branch because tree branches are only so big.

In the middle of these unmetered lines I’m remembering the fence,
when there was one along the lower field. It was while awaiting his
round ball to end and for the oblongs to begin. (Yes) I can hear
his voice directing the sway of his group. It had to be him. Shrek
rarely meets Braveheart on high school fields in these parts.

Sometimes one’s heart gets so used up by a life of helping others
that it simply comes to a stop sooner than we had hoped. Sometimes
it slips like a car’s transmission. Usually while the mechanic is busy
with others. Sometimes it’s too full of activity. Like giving to the boy who
would not have a place on the field, or gear to mesh with the rest. Then

filling his tummy. A man can ignore what’s inside of him until it hurts
like a footprint. Like a thousand footprints and round balls of black and
white dribbling on little feet like Pele — like Maradona — like Messi — like
Best and Ronaldinho. Little feet carrying more names. And he knew each
one as though they were on the backs of shirts running across the front of

large screens. And now that coach must take his vacation. Away from the
children and the green and white stripes. Away from the children and the
green grass and turf and the white snowflakes. Still clinging to their branches

on trees outside my window. And outside the windows of too many sad
faces. Two men never had the chance to meet. One of them will walk
outside today and stand beneath the small tree in the middle of his front

yard. He’ll shake it. Emptying the branches onto himself and letting the
cold of each clump touch his skin and trickle like frozen streams. Finally
melting on his chest and bringing him closer to the man he never met. 

Abby January 18, 2013 at 07:51 PM
What a beautiful and well written tribute!! God bless you all!!
Ann Young January 19, 2013 at 08:58 PM
What a beautiful tribute to him. Did not know him through soccer, but through his auto repair business. A wonderful man and our condolences to the family he left behind
Jane Paquet January 20, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Even though I don't believe I ever had the pleasure of meeting Bernie, I do know that he made a HUGE difference in our community. Several years ago, while volunteering in the Farmington Food Pantry, I was fortunate to pick up a call. It was from "the owner of Ward Autoworks" offering to do a generous food drive for our clients. This was totally unsolicited and a most generous act. I put Bernie in touch with the Food Pantry Board. Soon after that call, I saw a sign outside Ward Autoworks offering free oil changes in exchange for donations to the FFP. He also advertised free inspections for the same donation. This went on for several years and made a big difference in the lives of the many Farmington families who rely on the Food Pantry for sustenance. My sincere condolences and prayers go out to Bernie Ward's family and friends. You should all be very proud of his amazing generosity!
Ron Goralski January 20, 2013 at 01:44 AM
It was my honor and pleasure to contribute to the memory of this special man. Thank you to all who have shared it with friends. And thank you for the kind words.
Ron Goralski January 20, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Oh my goodness. I sure hope others will continue that goodwill in his honor. What a great story. Thanks for sharing, Jane.


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