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Respect the Classics: Woody (A Tribute to a Friend)

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  • Respect the Classics: Woody (A Tribute to a Friend)

    This installment of Respect the Classics is going to be a little different from most... like the one I wrote a few years ago on Donna Pits, this is a tribute to a friend who passed away on Tuesday night, Woody...

    I first met Woody back in 1981... I had just landed my first job after graduating from college teaching at a small rural school with students in grades 7 through 12... Woody's son Doug was in my 8th grade math class... like most 8th graders, including me back when I was in 8th grade, Doug acted up in class... but unlike many, just one time... because if there was discipline at school, he had to answer to his father and mother at home... I never had any more problems with Doug either that year in 8th grade math, or in later grades... When Woody and his wife came in for Doug's parent-teacher conference, he told me he appreciated what I'd done for Doug, and I told him that I appreciated that they cared about their son.

    Years later I met up with Woody again... he had a grandson who was the same age as my youngest son... they were on the same pee-wee (coach pitch) baseball team... I coached the team... Woody offered encouragement and suggestions and helped me develop as a coach and a person... he invited me to a community church service at the old elementary school... while my wife and I both grew up in church families (her dad is a retired pastor), we had not attended church regularly for several years... I went to the service and was amazed at how excited many of my players and their families welcomed me with opened arms... I felt as if I belonged... Woody invited me to sit with him and go to the pitch-in at the church after the service even though I hadn't brought a dish with me... I told him that I needed to take my wife and 3 sons out for dinner - he told me there would be plenty of food at the pitch in for everyone and to go get them... I went home and got my wife and 3 sons... we went back for church the next Sunday and were regular attenders at the church for the next 8 years.

    Woody was in charge of the Sunday School program and the church softball league... we were talking one day about Sunday school and I mentioned an idea that I had... looking at the scripture that was present in the lyrics of Contemporary Christian songs... he asked me if I'd like to teach the class for awhile and I told him that I would... every Sunday the class we'd listen to a song and then look at the lyrics... there was good discussion and participation... I was grateful to Woody for giving me the chance to teach - the growth in my faith and life was amazing and helped me to deal with the challenges going on in my family life... all because Woody believed in Jesus and believed in me and believed that the love of Jesus would help me with what I was going through.

    (Buzz and Woody are the 2 main characters in the Toy Story series... but you all knew that already... the first Toy Story movie was released in 1995... Tim Allen voiced Buzz Lightyear and Tom Hanks voiced Woody)

    Here's the back of the Buzz and Woody card:

    In 2001 Woody asked me if I would be willing to take over as commissioner of the church softball league... he'd been doing it faithfully for 15 years and he wanted to turn it over to a younger person... I'd been playing for 5 years and appreciated all that he'd done for me as commissioner and all that the league had done for me so I told him I would... for 5 years I served as commissioner and lived at the church ball diamond all day every Saturday and spent hours during the week working on the field and working on schedules... I set up a website (it was before Facebook, lol) and put the information out there for others to see... I was amazed to hear the stories of people who developed a personal relationship with Jesus because they first participated on a church softball team... people had been asked to attend church and wouldn't, but they were asked to participate on a church softball team and enjoyed their time and teammates and then ended up becoming regular church attendees and having a personal relationship with Jesus... I felt as if I was carrying on the tradition of the league as Woody had done.


    In late 2005 we moved into another home a few miles away... and due to a situation involving other members of the church board, my wife told me that we needed to leave the church... I was disappointed... I'd been given the chance to lead music during many church services and brought live music into the service, playing my guitar or keyboard and leading in songs... but I needed to support my wife as we found a new church... I continued to serve as commissioner of the softball league for another season, but was told by the pastor and church board that the commissioner needed to be a member of the church... what was ironic to me is that in 2004 I approached the pastor and told him that I wanted to join the church as a member, but it never happened... I played a couple more seasons with other churches but retired after the 2010 season - I'd blown out my right elbow and needed to have surgery - it should have taken care of the problem but it didn't... I started bowling left-handed... and tried tossing a football and a baseball as a lefty but couldn't do that... I put softball behind me... it was nice to do something else on a Saturday during the summer, like shop for Cars or do yard work or spend time with the grandchildren.

    Occasionally I'd see Woody at Meijer - I stop in before work almost every morning and Woody would drop off his oldest son who works at Meijer... we always talked... he still cared about me even though we were attending different churches... One day last spring when I saw him at Meijer he told me he'd taken over the softball league again and asked me if I would be willing to help him out and umpire for a couple of weeks... I told him I'd check with my wife... Woody is the only one who could have asked me that I would have even considered it... I called him later that day and told him I'd umpire those 2 weeks... and I ended up umpiring every week but one during the season... it was great to see Woody again and all my friends that I knew from previously playing ball.

    This spring I got a call from Woody asking if I'd be available to umpire again and would I come to a meeting to help revise the rules... unlike many leagues, this church softball league places an emphasis on Christian fellowship above winning... I found out that the meeting was going to be at the local hospital - Woody had lost part of his left leg due to complications from diabetes... he was doing well in his wheel chair and was going to get to go home the next day... he was looking forward to going home and said he'd see us at the ball diamond this summer... 2 weeks ago his granddaughter posted on Facebook that we needed to pray for her grandfather... and Monday night his son Doug posted that it was so hard to watch his father at the end of his life on earth (I remember that with my dad back in the spring of 1976) but he was going on to heaven soon.

    Tuesday night I learned that my friend Woody had passed away... tears flowed... Woody reminded my of my uncle and I had missed my uncle Wendell terribly since his passing in 1995... Woody was a true friend who treated me as family... he treated everyone as family.

    This Saturday I'll be umpiring church softball games during the day... and going to a visitation and a memorial service for my friend Woody that evening... it will be strange to look over behind the backstop and not see Woody in his chair... but I know that if I look up to the sky Woody will be looking down from heaven, reminding us all that the most important thing is not winning or losing, but having Christian fellowship and a relationship with Jesus... humbly serve through helping others... I saw myself as Buzz to Woody - but we worked together the entire time I knew him - unlike the characters in the Toy Story movies, there was never any jealousy or attempts by this Woody to sabotage Buzz... I owe a lot to my development as a person to Woody - through his example I've been able to put others first... for that I am grateful.

    Buzz and Woody:

    Thank you, Woody... rest in peace...


    I am cac1959... I am a Cars-a-holic... and a proud supporter of Nathan's Playroom

  • #2
    Such a beautiful tribute.
    RIP Woody.
    Thoughts and prayers for his family and for you Chris.

    Sent from my SM-A300FU using Tapatalk


    • #3
      you opened your heart there, chris,that cant have been easy

      the euros and cars, theyre not really too important in the grand scheme of things


      • #4
        My condolences Chris. Real friends are hard to come by. And losing one is never easy. I've posted this link elsewhere, but it's come to mean a great deal to me. As throughout my life I've lost so many people. Who meant a great deal to me. And I've felt greatly diminished each time. We all "pass on". So try to make sure what you pass on is what you want to be remembered for. And we live on in those who remember us.


        • #5
          very amazing of you to speak in such a way to honor your friend. I know what the grief is like, I too lost a friend.. my best friend actually, just a short time ago. He was only 24. You have my sympathies Chris.
          "I'm a paderbuilt for dags sake!"


          • #6
            Beautiful words. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time.


            • #7
              I'm so sorry for your loss. You have my condolences. I hope you can get through this awful event that occurred.


              • #8
                Nothing more to say than a great tribute and sorry for your loss.

                I can remember finding a sealed case completely full of the World of Cars Package Buzz and Woody 2-packs at toys r us years ago. I have never seen a case full of the same pack since.