I haven’t been contributing much to this blog the past few weeks, as you may have noticed. Because blogging is a very personal enterprise, I feel comfortable sharing the news of Monday’s passing of a great Wolfpacker – my father.
My father received his B.S. in civil engineering in 1968, and his Masters in 1972. He also started taking me to Wolfpack football games before I was out of diapers. My first distinct childhood memory is of Carter-Finley stadium – the deafening roar followed by stunned silence as Penn State kicked a last-second 54-yard FG to beat the Pack. A little less than 5 years later, a better memory followed. My Dad got us tickets to the 1983 home victory against UNC, complete with Dean Smith technical. I was so deliriously wild (and deaf from the noise) afterward that I almost got hit by a car in the parking lot.
The Wolfpack memories followed, good and bad, and my father was with me for almost all of them until I left to start work towards my own NC State engineering degree in the Fall of 1991. Dad intervening with Mom and letting me stay home alone to watch the 1983 ACCT final alone (skipping a family trip to the circus), despite only being 9 years old. Staying up with me very late on a Monday night during the school year to see V finish the miracle run and dash around madly looking for someone to hug. Had we been living in Raleigh (instead of Charlotte), I have no doubt he would have taken me to the bonfire. Pulling me out of school to fly to Nebraska for the 1988 NCAAT opening rounds – a great trip despite the outcome (loss to Murray State). We went to every home football game (even after Hurricane Hugo crashed a tree onto the roof of our van – we duct-taped black plastic bags over the seams and made the trip anyway), and watched or listened to pretty much every basketball (and road football) game. It was part of the fabric of our lives, and was something we always had in common despite the various other tensions that every father and son experience through adolescence and beyond.
After I left home, the trips together continued – the Mississippi State Peach Bowl win, and the smackdown of Notre Dame in the Gator (surprise Christmas present from me). Every phone call or visit home included discussions of NC State. His Wolfpack legacy is unbeatable – he married a State grad, and together they raised 3 children, all of whom graduated from NC State. Not only that, all 3 of us also married (or are engaged to, in my sister’s case) NC State alumni.
More than just a great Wolfpacker – he was a great father and a great man. Like Jim Valvano, he was taken from us far too early (age 60) by an aggressive, incurable cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for memorial donations to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. I know that the hardest part for me (even more so than speaking at the funeral service Thursday morning) will be sitting in Carter-Finley this fall, and seeing his empty seat directly in front of mine. So, if you see an apparent basketcase in Section 27 on opening night this September, go easy on me.
Without the passion for Wolfpack athletics that he instilled in me, I likely never would have starting writing for a blog – and certainly wouldn’t be determined to keep doing it for years and years. I take great comfort in knowing that my father was a man of great faith, and can only hope that Heaven comes with internet access, so that he can follow my rabid ramblings until the day I join him.
Thanks to all of you for reading.