I am thrilled to see comments about my tribute to Les Fernandez! In addition to a very touching note from Coach’s daughter, Lanette, I am also gratified to see responses from people who were pleased to read about such a man even though they did not know him. Several people have asked me to write more about him and to tell of how I came to know him. This is a request that I will honor, but not today. At one time Coach and I spoke about writing a book and I deeply regret that the time was never right for such an undertaking. I need to spend some time with my memories before I write more.
Meanwhile, however, Lanette wrote a very wonderful eulogy, and I told her via private email that it was not only moving but also beautifully crafted. I asked her if I could post it here for you to see and she said “yes.”
A Tribute to Dad
by Lanette Fernandez
We are gathering today not only to comfort each other during this difficult time, but to celebrate the life of a beautiful man and to ask God to invite him into his world.
The term “gentle giant” comes to mind when i speak of my dad, Coach. 6’ tall, and a shoe size to match, he made his mark in life quietly and unpretentiously yet, his strength and love for life and people roared like a jet breaking the sound barrier. He had the ability to speak to anyone, from all walks of life – rich or poor, educated or not, troubled or fortunate – and make them feel like he understood – like what they had to say or what they were feeling was the most important thing to him. He spent his life reaching out to anyone that needed a hand or a sounding board.
I so readily recall hearing young and old speak of my dad’s kindness throughout my entire childhood. I remember often sharing dinner or our home with a youth that was going through difficult times. Coach would meet some troubled youth, and after he removed whatever weapons they may be carrying, say, “ok now – how about you come home with me and we’ll talk over dinner?!!” Sometimes I was frightened by the people he brought home, and now when I think about it as an adult, rightfully so, but God watched over Coach and guided him to make the right decisions.
As kind as Coach was, he wasn’t a push over. He always set the bar high. He encouraged those in his presence to attain a higher standard and gave them the tools to experience success. So many people I have met throughout my life have spoken the words, “your dad saved me from a life of …” whatever their demise may have been.
The eternal optimist, he could find a “reason” to explain the most horrific behavior (except poor grades from his children – there was no reason for that!!). Coach always reserved judgement and repeatedly preached, and lived, a life of understanding, acceptance of differences, kindness and honesty. He had a magical way with people that was almost supernatural – unexplainable, as though God blessed him and only him with this uncanny sixth sense.
Fortunately for him, he married my mom who went along with his crazy ideas of saving everyone!! She would keep him grounded in reality when his desire to “fix” someone’s problem was just not reasonable or too dangerous. Her strength allowed him the freedom to fulfill his calling of helping others.
So as we say goodbye to Coach and thank god for blessing us with having known him, the best “thank you” we can give to Coach for enriching our lives is to continue his mission of understanding and kindness. Let’s make a conscious effort to reserve judgement, practice acts of kindness and patience. Hold the door for the next person; let that car into traffic even if you have the right of way. Offer someone in need a few moments of your time – even if you don’t know what to say or how to help. When there is a reasonable choice, act unselfishly. This is what Coach devoted his life to and there is no better tribute to a “teacher” than to let him know —
“I heard you, I watched you and I have learned from you”