We were reminded of this recently in a printed eulogy delivered by fax to our offices three days after the passing of a Cleveland High School and community icon — “Coach” Jack Kidwell.
The 17-year mentor of the CHS Lady Raiders basketball squad who also helped direct the Blue Raider football and track teams died April 26 in a local health care facility.
He was 83.
In his “Something for Jack Kidwell” prose intended as a “Letter to the Editor” — which our newspaper is publishing verbatim in today’s edition — good friend John Duarte says words alone cannot adequately describe the impact “Coach” had on the lives of others.
Written in poetic tone, Duarte offers in the piece, “He was a powerful personality whenever he entered a room, of this there was never a doubt. I was very lucky to have had him as a teacher and friend. We shared many interesting conversations in class and in his home, in which I never felt a stranger in his presence nor around his small army of sons.”
Like so many others who benefited from “Coach’s” counsel through the years, Duarte acknowledged he had not seen his mentor for many years.
“That being said, he left a lifelong impression upon me,” the writer offered. “Jack Kidwell is one of those people who displayed the best in a human being, [was] a teacher in every way and worthy of the respect he has been given.”
Memories of “Coach” come as a tribute to the teacher by his past student.
“I have been inspired, impressed and given guidance by this man in ways that I could never repay, a debt that will forever remain unpaid. Today we are in need of so many men like him in this world.”
In a front-page news article published in the April 28 edition of this newspaper, Assistant Sports Editor Joe Cannon — who knew “Coach” professionally and as a friend — quoted several whose lives were made a little brighter and whose steps came a little lighter thanks to their association with Jack Kidwell.
One was a radio broadcasting legend, Corky Whitlock.
“[Jack] loved Cleveland High School and the kids,” the longtime “Voice of the Bradley Bears” stated. “He was an outstanding family man, a great leader in our community.”
One was a former Lady Raider standout, Regina (Dillon) Lewis, who played at CHS from 1974-78.
“He was an awesome, awesome man,” Lewis cited. “I would go back after college and help him by scrimmaging with the girls.”
Kidwell’s feelings for his student athletes — and all students, for that matter — is reflected in Lewis’ next sentiment.
“We exchanged Christmas cards all through the years,” she offered. “He sent me a nice note and a copy of a Banner article that had a photo of my son (Cal Pickel) from a football game last fall. He was proud not only of his players, but their children’s success as well.”
One was Chuck Condo who headed the CHS boys basketball program for 17 years.
“[Jack] was a great coach to work with. He was very cooperative and willing to do whatever we needed to do to help both programs.”
One was Bob Hanshaw who partnered with Kidwell in radio sportscasting for more than a decade, first on Alive 95 and later on WBAC.
“Sometimes [Jack] would get involved in a humorous story and just keep talking while the plays were going on. He’d keep talking while I tried to describe the action.”
Hanshaw also said of “Coach” what thousands more feel as well, especially those who knew him and had the privilege of calling him friend.
“[Jack] had a great knowledge of football. He was a lot of fun to work with. He’s a great friend and will be sorely missed by a lot of people. He was a great person.”
Jack Kidwell was a man filled with love. He gave it. He received it. And he was never ashamed of showing it. His emotions were his and his alone. The tears were genuine, whether they flowed from joy or from sadness.
Such good men are still to be found. But their mold falls just a little short of the life we knew as “Coach.”
Rest well, Jack.
You made us better. You helped us to believe.