Some men spend much of their lives searching for a loving father figure to fill the void left by lack of love from their own parent. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had an incredibly loving and supportive dad and a professional father figure who helped shape me and my career. The latter, John Pfitsch, passed three days ago on June 15.

As I sat last night at Fathers Day dinner, savoring the opportunity of sharing a meal with my two sons, I reflected on the lives of my two fathers.

I hope some of my loving remembrances I wrote last night of Coach Pfitsch will be posted on the in memoriam page for John.  In the first hours that the page was available, there were scores of recollections of Pfitsch’s voluminous stories and adventures. He coached many sports over 50 years at Grinnell College, including my soccer exploits in the 80s. Today there are some extraordinary men, all better men for having known Pfitsch, making fabulous contributions. My heart goes out to you.

Pfitsch was a big factor in recruiting me to Grinnell, which is among the very best decisions I ever made. He was what I call a “barnyard sport psychologist” having developed some very practical theories over his decades of coaching. He assisted Coach Phog Allen  (the John Wooden of the day) at the University of Kansas and I’m proud to be connected to that legacy. Pfitsch did what many speak about, but few actually accomplish: he put the development of young men ahead of competitive outcomes; he lived by his values and ideals. In the countless hours I spent in “chalk talks,” classes, and conversations with Pfitsch, it was always evident he was more interested in goals I accomplished in my life than the ones I scored on the soccer field. He steered me in many great directions and then championed me as I went forth. When returning to campus over the years, I felt his pride and appreciation for the path I took. He was thrilled when I got a Ph.D. in “the one thing worth studying” and he and his marvelous wife, Emily, attended a session I did on campus a few years ago and became fans of my laughter work. It is an honour and a privilege to have been a student and athlete of John Pfitsch. You will be missed. Whitman wrote, “I am the teacher of athletes/ He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width/ Of my own.” May everything I’ve accomplished be a tribute to John Pfitsch.

When my own father, Herb Strean, passed in 2001, I created the annual ritual of celebration, from Father’s Day to the following Monday: “Herb-ukah” or “Herb-over.” This year it works out to a perfect 8 nights ending on the anniversary of his death, June 25. At his funeral, here are some of the things I suggested to do during this celebration: tell a joke and tell people who told you the joke and when; make puns; listen and understand feelings; buy someone lunch; take your family out for Sunday dinner, be otherwise profoundly generous; find someone who no one else would believe in and give that person a hand up; laugh at yourself; delight in someone else’s accomplishments; do something generous and giving for your kids, and finally, as often as you can, make a loving connection with another human being. I encourage you to partake in these activities.

John Pfitsch was one of the greatest talkers anyone ever met. Herb Strean was one of the greatest listeners. I love you and miss you both.

One of my dad’s favorite quotations that he often used to close speeches: “The sea rises. The light fails. Lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we stop holding each other, the moment we lose faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

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