A tribute to Mount Pulaski Bruins Coach Robert L. Gasaway

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[June 09, 2018] 

Retired Mount Pulaski Grade School basketball and baseball coach Robert L. Gasaway was an ageless, yet classic, true gentleman. Much like his reserved demeanor, he passed away quietly at his home in Mount Pulaski on May 22, 2018. He was 80 years old. As a lifelong bachelor, Coach Gasaway lived for decades in the same small house on the main street that runs through town. His home was easily identified by the St. Louis Cardinal flag waving outside and the often sight of a new car with RLG 25 on the license plate, or possibly a different number from time to time, in the driveway.

Coach Gasaway loved to read the sports section every day in the morning papers that were tossed in that driveway. So there was reason for concern on that Tuesday morning when his Sunday paper still lay untouched in the drive. That just wasn't Coach's way of doing things. He was prompt and efficient and had a routine. Friends and neighbors had seen him out walking his little dog, Buddy, in recent days so there had been no reason for alarm.

Despite all of his public accolades, Coach Gasaway was a private man. But during the early hours of that Tuesday morning, word spread quickly around town that the legendary coach had passed.

Mount Pulaski is a community well-known for legendary coaches who stick around for years. Coach Gasaway was at the top of that list. He coached first at Lake Fork Grade School and then Mount Pulaski Grade School and tallied 44 years in all. He was not just a coach. He had also been a teacher and principal at Lake Fork Grade School and he was a sixth grade teacher at Mount Pulaski Grade School. While his stats as a basketball coach are remarkable - 1,110 wins and 287 losses to be exact and three state championships - and his baseball tenure included a third place state finish in 1999 - Coach Gasaway was every bit as proud to be a teacher.

His teams earned trophies that pack the display cases by the entry way of the Bob Gasaway Gymnasium, but at the end of the day, Coach Gasaway truly cared about teaching the youth of the community. He wanted students to succeed in and out of the classroom and far beyond any basketball court or baseball field. He mentored students even after his retirement in 2002.

These past 16 years he lived a quiet life in Mount Pulaski. He was often seen sitting on the visitor’s bleachers at MPGS during sporting events, usually chatting with other teachers in the corner. You never heard him cheering at a ballgame. Sure he would talk and laugh in the corner with the janitors or some of his favorite teachers, like Kathleen Tarrant. But for the most part when the game was going on, he just sat quietly and observed.

He also made his way to several baseball games at Robert L. Gasaway Field at Veteran’s Park in Mount Pulaski, usually wearing a Cardinal hat or his favorite fedora. He was every bit as passionate about baseball as he was basketball. He was a charter member of the Mount Pulaski Athletic Association and spent countless hours at the Frazier Park ball diamonds working the fields, watching ballgames and encouraging the really young kids of the community.

Coach Gasaway could also be spotted around town at the local restaurants. He enjoyed gathering with other locals in the afternoon at the coffee table for a glass of tea at Farmer’s Family Restaurant. He was a regular in the evening at The Old Brickyard Pub and Grill on the town square. Before his doctor told him to stay away from salty foods, he ate frequently and promptly at 5 p.m. at Pizza Man in Mount Pulaski, where he also gathered at the front table with friends.

No matter where he was, he was always up for a friendly conversation that more than likely included his beloved Redbirds.

Coach Gasaway also loved to support other local teams. He frequented Lincoln Railer games and loved the Springfield City Basketball Tournament, not just for the talent flying above the rim but also for the energetic fan sections who were led by the team’s cheerleaders. He loved seeing the enthusiasm fans had for their teams.

He just loved the sporting life to the fullest and planned his days around these events, even in retirement. He also had a sports column in the local paper for a while and it was appropriately entitled, “The Sporting Life” by Bob Gasaway.

One could easily tell he loved his simple life in Mount Pulaski. He had a kind word for everyone he encountered. That was just his nature.

His funeral took place on Thursday, May 31, 2018 in the Bob Gasaway Gymnasium - a gym that was named in his honor on November 6, 2014 and a place where he coached so many talented Bruin players over the years. Back in the day those teams’ fans filled the gym to the rafters as he coached from the sidelines. On this day a somewhat smaller crowd gathered to pay their final respects to the man who was so well-respected by so many.

The scene was very fitting inside the Bob Gasaway Gymnasium that morning though. A beautiful shimmering sapphire casket was placed at the half-court line by the stage. It lay beneath the first state championship basketball banner to hang in the gym that reads “1980 Class B State Champions.” That team was 25-0 under Coach Gasaway. There was tons of blue all around with just a glimpse of red, too. Stunning flowers with shades of blue adorned the casket. Bruin memorabilia was placed on tables nearby. Some of Coach’s scrapbooks with his own personal handwriting and clever comments were gazed at by all. His Cardinal jacket and a Cardinal lamp made by Dennis Werth rest nearby as a reminder of his love for the Redbirds.

The voice of Anne Murray sang “How Great Thou Art” as everyone settled in for the sermon. Later during the service the voice of Elvis Presley could be heard singing, “Amazing Grace.” And by the end, a surprise by a member of the Beatles and a little story to go with it.

But first, a former Bruin player and now the Associate Minister of the Mount Pulaski Christian Church, Casey McCormick, officiated the service for Coach Gasaway. Very quickly into the service McCormick noted he was wearing a pair of gym shoes in honor of the coach. McCormick shared the memory that Coach Gasaway always wanted his players to have the opportunity to shoot on the court as much as possible and often times this was even made possible before school started of a morning. “There was one rule,” said McCormick. “If you were on the gym floor you had to wear basketball shoes. So today you will notice I am in a suit but I have my basketball shoes on. I didn’t feel right stepping on the floor named in his honor without my basketball shoes on.”

McCormick dedicated a service to Coach Gasaway that was simple and beautiful. From beginning to end the service reflected the coach. In fact, according to family members, the coach had written out his funeral arrangements himself and although there was more spoken about him than he would have liked, the service had the stamp of Coach Gasaway all over it.

McCormick’s comments included many truths along with prayers and of course the coach’s life story. “Those closest to him describe him as someone who did the right thing,” said McCormick. “A man of integrity. Humble. Honest. And a mentor. He never said a bad word about anyone. He was reserved. It was never “I” but always “WE.”

McCormick recalled a poster that Coach Gasaway had in the Bruins locker room. It read: Don’t blame the referees for correcting your mistakes.

“He believed that,” said McCormick. “Officials loved to work for him. He was respected by them and others very much. He didn’t yell at the players or the referees.”

Noting that Coach Gasaway was concerned about his players off the court and was selective about who was around the boys, McCormick added, “When we played for him he wanted the right people around us to set the example. He set the bar high and he didn’t allow others to lower that.”

Coach Gasaway proudly stands by the field named in his honor on September 7, 2013.

Before introducing other speakers at the service, McCormick said, “I know that I probably have said nothing here this morning that you all already didn’t know about Coach Gasaway. Men don’t have basketball courts and baseball fields named after them every day. He was very reluctant to receive those honors but very proud to receive them. So this morning I want to finish his life story simply by reading the plaque that’s out at the Robert L. Gasaway Field. It says “In recognition of a lifetime dedicated to the youth of our community as teacher, coach, mentor and friend. Through his leadership, professionalism, guidance and kindness countless young men matured and excelled in sports and in life.” The Robert L. Gasaway Field was dedicated at Veteran’s Park on September 7, 2013.

“Thank you, Mr. Gasaway, for sharing your life with so many and making our community a better place to live,” concluded McCormick before he introduced the other speakers.

Brett Garlits, an assistant coach under Gasaway, took the podium first and his opening line included, “Welcome to the house that Bob built.” Garlits spoke of celebrating the life of Mr. Gasaway ~ “a man who truly dedicated his life to this community and the people in it.”

Garlits was right on target with his description of Coach Gasaway. “Some say you can judge a man’s character by the number of lives he touches in a positive way. By that standard, Bob’s ratings were way off the chart. That was just Bob. It was just natural to him.”

Garlits recounted the last time he saw Gasaway, “he deflected the conversation of how he was doing to me and my family. That’s the way he was. He truly wanted to know how things were going in all of our lives.”

Garlits recalled a fond memory that involved the coach making a huge impact on his life. “Although Bob would never take credit for molding us, he truly was an influential man,” said Garlits. “We all have our individual stories of Bob’s impact and we can all share those for the rest of our lives together. I will share just this one story with you today. As some of you know I did a little bit of umpiring before injuring my neck. I would never even have given umpiring a thought had it not been for Bob. In only the way Bob could do it, he convinced me to give it a try and even encouraged me to go to umpiring school in Florida. I don’t know whether he was trying to get rid of me or what. But this NCAA Championship ring I wear today is a token of the level that I reached and one that never would have been met without Bob’s encouragement and for that I’ll truly forever be thankful.”

“His dedication and care for his players is something that even today leaves me in awe. He genuinely prepared them for success in life and was proud of each and every one of them,” Garlits emphasized.

Garlits ended his tribute by saying, “Bob, you will truly be missed and I pray that someday we can all learn to treat everyone like you did. This world, this community, is truly a better place having had you in it. May God bless you and may all of us that you touched carry on your legacy.”

Hilltoppers basketball coach Ryan Deibert followed Garlits and he began his speech by talking about another legendary coach, one whom Coach Gasaway looked up to. If you knew the Mount Pulaski Bruins coach in any way at all, you knew he admired UCLA Bruins coach John Wooden. “Coach Wooden coached at UCLA for 27 seasons and he never had a losing season and he won over 80 percent of his games,” said Deibert.

“It’s only fitting that Coach Gasaway would model himself after such a coach and achieve similar results. Coach Wooden had a pyramid for success, composed of several blocks or qualities of success. The obvious attributes included industriousness, skill, confidence, team spirit, teamwork and so on. Three of these qualities were obviously displayed regularly by Coach Gasaway.”

Deibert listed these three qualities Coach Gasaway possessed in his speech.

1. Honesty ~ “You always received Mr. Gasaway’s most honest advice as a player and more importantly as a young man.”

2. Friendship ~ “Wooden defines friendship as mutual esteem, respect and devotion. Coach Gasaway respected and was devoted to his players.”

3. Loyalty ~ “Wooden defines loyalty in the context of being loyal to those depending on you. We were depending on you. Coach Gasaway was truly loyal to his players and he remained loyal and a loyal friend to many of his players throughout his life.”

“When you add these three attributes embodied by Coach Gasaway together you simply get “Care,” said Deibert. “If you played for Coach Gasaway, you felt like he truly cared for you as a player and as a young man. This was obvious by his pushing you on the floor to achieve your best or if you failed to achieve your best as well in the classroom. His random acts of kindness off the floor were evidenced of that, too. I think if we want to continue Coach Gasaway’s legacy we can start off by simply caring for one another ~ those who are close to us and those who we are in contact with everyday,” concluded Deibert.

Mr. Bob Gasaway and Dennis Werth on the night of the dedication of the Bob Gasaway Gymnasium ~ November 6, 2014.

Dennis Werth was the final speaker on the agenda and he first cited that the speakers before him were a “tough act to follow.” Werth referred to notes for his speech about the man who truly meant a lot to him. “I don’t normally use notes but this guy deserves notes. So here we go,” began Werth, taking a deep breath.

“This is really a celebration of life and I didn’t really realize what that meant because I don’t do well around death, never have and I don’t think I ever will. But celebrating Robert Leon Gasaway’s death is emotional. It’s emotional for me because of how close we were, but I will keep it together. I knew him by a lot of different names: Mr. Gasaway, Mr. G, Money, Coach Bob, Uncle Bob and as a man who wore many hats, figuratively speaking and actually. He had his hat of the day or his baseball hat, mostly his St. Louis Cardinals hat. I actually grew up being a Cardinal fan because of Mr. Gasaway.”

Werth went on to mention the respect he had for the man. “He taught me so many things about sports, about life and how to treat people. He was an extraordinary coach.”

Werth, who graduated from Lake Fork Grade School, was impacted early in his life by Gasaway the teacher. “He was a great educator, a great tutor. He was a great psychologist, a psychiatrist. I mean this was all part of his makeup. He was a lot of different people because he helped so many people in this community - youth,” said Werth, emphasizing “youth” at the end.

“His presence. It didn’t matter where Mr. Gasaway went, he demanded respect. As soon as he walked into the room you knew you were going to stop and watch what he did because of his honesty, his integrity. He was a true champion in all walks of life. He inspired everyone around him to be like him and be the same as he was but he didn’t force it on anyone. It was just his nature.”

Werth said he believed on the field and on the court Coach Gasaway wanted everyone to enjoy themselves but “at the same time you better hustle, you better pay attention and you better be dedicated to what he’s trying to teach you.”

Werth brought up Gasaway’s infectious personality that included honesty at the forefront. He also mentioned Gasaway’s influence on the youth, the community and everybody that lived in Mount Pulaski. “He had such an impact in regards to how people lived their life and how they came up as adults. It was a remarkable feat in itself. No drugs,” said Werth. “I mean you didn’t want to embarrass Bob Gasaway. Mr. Gasaway. Mr. G. You didn’t want to embarrass him with the drugs or by being a bad person. He kept so many people out of the gutter. I was one of them.”

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Werth credited Gasaway for many of the goals that he himself accomplished in sports and in life. “I wouldn’t have this New York Yankees World Series ring if it weren’t for Bob Gasaway. I give him all the kudos for being and seeing all the things that I did. Had it not been for him being a part of my life, I would not have been in the Major Leagues.”

Werth noted that he has also passed along Coach Gasaway’s influences to his own family, including stepson Jayson and daughters Hillary and Hannah. “And now they’re passing it on to their kids. So the Gasaway tradition lives on through the Werth family and it will continue to go. He was an incredible man and I cannot say enough good things about him.”

Werth finished with admitting having a heavy heart and being part of a religious family that included always making the sign of the cross. In Coach Gasaway’s honor he shared a “Werth thing” and made the sign of the cross while saying, “Bless the father, praise the son, over the fence, for a home run.” The remark drew laughs from the crowd and undoubtedly a smile from Coach.

McCormick then invited anyone from the crowd to speak if they so desired and Lisa Zachrich Cyrulik didn’t hesitate to come forward. Cyrulik has younger brothers who played basketball for Coach Gasaway and she herself always kept in close contact with the coach. She would always sit with him at Warrensburg-Latham basketball games and they always enjoyed good conversation.

Cyrulik graduated from MPHS but moved to Warrensburg after she was married. Coach Gasaway began his own basketball career at Latham Grade School before moving on to MPHS as a young student athlete. Their friendship and basketball allegiances was a friendly one as neither one would have it any other way.

As Cyrulik took the podium she immediately addressed the fact the Mr. Gasaway was a friend of the family for a long time. He heavily influenced her brother, Jaymes, who has been a very successful high school basketball coach in Ayersville, Ohio. “Jaymes really looked up to Coach Gasaway,” said Cyrulik. “He really loved him. Jaymes said that he took everything he learned from Coach Gasaway and he used it in his coaching career.”

Cyrulik drew laughs when she mentioned that her brother didn’t always mimic Coach Gasaway’s demeanor on the court. She told the crowd Jaymes had received some technical fouls while coaching and their mother reminded him, “That’s not what Coach Gasaway would have done. He would not be happy with you.”

Speaking on behalf of the Zachrich family back in Ohio, Cyrulik said, “Our family really loved him. We would have him over for supper and over after church. My mom would sit and have coffee with him back in the day at Pizza Man. We just always had a good relationship with Coach. It was always Mr. Gasaway until he retired and then I started calling him Coach. Never Bob. That was very strange to hear him called Bob.” Cyrulik kept her composure as she addressed Mr. Gasaway’s family sitting in the front row and expressed her sincere condolences.

McCormick concluded the services with a John Wooden story himself. It was a story about Wooden’s father losing the family farm in the 1920s due to unforeseen circumstances and back in the days of no crop insurance.

“The bank took the family farm and the Wooden family was devastated,” said McCormick. “But this horrible event ended up having a profoundly positive impact on the future basketball coach because of the way his father handled adversity. Here is what John Wooden said about the incident:

“Through it all Dad never winced. He laid no blame on the merchant who sold him the serum, didn’t curse the weather and had no hatred toward the banker. My father had done his best, but things went bad.

“Blaming, cursing, hating doesn’t help you,” he’d say. “It hurts you.”

His example is deeply imbedded in my mind and I hope it’s reflected in my behavior. He was a living model of his own “two sets of threes” ~ brief instructions that he felt were basic to decent behavior. My brothers and I heard his two sets of threes often while we were growing up.

“Never lie. Never cheat. Never steal,” was his first set. “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses,” was his second set.

He believed you should do your best, and if the results were unsatisfactory, keep quiet about it and work harder the next time.”

~ John Wooden

“Coach Gasaway looked to John Wooden’s example,” said McCormick. “They both coached the Bruins, they both focused on the fundamentals, or the basics, and they both tried very hard to follow the “two sets of threes.”

McCormick noted that Coach Gasaway added another set of three: He never drank. He never smoked. He never cussed.

“Personally I know that Coach tried very hard to live these out,” said McCormick as he bounced into this basketball story and even pointed at a basket in the gym. “I missed a layup my eighth grade year at that basket right there in the regional championship that most likely was the difference between winning State and not. Anyone who followed us would know that the team who beat us won by over 20 points every game the rest of the tournament to win the state championship.” McCormick joked, looking up at the walls and said, “I was kinda looking at that and there’s really not room for another banner so I think it’s okay.”

“But you know what Coach Gasaway said to me about that missed layup?” McCormick asked the crowd.

He paused.

“Absolutely nothing. He never said a word. He never looked at me bad. He never made me feel bad about that. I’ve seen him many times. I’ve had many conversations about life and sports with him. He has always greeted me with a friendly smile and spoke kindly to me. I can’t say the same about all my teammates,” McCormick smiled. “But he was that kind of person because he chose to be. It truly was a choice.”

McCormick closed by sharing a story from the Bible in Matthew 25 and gave a short summary of how it reminded him of Coach Gasaway.

“To those who have been faithful with what they have, what they have been given, they will be given more,” said McCormick. “To those who have not been faithful with what they have been given, they will lose even what they have.”

“We have not all been dealt the same hand in life, but with the hand you’ve been dealt, how have you played it?” McCormick then asked.

“Coach Gasaway was given a basketball team ~ 26 state tournament teams, three state championships, three third place finishes, two fourth place finishes, 1,110 wins and only 287 losses ~ and also a third place finish in baseball. But his faithfulness ran so much further than the numbers or the record,” McCormick remarked.

“No one is here because of the numbers or because of the championships. You’re here because of the man. Coach Gasaway was faithful, here for his players and focused on what was doing right. He worked hard and he expected others to work hard. He was given an opportunity in Lake Fork and Mount Pulaski and with what he had, he made the most. When I look around, look at the accomplishments, that was what he was given ~ an opportunity. He used that to impact people’s lives. He mentored young boys and as you’ve heard today, he cared deeply for those who were entrusted to him.

"I am not sure if a funeral is the place for a challenge but I think someone who has coached for 44 years would like a challenge. Would like to challenge others. So my question to you is “How faithful are you with what you’ve been given? Are you faithful in your family and your job and all of your relationships? Coach made that decision to devote his life to coaching and mentoring boys in hopes of helping them to become men. How can you best use your life based on what you’ve been given?

"Robert L. Gasaway was faithful to the Lord, Jesus, and to his calling. For that we have all been blessed.”

So concluded a beautiful service by Casey McCormick.

It has been said many times over the years among the Mount Pulaski community that, “We’ve been blessed to have Coach Gasaway.” It was indeed a fact.

He was a special man who was born and raised on a farm in nearby Latham and attended Colvin Grade School and Latham Grade School. When the family moved, he attended Lake Fork Grade School and then Mount Pulaski High School. He graduated from Illinois State University in 1960 prior to his teaching at Lake Fork Grade School. Once he moved on to Mount Pulaski Grade School in 1971, the community of Mount Pulaski claimed him as theirs.

Mr. Gasaway’s parents, Grover and Ethel, both died while he was in his 20s. His siblings Carl, Fern and Vera have all passed on. Mr. Gasaway was the youngest member of his family. He is survived by a brother, Glenn, and several nieces and nephews who adore him.

Mr. Gasaway’s nephew, Dick Gasaway, spoke on behalf of the family at the end of the funeral service and he thanked the crowd for honoring the uncle and brother who made Mount Pulaski his home.

“My uncle loved all his friends, he loved all of his former students, he loved all of his players, and maybe even the Cub fans,” said Dick Gasaway, drawing a few laughs. “It just means so much to our family knowing his name will live on in the place that he loved the most and that’s Mount Pulaski. I tried to drag him to Florida, he wouldn’t come. He loved it here.”

Perfect words spoken by all for a perfect remembrance service for Robert L. Gasaway. One can rest assured he would have given his stamp of approval on things. After all, according to the family, Mr. Gasaway had made all the arrangements and planning himself. He made notes and the family followed those wishes.

One final little detail was overlooked but it’s never too late to honor someone. Mr. Gasaway loved music, as many folks close to him knew, and each of the songs played at his funeral featured his favorite artists.

The final song chosen by Coach Gasaway was “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison. According to a great-niece, Uncle Bob wanted everyone to clap and sing along with the song at the end of his funeral. A few family members were trying to get the crowd started but no one knew what to do.

So here is a challenge Coach would really enjoy. The next time you hear “My Sweet Lord” sing your best and clap your loudest ~ in his memory. He will smile and you will, too.

[Teena Lowery]

Teena’s tidbits

It’s just not complete for me unless I add my two cents here and I think Coach would be okay with it. He and I were lifelong friends. I just turned 50 and he was 80 and I loved him with all my heart. My entire family did. And it was a great joy for my kids to get to know him as well. They’ve heard many Coach Gasaway stories through the years as my husband, Doug, was also a Bruin and he respected Mr. Gasaway with every ounce of that Cub blood running through his veins.

As a young girl I always wanted to play sports for Mr. Gasaway, but that was never an option. But I do recall he would come to some of our girls games and, in fact, the only pictures I have of me playing sports or at sports banquets came from Mr. Gasaway. I did not have him for a home room teacher in sixth grade but he did teach me Science. I always enjoyed his “Current Events” part of the class and recently we spoke about this together. He still remembered the answer from “Who won the 1977 Triple Crown?” question he asked us. “Seattle Slew,” he said quickly and laughed, while at The Old Brickyard.

Over the years Mr. Gasaway’s Cadillacs practically drove on autopilot down I-55 South to Busch Stadium. He took many young boys to games over the years and loved every second of it. I never got to go. But a couple years back, my Cardinal buddy, Teresa Durchholz, and I asked Coach to go to a Cardinal game with us. I still remember the joy I felt just sitting at the ballpark with THE Coach Gasaway. We saw a Braves versus Cardinal game and I was a giddy kid in his presence. I don’t recall right now who won but I just remember being happy to be at the ballpark with my friends. Coach and I talked a lot about baseball through the years. Our last conversation included talk about the young Atlanta Braves. He always laughed at me and my optimistic attitude towards my team.

A couple things were talked about at his funeral that could be a “set the record straight” kind of moment now. I can hear Coach chuckle. While it was mentioned that maybe Coach Gasaway never received a technical foul during his coaching career, that is actually false. He did receive just ONE technical foul in his coaching career and he even mentioned it from time to time. He was embarrassed and felt so bad for the boys on his team. But it was an honest mistake and he owned up to it. He explained that he had stepped out of the coach’s box unknowingly and of course had to pay the price of a technical foul. Nonetheless it bothered him. Just the thought of letting his team down worried him. Pat Walsh, a 1980 State Champion Bruin and current referee, even remarked at the funeral dinner, “How would you like to be the referee that gave Coach Gasaway his only technical foul?”

Another tidbit here that Lisa Zachrich Cyrulik alluded to in her speech was what do you call him after he retired? It was very weird to hear people call him “Bob” as he was always “Mr. Gasaway” or “Coach Gasaway” to the kids. But those kids are all grown up now with kids and grandkids of their own. Brett Garlits, in fact, did address him as “Bob” because Garlits never went to school here. That’s understandable. But even for the generation that attended Lake Fork Grade School, he was Mr. Gasaway.

For those people not on Facebook, it’s important for you to know how much Coach loved the social media outlet. He posted quite often and his comments were full of insightful information and sometimes silly jokes. You can picture him laughing to himself at his keyboard. In recent months, Coach had posted several Bruin team photos complete with names, captions and just comments that allowed fans and players to reflect on the memories.

In this day of ever-changing technology, Coach refused to get a cellphone but he thoroughly enjoyed that computer. It was his way of connecting with people far and wide and he enjoyed those moments. I just loved to hear him start a sentence with, “I saw on Facebook……”

His positive outlook on life will never be forgotten nor will his nephew’s words referring to Mount Pulaski as “Uncle Bob’s Paradise.”

Finally, the man just loved music and back in the day he was even spotted at a Whitney Houston concert. He adored Shania Twain, Anne Murray, Elvis, and maybe even the Beatles. He gave me a Shania Twain Concert DVD recently as we both shared an affection for her.

I could never get ahead of Coach and now I never will here on earth. One evening at The Old Brickyard, the waitress said to Doug and I, “Coach was just here and wanted to see you guys. Give him a call.” So I called his home phone and he picked up immediately. In a flash he was walking in the door of the restaurant and came directly over to us. He handed us each a birthday card and said, “I wanna buy your supper for your birthdays.” He had missed our 50th party but felt like he still owed us something I guess. We had just ordered salads and when the bill was less than $20 I remember he laughed at us and said, “You two are cheap.” That night our conversation included birthdays, baseball and our kids. I wanted to talk more to him but he wanted to get back home and didn’t want to bother us. I saw him a few days later out walking Buddy and I wanted to stop but I was in a rush to get to the MPHS graduation. I thought to myself, “I’ll stop by soon and chat with him.” I honestly always wanted to sit down for a lengthy interview with him but that just didn’t happen. I’ll certainly treasure the small conversations we always had.

One final comforting note for all who may be interested. Coach Gasaway was laid to rest near other family members in Lake Bank Cemetery. This small country cemetery is just down the road from Coach Gasaway’s childhood home. Talk about a man’s life coming full circle. He never ventured far from home and now it’s like he’s completed a cycle, only to return to his beginnings.

RIP Coach,

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