With fall’s commencement, for me, there’s always an urge to take some inventory of what transpired over the summer. There were the positives, such as warmer weather that comes as a welcome relief to all who call Ohio home.
However, in assessing any season that slips away despite our attempts to hold on to it, there are also those losses that must be counted. Here in Lima, we were forced to say goodbye to three of our favorite sons of the gridiron, all in the month of July, men who made Lima so very proud. They died in the order they arrived on this earth, from the elder, Gary Moeller, to the younger, Jim Lynch, to the youngest, William White.
Over my 20-plus years writing for my hometown newspaper and for Our Generations Magazine, I’ve spoken to all three to gather content for various pieces I’ve done for either the paper or magazine and felt I was able to gain some insight into all three.
As for Moeller, we spoke 14years ago when he was back in Lima for his wife Ann’s 50th reunion for the Lima Senior Class of 1958. Gary, a 1959 Spartan graduate, caught the eye of Woody Hayes at the beginning of a period of time when the legendary Buckeye football coach came to know the worth of the young men who suited up for the Spartans. Through the 1960s, Hayes recruited other Lima Senior graduates such as Denny Hullinger, Davey Reynolds, Tom Barrington, Dave Cheney and Bill Sharp.
When we spoke, it’d been 55 years since Moeller played linebacker at Lima Stadium. That was the beginning of a football journey that took him onto the field at Ohio Stadium and just off the sidelines of football fields coaching first at Bellefontaine High School before moving on to the collegiate ranks at Miami University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan and then ascending to the professional ranks with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions before retiring in 2003.
Just five years removed from his football career, you’d have thought most of what he had to say would have been about that life. However, unless I asked a pointed question about his experiences playing for Hayes or his ascension in the coaching ranks, he spoke little of football.
Instead, he wanted to know more about me, where I’d taught, what I coached and how long I’d been writing for the newspaper. And, when he spoke of himself, it was more about the memories of his growing up here in Lima. By the end of my time with him, I came away with the feeling that Gary cherished growing up in Lima and also someone who was not at all boastful.
Gary’s last few years were difficult, as he suffered from an extreme form of dementia. When I heard of his passing at the age of 81 on July 11, I remembered my time talking with him in far happier times and, most of all, I remembered his humility.
As for Jim Lynch, who passed away on July 21 at the age of 77, I had a much longer conversation, a phone interview I did back in 2015. During the hour long chat, he spoke about the many phases of his life, from his LCC days and the great respect he had for Monsignor E.C Herr and others at the school that helped mold him academically and athletically. We also talked about his All-American career at Notre Dame and, of course, his years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, a pro career that included that magical Super Bowl-winning year of 1970. He was a consistently excellent linebacker that played beside future Hall of Famers Willie Lanier and Bobby Bell.
What I remember most about my interview with him was how much time he spent talking about his preparing for a career after football, something scores of players haven’t done very well. Recalling another era in pro football when salaries weren’t jaw-dropping, Lynch told me that most guys in the game worked another job in the off-season, and after trying law school and a job on Wall Street and finding neither so appealing that he could see himself in law or finance long term, he found his way into the food brokerage business.
I remember his unique perspective on his looking at law and finance. Instead of seeing his time wasted, he told me that he felt you learned a little something from every attempt in any endeavor regardless of whether you move in another direction later. The final point Lynch made with me that day was that while so much of his life was lived far beyond the city limits of Lima, he was so very lucky to have grown up in Lima.
Next week, I’ll take you back to a cold January night back in 2019, one I spent talking with the youngest of our three July losses, William White, someone who showed me on that evening a remarkably buoyant spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]