I remember how Virgil Ufkin used to tell me, as he neared 100, “I don’t have any friends. They’ve all passed away.” Virgil passed away about a week after turning 100 years old — so I guess he kinda had a corner on that old age thing.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about that after my friend Vince LeGare passed away and now Pete VanVooren. Minneota’s first wrestling coach, in fact, the man who launched a very successful program, passed away this week.
When Pete started as wrestling coach he brought a great basketball and football career into his new career.
Some say he studied long and hard to become a wrestling coach. After guiding the program for many years, it came to a crossroad and one of the options was to pair with Canby.
But that didn’t happen, and Pete came back for a second run at it to help keep the program alive in Minneota.
He’s a member of the Wrestling Hall of Fame that started a few years ago in honor of Wally Pesch, who spent lots of hours also helping to keep the program alive.
Pete was a high school math teacher as well as a coach and he spent a lot of time in the halls of education in Minneota.
Since Pete retired, he took on hobbies such as collecting and refurbishing old cars, woodworking and stained glass work. I knew him best as a man who always had thoughts about what was happening politically in our nation.
I figured he spent a lot of time watching the world events on his television set.
Pete also had a great mind and was often figuring out ways to get one over on someone. He put up a good battle against cancer, but as it does in so many cases, it won this one. Since I’ve been in Minneota, I’ve seen many friends and acquaintances pass away.
It’s been almost frightening as they continue to leave us. Pete and I had several long talks about high school sports and I found out Pete played for a pretty good Lake Benton basketball team.
In fact, they played one of my favorite teams and players of that era — Bob Bruggers of Danube. Pete remembered Bruggers, but he didn’t like talking about it much because I think he lost that game to Bruggers.
Bob Bruggers went on to play football for the Minnesota Gophers, then professionally with the Miami Dolphins.
As for Pete VanVooren, he will be missed. I sure hope this string of losing friends comes to an end. But life isn’t something we have figured out — we have to take it as it comes. But then, I always come back to thinking about Virgil Ufkin.
He seemed to want to live to be 100.
Once he did, well, he let it go and passed away as well.
LAUGH A LITTLE: Crazy man, crazy! Question: What does Daylight Savings Time mean in Seattle?” Answer: An extra hour of rain! Or ... how about this. Mother to the pharmacist: “I’d like some vitamins for my son. Pharmacist: “What kind, A, B or C?” Mother: “It doesn’t matter, he can’t read.”
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As my Ole Pappy used to say, “Want to begin a long journey? Start with the first step!” Ole Pappy once told me not to worry about how to get a project finished — just get it started and let it go from there. Thanks Ole Pappy!