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‘Duff’ was a father figure

March 26, 2010
Daily Press

ESCANABA - There is always a time in life where someone has played a significant role in shaping your character, making you the person everyone else sees.

My father Ivan taught me a work ethic that had similar standards of a Vince Lombardi. In fact, I'd guess Mr. Lombardi may have borrowed a page or two out of my ol' man's book on putting forth productivity.

My dad also gave strong emphasis on "doing it right the first time". That meant it was best to take enough time to assure what you were doing on any given day was completed correctly.

He also shared his philosophy about truth. "Always tell the truth. If you tell the truth you won't have to remember what you said."

It made a lot of sense.

One of the later perks regarding his outlook on life was his motto, "Work hard and party hearty." He did and we did with him.

But what about the things you learn in different environments? Who teaches us those all important life lessons?

My father was pretty much on his own as a kid. He was thrust into the position of being subordinate only to his mother, having watched his father die at the young age of 41. At times I think he established the principle of sole proprietorship.

As a parent, I can see the uniqueness of all the young people I come into contact with on a daily basis.

I have also had the time to appreciate how many of these kids, including the friends of those of my related younger generation, have matured and become very positive people.

As a kid of my era, there weren't too many organized activities for us to do in the summer. Whatever I achieved in developing as an adult came from participation in outside activities, including extra curricular activities in school, especially sports programs.

Most of our summer activities were , organized in the neighborhood. We had Boy Scouts, but that was an adventure that taught outdoor lure, an advancement of what was then learned as a kid.

My most influential period as a kid came during high school at Holy Name. It was Fall 1967 and I walked onto the football field with the only depth of knowledge of the sport to be what a football was; that it was carried by one guy who was then tackled by another.

The first two weeks of high school football was conditioning. We ran, ran and afterwards ran some more. There were varying exercises involving the game that indicated we were being evaluated to our potential.

The first guy I had in the coaching capacity was a nice fellow, but you knew right away he was running the show and pushed us hard. The other coaches called him "Duff".

Some of the senior players did too, but everyone else respectfully addressed him as coach.

He pointed out problems, not in a demeaning way, but did so constructively. He showed us what we were doing wrong and gave us corrections to make it easier and enable more efficient use of effort. In this capacity you need to work faster.

Once the season arrived, he'd start each year off with a speech to the team, giving notice this was probably his last year in coaching and wanted to go out a winner. He asked his players to go all out the whole season.

By the fourth year, it got kind of hard to feel the same emotion like that from the first time, especially given he'd use the same speech after football when wrestling season started. However Duff still managed to motivate us to give our best and all the time.

I learned about team spirit and how to work towards goals. He taught us to hold our pride even when it meant taking a loss. If he barked at us to hold our heads high, it meant we played our best and made him proud.

It was easy to grow fond of this man. I was, for six years after high school, privileged to continue working with him as a mechanic in the garage (Snyder Shell) he managed. Later, Duff became my father-in-law.

He and his wife Marianne accepted me into their family and mentored my wife Mary Kay and I on how to get by with the team spirit, to recognize our potential as parents and to deal with daily crisis and hold our heads high for giving all of ourselves.

Except for three years difference, Bob Dufour was probably as much a father image to me as my real dad, Ivan. Thanks to both , I feel I've done okay and will perhaps help shape someone younger, to be all they can as a productive member of society.

My dad left us in March of 2000. Duff said goodbye last week. I pray that I carry both of them forward, as an integral part of me. I know the memories and lessons there of will be brought forward in how I conduct myself from here on. When you see me walking with my head high, you'll know that it's because I've given my all. It will be easy to do, having had the best teachers around.

See you around Coach.


Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications and the Internet on Saturday mornings.



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