It may not mean as much in far SWVA as it does in this area. I would have loved for my former high school coach and mentor, Fred Jennings, to have been interviewed for the podcast series Ryan is putting together. You guys would have loved listening to him as much as I have for the past 40 years. He passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86. I would love for more people to hear his stories. For example, at one point just following WWII, four of his older brothers were in the starting five of the Lees-McRae Bobcat basketball team. All five starters were graduates of Fries High School and had fought in WWII. They postponed completion of high school to serve their country, completed high school upon their return, all became college graduates and high achievers in life. It was a different time and they were symbolic of "The Greatest Generation"!
Fred was a veteran of the Korean Conflict and lost 70% of his hearing in the process. He was awarded the Silver Star for his efforts. Fred attended every single Virginia Tech home football game from 1958 through 2016, not missing a single one. He was honored on the field for his contributions to the university on several occasions. Fred built a full-court basketball court and Olympic sized pool at his home to keep "his kids" (us) out of trouble. He never had children of his own but had hundreds he taught and coached through the years. He was my baseball coach, football coach, Algebra teacher, mentor and friend. For most of the past 11 years, Fred would come to my office every few months and just talk...for hours. His wife passed away a few years ago and he hasn't been the same. He is, in all honesty, the single greatest influence on my life. He took an interest in me when I was 4 years old, taught me the value of life and passed his love of math on to me. He is the reason my username on this board, Twitter and Instagram handles will never change. He is partially responsible for the moniker.
His brother, Allen "Birddog" Jennings was a teacher and coach at Virginia High in the 60's. He wrote a fabulous book several years ago called "My Day to Wear the Underwear". Birddog passed away March 8th at the age of 92.
Rest in peace Mr. Jennings. You were loved and will be missed.