By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard
Posted: 10/24/2010 01:17:30 AM PDT
We seldom know the impact, negative or positive, we have had on people when we lose touch with them.
I remember when I was in fourth grade, a month into the new semester, my homeroom teacher and principal met with my parents. I was sure I was in trouble.
Instead, as it turned out, my teacher recommended I move up a grade. My parents thought it was a dandy idea, and I was devastated at the thought! All my friends were in fourth grade, and I didn't want to leave them.
The difference between the grades meant separation during recess. Fourth graders and below played on one side of the field -- fifth and six graders on the other. It was an invisible wall that couldn't be breached without consequences.
In the chaos of my new surroundings I found an unlikely friend; my English teacher, Mr. Moore. I'm not sure why he took me under his wing, but he did and I'm forever grateful. He opened up the world of writing to a lonely kid with a chip on his shoulder. I had an imagination without borders and he showed me how to unleash it on paper.
While other students dreaded his class, I looked forward to learning the proper use of the English language so I could become a famous author. I wanted to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Edgar Allen Poe. I wanted to make my mark in the world and the kind, silver-haired, slightly plump Mr. Moore made it possible.
I still haven't written the great American novel, or any novel for that matter, but I've been happily writing for newspapers for decades. I still think about him. Mr. Moore will never know how much he meant to me. I'm sure he's long gone now.
Someone from my past thought that until last August. Like Mark Twain's famous quote, my death was greatly exaggerated. One of my former reporters (from The Desert Trail newspaper) recently wrote a column for The Ventura Star (A Wall Worth Remembering -- Aug. 27) and practically eulogized me.
It turns out the author, Woody Woodburn (Pictured above with his family), tried to find me for years. We parted ways in the mid-1980s. He knew I was a Vietnam veteran who was dealing with issues he could never understand. He feared -- he later told me in an e-mail -- that I was dead when he couldn't find me in the mid-1990s.
In his column, he talked about what an inspiration I had been to him and what a good person he felt I was. I found out about this column when my name popped up under a “Google Alert” on Aug. 27. I was surprised, more like shocked, and humbled. I had no idea how much I had meant to him.
Since then, we have exchanged e-mails and photos. We plan to get together the next time my wife and I go down south to where Woody and his wife, Lisa, live. Woody worked as a sports writer for a several publications, including the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Ventura County Newspapers, and the Ventura County Star.
He even wrote a book titled, “The Pirate Collection: Columns on a Decade of Dominance,” about Ventura College basketball. Woody has become a fixture in the Ventura community since the 1989 season when he wrote a heartwarming column about VC star Lester Neal, who rose from the depths of the Chicago Southside to become the Western State Conference Player of the Year.
To give you an idea how good a sports writer he is, Woody's column about Louis Zamperini, a gifted runner who competed in the 1936 Olympics, was included in the Best American Sports Writing series in 2001. That's hitting the big time.
Quite an honor for the tall, skinny young man fresh out of college I hired so many years ago. Woody also co-wrote a book with Wayne Bryan titled, “Raising Your Child to be a Champion.” Currently he writes a lifestyle column for the Ventura Star, is a freelance writer and is shopping around for an agent for his next book.
As It Stands, it just goes to show that sometimes you can make a more positive impact on people than you think.
PHOTO – Woody is wearing the yellow t-shirt. On his left is daughter Dallas. On his right is his son Greg, and wife Lisa.
Here’s a link to Woody’s column with the Ventura County Star