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Archive for the ‘In memory’ Category

Lathom Kelley’s jersey, and the prairie where he spent many a day. (Bennett Richter photo)

Wolf Nation is embracing one of its families.

Coupeville High School coaches, administrators, athletes, students, teachers, and fans will unite this Friday, Sept. 16 to honor Lathom Kelley and his family at halftime of a football game with Sultan.

Lathom, who graduated with the CHS Class of 2016, is believed to have died after a kayak accident Saturday between Guemes Island and Jack Island.

A search involving multiple police and fire departments and the U.S. Coast Guard recovered the kayak and an oar, which were stuck under the water’s surface in a kelp bed.

Lathom’s backpack was separately recovered, and it was confirmed he had not been wearing a life jacket.

A local diver with experience in operating in kelp braved the strong currents and high tide to lead a two-day search but a body has not been recovered.

After consultation with Lathom’s family, Coupeville High School Athletic Director Willie Smith issued the following statement Wednesday morning:

 

As you all know, CSD lost one of our own last weekend.

For those of you that didn’t know Lathom, he was one of those students that tested every ounce of one’s patience with his, at once crazy and limit-pushing behavior and in the next moment his positive and embracing behavior.

His father, Lincoln, worked for our district in the maintenance department for many years and was also part of our high school track program, coaching with Randy King for many years.

Brandon, his brother, also graduated from CHS and was an amazingly positive and quiet leader in his own right while at CHS.

Our football team (along with Ryan King, a former CMS/CHS coach), upon hearing of Lathom’s passing, immediately reached out to their coach with the idea of honoring Lathom with a presentation of his jersey, number #44, to his parents and family at halftime of our home game this Friday night.

They will also be wearing a #44 sticker on their helmets the remainder of the season in his honor.

The Kelleys are overwhelmed with this gesture by our football team, and it would go a long way in helping them deal with this unbelievable loss if we had a full showing of support for them at the game. 

Please join us this Friday at 7:00 PM as we come together and wrap a grieving family in the arms of our Wolf family. 

Lathom Kelley poses with parents Lincoln and Shawna, during Senior Night football festivities in 2015. (Gabe Wynn photo)

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Lathom Kelley, quality dude. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net, Shawna Kelley, and Sylvia Arnold)

Lathom Kelley was my dude.

In 10+ years of writing this blog, I’ve witnessed a ton of Coupeville High School athletes come and go.

Some were amazingly talented.

Some had huge hearts.

Some lived life to their own song, bounding through each day, mischievous grin lighting up the prairie as they did.

Few have put all of that together like Lathom did.

The news that he is believed to have died after a kayak accident Saturday is a punch through our souls.

Sunday night his parents, Lincoln and Shawna, released the following statement:

It is with heavy hearts that we are informing Lathom’s friends, our friends, our families and extended families, we have lost our son, Lathom McCrae Kelley.

He is now a “missing person” after a tragic kayaking incident which occurred on Saturday, September 10th.

We believe he perished after his kayak capsized in the Sound’s 58-degree water and high current flow.

He was rowing from Guemes Island to Jack Island and his remains have yet to be located.

If you knew Lathom, you knew he enjoyed life and, in his presence, you probably did too!

His strength and energy exceeded the confines of every space he occupied.

His ability to conjure up some kind of crazy stunt or be encouraged to follow through kept the Kelley household on the edge of our seats.

We know this is a shock to you all, as it is for us.

He will always resonate in our hearts and minds and will be dearly missed.

The short story is that Lathom graduated with the CHS Class of 2016, a vital part of a group of student/athletes who entered high school in August 2012, right as I launched Coupeville Sports.

He was an absolute terror on the football field, a wild beast careening from side to side, blowing up opposing runners on defense and crashing through the line for big gains when the Wolves had the ball.

A broken hand? Slap a cast on that baby, cause Lathom wasn’t fond of sitting on the bench.

When track and field season rolled around, he was the kind of guy who would decide on a whim to pick up a new event, then dominate without a single day of practice.

Over the course of four seasons Lathom competed in an astonishing 14 different events.

Pretty much the only thing he didn’t try was the pole vault, and that was likely only because Wolf coach Randy King probably looked at Lathom, looked at the pole, and was like, “Hell no, dude will use it to jump onto the school roof.”

At which point Lathom would have grinned from ear to ear and said, “Damn straight, Skippy!”

My enduring image of Lathom was a moment when he came flying through the CHS gym, literally ran up the wall, and did a back flip, sticking the landing before bowing and exiting while declaring “No autographs, my hands are tired folks.”

A smaller, quieter moment came during Senior Night for Wolf boys basketball.

One of the players stood alone, the only soon-to-be graduate whose parents weren’t in the gym, for whatever reason.

Tributes were being delivered, roses were handed out, and things moved towards the lone Wolf.

At which point there was a scream from the top of the stands, and Lathom came flying down, screaming “My boy! This is my boy! I am so proud of him!!”

Grabbing his fellow student in a bear hug, he happily posed for photos, then departed, a rose clenched between his teeth.

Lathom was so many things.

Classy, yet sassy, a wild child who once popped up behind me right after a Wolf mom had given me a plate of cookies.

He had been on the opposite side of the field a moment before, and bam, there he was, vibrating in place, his entire uniform one giant stain of mashed-up grass and mud.

“Dude! You made me cookies!! I told you I was his favorite!!!”

Lathom was eternally proud of his older brother, Brandon, who he often teamed up with on relay units during track season.

“Dang it, Dave, did you see Brandon out there kickin’ ass and takin’ names?” he would holler at me.

“I gotta pick it up, man, dude’s gonna run me ragged!”

Lathom was also the rare kind of young man who refused to vote for himself or campaign for support when he appeared in my yearly polls to decide the “Athlete Supreme.”

“It’s a scam, dude! You just want more page hits!!,” he would holler at me, then he would laugh and go bounce off another wall, trying to hurt himself for my amusement.

Watching Lathom’s growth in recent years, as he found his way in life, you couldn’t help but be proud of the guy.

He amused me.

He entertained me.

He was truthful and honest, rough around the edges at times, but bursting with good will and love for all.

He was Lathom, and he was one of a kind.

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Bill Baas

A throwback to Baas as a high school sophomore. (Photo courtesy Jack Sell)

He was part of the brotherhood.

Bill Baas, who passed away Aug. 10 at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, remains part of the rich tapestry that is Coupeville High School boys basketball.

The Wolf hoops program, launched in 1917, has 105 seasons in the record books, and I’ve managed to identify 406 young men who put the ball through the net in a varsity game.

Baas, who was 72 and lived in Rochester, appears in the scoring totals for three of those seasons.

He dropped in nine points during the 1965-1966 season, then built on that, banking in 63 points in 66-67, and another 81 in 67-68.

Points were at a premium during that stretch, with Barry Brown leading the Wolves in scoring all three of those seasons — the only CHS boy to top the charts three times — and the current all-time scoring champ, Jeff Stone, debuting in 67-68.

For his varsity career Baas finished with 153 points, which puts him #164 all-time among CHS boys, nestled right between Geoff Wacker (154) and Ulrik Wells (152).

A celebration of life will be held in Rochester Aug. 27.

And when basketball games return this winter, Baas, like Brown, Utz Conard, and other now-departed Coupeville hoops stars, will continue to live large in the collective memories of Wolf Nation.

Part of the brotherhood, forever.

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Peter Burke, rockin’ high fashion in the early ’70s. (Photo courtesy Sarah Lyngra)

“Well, personally, it sounds to me like cats experiencing a less than satisfying sexual encounter on a bed of garbage, but if you like it…”

His brutal takedown of Metallica complete, Peter Burke leaned slightly back, always with an elegance to the move, a slight smile threatening to break through around the corners.

Which was enough to send Kenneth Hopkins, my unpaid and pull of piss ‘n vinegar teenage “assistant” during my final video store days, into an arm-waving, full-throated defense of modern music.

Which only made Mr. Burke’s eyes twinkle even brighter, and the battle to keep his smile hidden, even harder.

Arching one eyebrow to the heavens and beyond as he read the back of a DVD box for an opera performance, the smartly dressed senior citizen delighted in gently tormenting the easily excitable teen.

Who, to my great surprise, always treated his elder, a man who was so different in every way, with a deep respect.

Kenneth could be a ball of TNT ready to explode (or shove a lightbulb into the video drop box just to see what would happen), but he would hear no slander of Mr. Burke, and pity any of his friends who tried to make snarky comments about the gentleman.

“The Kenny and Mr. Burke” show played out almost daily at David’s DVD Den, having moved over from Videoville as I wandered through my final days of video store life.

On the one side, an elderly man of rare culture and refinement, who would often deeply sigh when discussing people of his own generation.

“They’ve all gotten so old and boring!”

He loved his opera and was the only person on the planet who rented any from the 10-disc set I bought on a whim.

Or, rather, bought as part of a foolish bender where I plowed inheritance money from my grandmother into obtaining a DVD collection I later lost to a sweaty ambulance chaser lawyer when I threw a tantrum and quit video store life for good.

But, in the moment, the operas, with their bright red boxes, looked snappy on the shelf, and Mr. Burke enjoyed them at $2.00 a rental, so my easily expected financial loss at least made him happy.

He repaid me with an endless stream of stories, both from his life in Coupeville as the son of a well-known music teacher, and his adventures in higher societies.

In return, for several years I gave him my copies of Entertainment Weekly after I read them, which gave him a special thrill.

Because, deep dark secret, Mr. Burke, ultra-refined man of good taste, a gentleman who effortlessly carried himself as if he was about to visit the Queen for high tea, was also a huge boy band fan.

Oh, it’s true.

Which drove Kenneth even further up the wall, as he loudly protested that the only good boy band was one tied up and left on a train track waiting for the 12:15 to rumble through.

Coming in to his own as a music lover, he bounced all over the place, lecturing me and Mr. Burke on the varied merits of Def Leppard, Ozzy, and many, many more.

That final two-year stretch at David’s DVD Den, a time when I foolishly worked 10 hours a day, every day — once working close to 200 consecutive days, as I hurt my health and alienated some former supporters — was a weird part of my life.

Both of my parents had recently died, my first nephew — who I saw every day for the first 5+ years of his life — left Whidbey, and I floundered around a lot, stewing and being miserable.

“The Kenny and Mr. Burke Show” was one of the few redeeming parts of that time period.

It’s been sort of amazing to see Kenneth grow up and become not just a responsible adult, but a really high-achieving, intelligent dude.

The kid who reminded me of Beavis at times in the early days would undoubtedly make Mr. Burke proud.

After I stormed out of the building on Cinco de Mayo 2009, finally accepting my video store dreams had curdled beyond repair, I had one concern.

The loss of the store snatched away Mr. Burke’s chance to get out of his apartment, stretch his legs, and be my own personal Oscar Wilde.

But we stayed in touch, and he came by my duplex to get his Entertainment Weekly issues and deliver impassioned talks on why tennis god Roger Federer ruled, and his fiery foe, Rafael Nadal, drooled.

Mr. Burke would also ask about Kenneth, who eventually moved to working on the mussel rafts parked out beyond my front yard, the same rafts I once haunted as a younger man.

“Is he still listening to that metal music that sounds like cats having the worst sex of their life?” he would ask, and then the twinkle in his eye would once again flare.

It’s been several years now since Mr. Burke passed away, but seeing the photo above reminds me what a delight he was.

Somewhere out there in the cosmos, there’s a person listening to La traviata, before cranking up the volume and segueing into the Backstreet Boys crooning I Want it That Way.

Mr. Burke would be proud.

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Brandon Graham

They’re turning their pain into positivity.

Friends and family of Brandon Graham want to help others in emotional need, doing everything they can to offer an alternative to suicide.

Graham, a 2007 Coupeville High School grad who died last summer, had a huge impact on those around him.

Fellow CHS grads Debbie Vescovi and Michelle Armstrong launched a foundation in his honor, which will “offer support for Coupeville and Oak Harbor schools, with a focus on mental health awareness, suicide prevention, and anti-bullying efforts.”

Money raised will be used to provide resources for students and training for teachers and parents, with an emphasis on bringing together local law enforcement, chaplains, and motivational speakers.

The foundation now has an active website, and is holding a luau fundraiser this Saturday, Aug. 6.

The dinner, which will feature a silent auction, is at the Nordic Lodge in Coupeville (63 Jacobs Rd.), with things starting at 4 PM.

Tickets, which are $30 for single admission, or $50 for a couple, can be obtained at Polished Studio in Oak Harbor (861 SE Pioneer Way), by emailing thebrandongrahamfoundation@gmail.com, or on the foundation’s website.

The plan is to make the dinner a yearly fundraiser.

If they can help other families avoid the pain of a loved one’s suicide, foundation organizers will have reached their goal.

“Mental health wellness needs to be a number one priority for our children,” they said.

“We, as a community, can provide our youth with tools to be able to work through the problems they have, and know that the community has their back.”

 

To see the foundation’s website, pop over to:

https://www.thebrandongrahamfoundation.com/

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