These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

schipper's gone

i had the pleasure of working on another obit story last night. i was orginally set to go to saugatuck twp. planners when i got a call saying i'd be collaborating with sports on an obit story on ron schipper.

i had no idea who ron schipper was and had never heard of him. it doesn't help that i'm not a a big sports fan, so i would never have known he has one of the best winning records in division III football and 36 consecutive winning seasons. he coached at central college in iowa.

i took the task on with little knowledge. at first i was just happy not to go go to the planners' meeting. they average about five hours per meeting and i felt i would have had to have left before my item came up for discussion anyway.

once again the sports dept. helped me out and cam through with phone numbers of individuals who could comment on it. that was a good starting off point. i used three of them in my article. those thre led to two other people i also used.

schipper was retired but helped his son tim out in fennville. (tim's the head football coach there). i talked to the athletic dirctor tony petkus and he gave me good info and i got the sense that the fennville folks really cared for schipper and considered him a great asset to the practices and training.

then i talked to one of the players - lucas mcfarland. he spoke clearly and very articulately about schipper. then he said the two words i knew i wanted in my story lead. papa ron. he said everyone called him that. bam, it hit me like a wall. so when i finished the interviews and i began to write, the lead came rather naturally, which is unusual. sometimes it's the hardest thing to write.

\i also interviewed schipper's minister at christ memorial and the hope college athletic director. and dave herber, who's with an organization called parents for participation (a group trying to get two athletic programs at west ottawa). i got that name through rosemary ervine, west ottawa's superintendent.

alan added a comment from tim schipper that really gave the story a punch at just the right spot, too, when talking about the fennville program.

this story didn't come as easy as hank reest's story last week, but by the time i was done, i got a real good understanding of how loved and respected ron schipper was. what a nice way to be remembered by people after you're dead. some people really make a great impact in people's lives.