Recently two people who both had a tremendous impact on my life passed away. One was more unexpected than the other, but both were influential, not only on me, but on the whole community as well.
This is small town America. We don’t have a great football tradition, but what we do have is volleyball. Seemingly for a couple generations now our county has produced quality volleyball players. We’ve had some good coaches to get them far into the state playoffs, but there was really only one who shaped and produced state contenders. That was Linda Oxby, longtime Head Coach of the Edwards County High School volleyball team here in Southeastern Illinois. She was diagnosed with cancer about half a decade ago, fought it for all that time, and finally passed away a few weeks back.
And then there was Patrick Seil. Every small town needs a newspaper and Pat was the publisher of the Navigator & Journal-Register and had been at the helm of the local weekly since the mid-90’s. I’d known him since 2002 when I walked into his office looking for a job, but he was influential on more than just me. Everyone seemed to know him. He could spend all day shooting the breeze with whomever walked in the door but put his nose to the grindstone when he had a paper to put out. His health hadn’t been great lately, but complications from a fall led to his death a couple weeks ago.
As Pat’s Sports Editor for nearly seven years I had a front row seat to some of the best volleyball on this side of the state and I learned how to be a leader from Linda Oxby. After I was done at the newspaper, I was hired on as a history teacher at ECHS and I taught alongside Linda for many years.
It isn’t often when you can say you were truly in the presence of a legend. With both Linda and Patrick, I can honestly say I have known two taken from our midst at about the same time. From both I learned and from both I could stand back and admire their accomplishments.
It leads me to wonder how I can influence people. As a teacher I see dozens of high school students each and every day — am I having an impact on them? As an author, I try to craft stories that have a personal story to them — are my readers seeing that and am I even reaching people? As a father, am I putting forth an example worthy of my kids? As a husband, do I show the love to my wife that she deserves?
I wrestle with these questions and more every day, and I’m thankful for the impact of people like Linda Oxby and Patrick Seil on my life that I can.