Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mourning LaVell Edwards

We moved from Minnesota (15 years) to Provo UT in January of 1985. Tom was a visiting professor for winter semester. We knew nothing about BYU. Nothing. We didn't know their football team had won the 1984 national championship. Never heard of LaVell Edwards, the coach. We were Minnesota Gophers, who mostly lost, except for the two years that Lou Holst was the coach before he moved on to Notre Dame. We weren't football people anyway. We were High Culture. (It's okay to break into guffaws here).

After a few months, Tom was offered a full time position at BYU, which he accepted, and we began looking for a house.  Cal Monson, one of the good guys, was our real estate agent and we ended up looking in Oak Hills directly above BYU. Cal drove us around in his big Cadillac and a couple of times he said, "LaVell Edwards lives just up the block from this house," or "around the corner" or finally, and this was the motherlode, "right next door to LaVell Edwards!"  We could live right next door to LaVell Edwards. That is when I finally asked, "Who the hell is LaVell Edwards?"

It was an honest question.

We ended up living several blocks away from LaVell and Patti and must have met them casually, but it wasn't until I met Ann, their daughter, in 1988 that I became fully aware of them.  Ann and I fell in girl love at a lunch arranged by Elizabeth Wahlquist, because we wrote for the same New York publisher. My first book had been published the year before having won the Delacorte Press First Young Adult Novel Contest as an Honorable Mention.  Ann's first book was published a year later winning the same contest only the top prize, not just the humble HM. This stung for a few minutes. Writers are sensitive people.

For almost 29 years I have loved Ann more than my own skin.

For almost 20 years, Tom was Santa Claus at Ann's annual family Christmas Party. The large-framed, densely built LaVell once sat on Tom's lap nearly breaking every bone in his puny skeleton.

Patti took our Honors class: Memoir and the Imagination and wrote about the fire in Big Piney, Wyoming. She wrote intelligently and well. She was charming.

In 1995, we moved into Ann and Ken's ward in Salt Lake. Ken was our bishop. He was our lawyer. He was our friend.

The last few years, Ann and I have met as our own little writing group, and I have heard her read essays about LaVell as a father, whom she often refers to as "the coach": rye, humorous, relaxed, a man who loved what he did but didn't take himself too seriously. A gardner.  It struck me as I read through all the articles about him in the SL papers that his public persona and the private man were the same person.

Isn't that integrity?

Let me be the first to say it: he was damned sexy.

We knew he was dying, but when we got the actual news, we burst into tears. Because he was the coach. Because Ann was his daughter.  Because he took her to Hawaii that time. Because he had a large head and so did Q, his grandson. Because of Patti. Because of all those grandsons. Because we can't attend the funeral and hug everybody. Because he was fun to chat with. Because so much time has passed since 1985. Because Tom was his Santa Claus. Because we will never see him again in this life. Because we, ourselves, will follow. Because.


  1. You and Ann win for favorite essay i've read about him. I'm so glad to read more than just his football and career accomplishments. It makes me ache to know that she is going through this loss right now. And that someday we will all be the source of that kind of loss for someone (well, except for the baddies. not sure many people ache when they're gone). I wish you could wiggle your nose, blink twice and BAM you're here! There's just no way around this kind of sad.

    Love you! You're one of my life's heroes. You have done so much good you don't even know.


  2. You know the part of Emily Wing Smith's memoir that made me cry? It was the part where middle-school-age her met you, and you were a voice of belief and encouragement. You are good at seeing who people are.

  3. Thank you for this Louise. I would just point out that I have a bigger head than my little brother.

  4. Oh my. This is beautiful. Your voice is a gift to LaVell and all who love him.

  5. This was lovely, and let those of us who didn't know him personally, into his life a little bit.

    Your name has always been magic to me, because of your writing. I have a copy of Thoughts of a Grasshopper in the basement, But, well, it would be work to try and find it so I just ordered one. Very grasshopperish.

  6. Louise this is one of your finest blogposts full of pathos, ethos. When you are at your most authentic self not trying to be glib but vulnerable and exposing, you are a powerful unforgettable writer. Thanks for sharing this today.

    Ann I'm sorry the coach is gone.

  7. This is beautiful. It made me cry. xx

  8. "...his public persona and the private man were the same person..."
    That is indeed integrity, and thank you for pointing it out. We should all aspire to this.

  9. Thank you. Well written. Good subject matter.

  10. Was lucky enough to bump into this trying to find you. Took my breath away. Thanks so much for this rememberance.