Greg Jayne

Greatest Hits: In Honor Of Father’s Day

With Father’s Day upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to share what I wrote after my dad died in 2009:

This is a column I never wanted to write, but knew that someday I would.

Roger Alan Jayne — coach, friend, mentor, role model, and all-around good guy — died Wednesday. He was my father.

Now, this might not seem to have much to do with sports. Until you consider all the years he spent coaching youth baseball. And all the hours he spent shuttling kids to practices and games. And all the times he patted a kid on the back or took an interest in their lives or in some small way helped them navigate the journey to adulthood.

In this regard, he was similar to thousands of parents out there. He wasn’t famous or wealthy or prone to self-promotion. But if the measure of a man can be found in the company he keeps and the friendships he develops, he was the richest man I ever met.

I have been reminded of this over the years. Countless times. In the way that many of his friends held that status for more than 60 years. And in the way that people with whom I went to school would constantly ask about him.

Seemingly every time I would run into somebody from my childhood, even somebody I didn’t know particularly well, they would ask how my dad was doing. They would remember him from Little League, or from Cub Scouts, or from the fact that he played the Sheriff for several years at our grade-school carnival.

There was nobody more perfectly suited to play the Sheriff at a grade-school carnival than my dad. He had an innate silliness — his favorite word was “balderdash” — that allowed him to inhabit a role without a hint of self-consciousness.

Maybe that’s how I got roped into playing a clown at the age of 5 at some festival or another, in full clown makeup, right alongside him. My parents had a picture of the two of us in our clown getups. I always loved that picture.

Ours was the kind of house that was the neighborhood hangout, the gathering place for my friends and I. From the youthful days of board games and backyard baseball, to the early adult years of drinking beer and watching sports, our house was the center of the neighborhood.

My dad was the primary reason for that. As one of my friends wrote: “Your Dad was a really wonderful, big-hearted person. He made the world a better place. He had a special way of making each person he encountered feel they were important. That’s a gift.”

It wasn’t until years later that I recognized how this extended to all facets of his life.

One of his most cherished endeavors was spending the summer volunteering at a Kiwanis camp for handicapped children. Over time, it has become one of my most cherished memories of him, as well.

It’s interesting how your perspective of your parents can change over the years. They start out larger than life, and then they seem human, and then they are larger than life again. And there’s nothing that brings them into sharper focus than when you have your own children.

For me, the arrival of my first offspring suddenly gave me a little understanding of my parents’ love for me. It suddenly gave me a little understanding of why my dad spent all those hours playing catch in the backyard or hitting groundballs at the park.

It wasn’t simply about making me a better baseball player; it was about making me a better person, about spending time talking and being a role model.

For my father and I, that connection came through sports. For others, it might come through music or art or camping or Scouts. Regardless of the method, the connection is real, and it lasts a lifetime.

So here’s the obituary for my father, Roger Alan Jayne: He was loved; he will be missed.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/section/GregJayne

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