A Tribute to Barry Reynolds (March 9 1948 – June 20, 2017)

Coach Reynolds reading to me as I visited him in his basement in December 2012.

My friend Barry Reynolds died this week.

He was my high school English teacher, mentor, and track coach. One of the joys I have experienced in moving back to St. Joe as an adult is reconnecting with people from the past.

We met a number of times over the last six years to discuss literature, faith, life, politics, Wendell Berry, philosophy, the church, and a myriad of other topics.

Coach Reynolds was given to me by God at a time in my life as a high school student when I need someone like him. He encouraged me and challenged me in the classroom, on the track, and in the life of faith.

He was able to draw things out of me that I did not know were there.

He was the first person to tell me I had a “voice,” that is, I had something  to say. He encouraged me to write from the perspective of the Christian faith. I later went on to be an English major at Missouri Western.

I was never a great student, but he encouraged me to take the test to see if I qualified for the TAG program. (TAG was an advanced literature and humanities class that he co-taught.) I never thought I’d have the test score to enter into the program. But I did.

I was never a great athlete, but he challenged me and pushed me to become a better hurdler. I never made it to State, but I qualified for sectionals once and attracted some college recruitment offers.

I cannot express how deeply he impacted me and how much he will be missed.

Over the past six years we had countless conversations. A couple of years ago we read Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter together and then met to discuss it. We both love Wendell Berry. He called Berry the sanest man in America. He is right. I will always remember those conversations about Wendell Berry and that novel in particular.

Coach Reynolds was kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and a man who embodies everything I want to be. He once told me that God put him on earth to coach hurdlers. He did that over a 35 year career, even coaching some state champions, but he did so much more than that.

He taught us to think, to dream, to read, to ask big questions, to be present to the other, to be humble, and to be focused. He taught us to love, to run, to reject the status quo, to look for beauty and allow beauty to work its magic. He was a wise one, a sage, a contemplative. He was a rare combination of intelligence and charisma.

Tonight I hugged his wife Barb and told her how much I loved him.

Tomorrow I am humbled and honored to be a pallbearer as we lay him to rest.

He will be missed by many. I for one will never forget him.

1992 Central High School Hurdlers: Back row: Seth Wheat, me, Andre Crittendon, Kelly Brandt, Coach Reynolds. Front row: Jenni Lowrance (Vreeland), Patty Schuele, Melanie Mares