I'm an old retiree who now has the time to think about those individuals who had a direct impact on my childhood. Not counting family members, it was always a small number of coaches or teachers that seemed to be at the top of my list.
At the age of 12, I thought for sure that someday I would become a professional baseball or basketball player. I started hanging around the local community center and that's when I first met the "Ghost."
The first day I walked into the center I was greeted by the non-intimidating man with the biggest smile I had ever seen. The Ghost was working in the ring with a couple of young boxers my age. "Wanna give it a try?" I said sure, and got into the ring and put on some huge oversized boxing gloves. After about five minutes, the Ghost asked, what other sports do you like? I'm pretty sure that was his way of telling me not to plan on being a boxer.
I made the baseball team and was a regular at the center for a couple of years. The Ghost was a great mentor. He emphasized that sports were important, but family, friends and grades come first.
Job opportunities and adulthood sent us on different paths. I was now 50 and just getting ready to read the evening newspaper. The headlines read "World War II Hero Matt Urban Died." I could not comprehend this story. Seven Purple Hearts, 29 medals, including the Medal of Honor. One of the most decorated men in World War II. Americans knew Matt Urban as a national hero, the Germans knew him as the "Ghost," but I was fortunate to know him as a mentor and a coach.