On occasion, I pass Riverside Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Last week, I dropped by Section 12 to pay my respects to my old friend Woody Hayes and his wife Ann. That experience brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. It has been over thirty years since Woody coached his last game for Ohio State, and over twenty-two since he died. He still has a whole lot of friends in Columbus. Woody and Ann’s grave site invariably looks like an Ohio State gift shop. This week, I counted an American flag, a small Ohio State banner, a tiny scarlet and gray teddy bear and a couple of buckeyes were placed atop his tombstone. On this day, someone had spelled out O-H-I-O in pennies on the tombstone.
I remember the last time I ever saw Woody, and in part of my mind, I felt Woody was immortal. My realistic side told me he was a frail, 73-year-old man who was clearly not long for this world. Before I left, I managed to say, “Coach, I’ve always loved you like a favorite uncle.”
I still remember how Woody smiled that day and I’ve always been glad I managed to say that too him before it was too late.
Rest in peace, Woody.