Last week, I was leaving my bank after taking care of some business when I opened the door for an elderly black gentleman who was wearing a sweater decorated with a pattern of scarlet and gray squares. I told him that because of his colors, he was definitely one of my people. He told me that he had retired from Ohio State. I mentioned my father, who had done the same thing and told him that I am old enough to have known Woody Hayes. (Fine, fine, I’m bragging.) This gentleman, Michael Ervin, surprised me when he replied, “I used to WORK for Woody Hayes.”
I got to hear a very good story. Mr. Ervin told me that when he returned from Korea in 1953, he and his brother managed to land a job in the food service department at the Stadium dorm and he got to see both the players on the team and their coach on a regular basis. He told me that Woody was a great guy to work for and that at Christmastime, he handed out boxes of chocolates and ten-dollar bills, which was a lot of money at the time.
I offered to treat Mr. Ervin to lunch, which he declined. I figured that for a true Buckeye fan, it was the least I could do.
Some people might wonder why I tell so many stories about Woody Hayes, a man who died twenty-three years ago. I thought about that recently while visiting Woody’s grave in Union Cemetery. It occurred to me that Woody Hayes was a man who “walked with kings and lost not the common touch.:” He always listened to what I had to say and he treated my opinions with respect. I very rarely got that in the home in which I grew up.
Rest in Peace, Woody.