I know it sounds cliché to say "behind every good man, there's a good woman."
However, you would be hard pressed to find a better example of this than the relationship of Anne Welsh to her husband, Luther. What a rock!
Kim, Callie Ann and I went to see them shortly before we left on vacation two weeks ago. When we left, I was afraid that it would be the last time we saw her. Still, it was unbelievably sad when we received the call that she had passed away while we were visiting my in-laws in Tennessee.
Kim, of course, wanted to know what we could do and told the family that we would be returning to Thomson on Friday. We were asked to contact the coaches. As it turned out, that was quite a task because in 50-plus years in the business, a man has many coaches.
Trying to contact the many former assistants and rivals took considerable time, but we were glad to serve this lady who has meant so much to so many across the eight counties in which her husband coached during their almost 50 years of marriage. She was loved and respected by every one of the men to whom Kim and I delivered the news.
Very soon after I met Anne in 1984, I realized that she was the perfect coach's wife. She was loyal to Luther, her family and friends. We assistants who went through trying times in our lives knew she was there for us just as she was there for her family. She knew what it was like to have her workaholic husband gone most of the time, and she worked tirelessly to provide the attention her family needed.
You could also depend on her for a "rush job" on a torn jersey, as she was a gifted seamstress. There's no telling how many jerseys I sent home with Coach for her to patch up in order that they make it through the season.
In almost 50 years as Coach's wife, she missed only a handful of games despite battling a severe diabetic condition, multiple bouts of cancer and broken bones.
Coach was never one to constantly heap accolades upon his assistants because he just expected you to "get it done." Anne always told the assistants "good job," and you knew she appreciated what you did. It always meant a lot to me to hear her compliment our defense after a win. She loved children and was thrilled with her own, her grandchildren and those of Luther's assistants. I will never forget seeing her the first time after she found out that Kim was expecting. The delight in her face was wonderful because she rejoiced in our dream coming true.
In fact, it was family that led the Welshes back to Thomson in 1999. I don't think Coach ever expected to return when he left in 1991, but their younger daughter, Andrea, was still here. Coach was perfectly content in Screven County and had just won a region championship. However, when the Thomson job opened, it was Anne who wanted to return when the powers that be wanted Luther back after an eight-year absence. Probably, for the only time in his career, Coach took a job because of Anne instead of other factors. The rest is history.
Being a coach's wife is difficult. Even when you win, some people want to know either why you didn't win by a bigger margin or how good you are going to be next year. Then, when things don't go well, it's the wives and families who have to listen to the experts in the stands. While as a young girl, their older daughter, Lucia, once kicked a critic in the leg, informing him that it was her daddy he was talking about. Anne always endured the criticism with the dignity and grace that epitomized the "Steel Magnolia" that she was. God bless you, Anne. We will all miss you.
John Barnett has played, observed and coached Thomson athletics for 45 years.