The other day I learned of the passing of a teacher I had in high school, John J. “Skip” Duffy. Mr. Duffy, as I always called him (I cannot fathom calling him Skip), mostly due to the way I was raised and the fact that he was my teacher, but also because he was larger than life to me. He played and coached football, and it showed, he was intense, and BIG. After administering a test he would often stand atop his desk to observe, at which point he probably stood 10 feet tall. Glad I was in the back of the room! I thoroughly enjoyed his class, looking back. He taught Business Law, and I was darn good at that subject. I remember I would get every question correct on his tests again and again, to the point it almost became a contest to see if he could pose a test question that I would fail to answer correctly. Soon enough he did, and ooooh was he proud of himself, exclaiming, “I finally gotcha Downey!”

The reason he meant so much to me is mostly due to how he effected my golf career. When I went out for my high school’s golf team, the Catholic League rules were that you had to walk the course to compete. That is just not feasible for me due to my disability. Mind you I did make the attempt and as I recall, I only made it through 3 holes. My to be coach and school worked it out with the league so that I’d be allowed a golf cart. There was still a problem however, I was not 18 years old, and one must be 18 to “rent” a golf cart for insurance and liability reasons. With that little history brief, allow me to copy what I wrote to the Duffy family in the memorial guest book:

I am very distraught to learn of Mr Duffy’s passing. Not only was he my teacher, but if it were not for his volunteering to drive me around in a golf cart after school at 5 Ponds, I would not have been able to be a part of Wood’s golf team (’94-96). Being disabled, I cannot walk a course, and at the time, being under 18, I could not rent a golf cart. There was Mr. Duffy, ready to chauffeur me around and chase a lil while ball around. I may be one of the few that was lucky enough to receive the label “suction head” both in, and out of the classroom. Without Coach Schmalbach and Mr. Duffy’s efforts might not exist.

For his efforts I shall be forever grateful,

As stated above, Mr Duffy shared his time to play golf with me (when I was rather bad and had little strength, taking me 4-5 shots to reach a par 4). Surely a less patient man would not have put up with that! I honestly cannot remember the banter or advise Mr. Duffy would bestow upon me while we were playing (other than calling me a “suction head” when I’d loose focus etc., or just cause) but I suppose that was not the point. I think I know what he meant for me to take form our time together. He did it because it was “the right thing to do”, not to mention the free golf involved!

The fact that I had to wait for about an hour in line at his viewing is a testament to a man who lived his life always concerned for others and what “that right thing to do” might be. It is no surprise he had a love of golf either, now is it?

We did not stay in touch after I graduated and went off to college, save for one evening when I was out to dinner with my parents and I heard a loud bellowed, “Hey! suction head!” I knew right away who was hollering that my way. The fact we did not stay in touch is completely my loss I am afraid. I was informed by his family and friends that he was still proud of me and my accomplishments long after I graduated. Well “Suction Head”, I hope I can continue to make you proud and not allow the time you volunteered for me to be wasted time.

Maybe next time i’m 6 inches from a hole in one, you can throw a stiff breeze my way, OK?!