From pine lined point of ol’ Camp Neyati and back to Beaver Bay, I glide through a silver blue lake, stroke after stroke, while you sit on an wrought iron chair under the elms on shore, watching to assure my safety.  If I were in danger of drowning, you could never reach me, but I am confident knowing you are there ever watchful, a benevolent eye, just as you have watched over me for the past 54 years.

During my journey filled with adversity, you offer encouraging words from the background to keep me steady.  You admire my courage fighting in the face of pain, commending the discipline that drives me to swim in an icy lake on a rainy day.  You marvel that I traveled half way across the world in pursuit of a dream to play basketball and now in adulthood wonder how I can endure another teaching day with my health limitations.  For me it doesn’t seem that extraordinary; after all, I am my father’s daughter.

If I was able to pioneer a career unheard of for women, move abroad and rewrite my script after my dream collapsed, it is because of you.  I inherited the McKinzie iron will, a drive to pursue lofty ideals in spite of obstacles.

Though you still worry about your adult children and grandchildren, the tables have turned; now dozens of eyes watch over you.  After your heart incident 25 years ago, I postponed my trip back to France to stay by your side. I witnessed how you changed your habits to accommodate a condition that altered your life, but never slowed you down.  This year I supported you long distance as you recovered from 4 different surgeries.  You still attained your goals: to stand up as your eldest granddaughter walked to take her Hippocratic Oath and to sit down at a middle granddaughter’s high school graduation party. Now a day never passes where I am not grateful that you are still with us to cheer us on.

Jim McKinzie (80th birthday) with Lenore and kids

Jim McKinzie (80th birthday) with Lenore and kids

Bad arteries, good heart.  The best. It touched the lives of all whose paths you crossed. From Dekalb High classmates to Northern Illinois University teammates to Sterling High School colleagues to the Mighty Warriors and the Golden Girls, for decades, you were the marker to which so many students and fellow teachers measured their worth. Your words still inspire many athletes; your letters became treasured keepsakes.

Your generous heart helped finance college education, provide pocket change and gas money for grandkids. You helped perfect jump shots, spiral passes and line drives. Your patient heart read Good Night Moon to a demanding grandchild and balanced a checkbook for an even more demanding father.  Your intuitive heart painted canvases, counseled female athletes, and recognized a child’s distress in the sound of a voice during a long distance phone call. Though you set extremely high standards for yourself, your accepting heart was the first to welcome a foreigner into the family, to treat people of all walks of life as equal, and to understand others who are different.

As the son of Coach Mac, integrity was deeply ingrained. As McKinzie kids we had to tow the line. But by emulating our father, the man who walked the talk too, you inspired each of us to stand taller.

We come from good blood. The life lessons passed on from your father, “Coach Mac” McKinzie trickled down to you and then onto each of us in our helping professions.

At halftime of the 1986 Super Bowl the United States President announced, “Whatever I am today, Coach Mac had an awful lot to do with it.”

I will never be as famous as Ronald “Dutch” Reagan, but I echo his words, “Whatever I am today, my own Papa Mac had an awful lot to do with.”

Now just as you stare at the Summit Lake water front and track my stroke, I in turn peek out the cabin window you to make sure you don’t stumble when your wander off in the woods. We watch over one another in a special father/daughter bond built from hours of sharing meals, shooting hoops, swapping stories, taking trips, and spending time together marking the milestones.  Like 80th birthdays!

Congratulations Dad and an extra special shout out to all the athletes, colleagues, family, friends and former teammates, who reminded us all in memorabilia and words, how lucky we are that you have touched our lives.