Death is making all of us weary.
We have all lost far too many friends in a very short amount of time and Plymouth’s athletics community lost another jewel recently with the passing of Barb Read.
I have purposely put off writing this simply because I really don’t think that you can adequately describe Barb to anyone who hasn’t met her, no matter how few people that probably is.
She was a human being that you would never, ever forget once you did. She wouldn’t let you. She would have to check up on you to make sure everything was Okay.
I would find it hard to believe that there is an athlete who ever took part in her son Bob’s wrestling program at Plymouth that didn’t know “Grandma” Read.
I met Barb when I was just a young boy. Her sons were a little older than me and we all attended church together. The thing about her and her husband James that struck a young man like me was that they treated every one of us ‘young ones’ as if we were theirs.
Something that I think goes unnoticed these days — or ignored maybe — is the impression and influence that kind of acceptance has on someone, especially at a young age.
And with Barb and James, it didn’t stop with us kids.
I never saw them treat anyone they met any differently. It was always comforting to see them because you knew that you were going to be accepted and encouraged and walk away feeling better.
She wore her deep belief in Jesus Christ and the Church on her sleeve. While she was a great ambassador for her son’s wrestling program, she was a greater ambassador of her faith.
Barb didn’t hold you to a higher standard because of that faith which showed the depth and maturity of her belief. She understood that her gift wasn’t to preach or convict, her gift was to welcome and encourage.
As far as I know, she never excluded anyone, treating everyone with the same grace and acceptance that I’m sure she believed Jesus did, regardless of anything, and that is truly a gift in today’s world.
I will never forget an exchange that we had almost 25 years ago, after my son Elijah was born. I had gone away from Plymouth for quite a few years and had just returned a short time before but to Barb, time was nothing in a friendship.
We met in passing and she knew that I was very excited about my first son having read a piece I wrote in the Pilot about his birth. We caught up quickly and she said something to me that I have never forgotten and will never forget.
“You know you read in the Bible that God gave his only begotten son,” she said. “But you never REALLY understand what that means until you have a son of your own.”
With that one sentence, she had given me a completely new and powerful perspective of our shared faith. I also realized the gift that God had given her.
For those wrestlers who knew her as “Grandma”, she and James gave you an example that you should never forget as you raise your children. They were what I would consider the perfect “athletic parents”.
There was not one ounce of love and support they would not have offered freely to their children in their pursuits. That was clear. It extended to the “children” they adopted through Bob’s wrestling program.
But there was never a moment when you saw one of them trying to coach from the sideline, getting involved with their children’s relationships with their coaches or others. In Bob’s case later, they would take all of his players under their wing with that love and encouragement, but the wrestling and instruction were left to their son, the expert.
You never saw them argue with officials or demand meetings with administrators if they felt their children — even “adopted” ones — were being slighted.
But they were always there.
Supporting and encouraging however they could, never demanding or seeking the spotlight.
You can readily see the example they set for their children in who they are now.
Anybody whose son had Bob Read as a coach is grateful for the fact their son got to spend time around his program. For wrestling expertise yes, but more for what he taught them about being a good man.
I haven’t asked Bob, but I have no doubt that he would give all the credit for that to what his Mom and Dad taught him about being a good man. Just paying it forward.
We keep losing the building blocks of what athletics at Plymouth has always meant to those of us who were here when the “modern era” started. Hopefully, we are replacing them. If not, something special is quickly being lost and Barb is just another of those that cannot be replaced.
As for Barb, I am sad that it will be some time before I see her again, but I can’t be mournful.
I know that with her energy she took no time off and she has already started her new calling — standing at the Pearly Gates and welcoming everyone as they arrive, being sure that they feel loved and welcome.