Russ Kent: Teachers, baseball and ‘Death and Dying’

Two of my favorite words are extemporaneous and flummoxed.

I learned them years ago during one of my English classes at Galion High School. Joyce Hayden was my teacher. She was a big proponent of expanding one’s vocabulary. And she was tough with her marking pen.

But she was a very good teacher. One of my favorites.

Those two words popped into my head this morning because I could not come up with a topic for a column.

I was flummoxed, and although I’m OK at extemporaneous writing, it’s not something I do often for a column.

However, if you follow me on Facebook and to a far lesser extent on Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, the comments you read there are always extemporaneous, and often deleted by the next morning.

Extemporaneous, according to Oxford University Press, means “spoken or done without preparation.”

So that’s how I’m writing this morning.

Flummoxed, according to Oxford means “bewildered or perplexed.”

Because I decided to write an extemporaneous column today, I am no flummoxed.

But I am perplexed. I’m bewildered by the vapid and clueless comments uttered by TV announcers during last night’s Cleveland Indians victory over Boston. It’s like they never even heard of the Cleveland Indians before they stepped into the announcer’s booth. I have no idea how they were even able to call the game with their Red Sox-loving faces buried so far up the keisters of Red Sox Nation.

It was a pathetic performance by two announcers who were either incredibly biased, or too lazy to do their homework before the game started. And pathetic, according to Webster, means “very bad, poor, weak, etc.”

But the Tribe won, 5-4, so all is right in the world.

Anyway, I got a little off track. But that’s the danger of extemporaneous writing and thinking.

I like words. Big words, foreign words, little words, goofy words, non-sensical words and dirty words.

I enjoy watching James Lipton’s interviews on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”Always, my favorite question is when he asks his guest their favorite profane word, or phrase.

Profanity is so expressive. And so perfectly succinct. You can write a whole paragraph about something you feel deeply about .. or you can some it up in one profane outburst.

I almost always go with the one-word outburst.

Anyway, back to Miss Hayden and Galion High School.

I enjoyed English classes. All of them, the required classes like Senior Composition, and the other classes we could choose to take. My favorite was Thanatology, which according to Oxford, is “the scientific study of death and the practices associated with it, including the study of the needs of the terminally ill and their families.”

That nine-week course fascinated me. It’s where I first heard of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote “On Death and Dying.” She was one of the first — if not the first — to categorize the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I still make use of the lessons I learned in that class. It has helped me many times in my dealings with someone who is grieving.

“On Death and Dying” is not a book about death. It is a book about people, and emotions, and dealing with emotions.

Dr. Allan Kellehear wrote a foreword for the 40th anniversary edition of the book: ” ‘On Death and Dying’ was never a study of grief and bereavement. It was a discussion of some key emotional reactions to the experience of the dying. Yes, grief was a part of that experience, but it was not the totality of the experience.”

Everyone should read this book. I’m going out this weekend and buying a copy to read again. Through the years, it has helped me understand what a grieving person is experiencing, and in that way, I hope makes me a better person to be around.

Anyway, I’m off top again.

Back to my English classes. Miss Hayden was a classic. Bit I was also taught and instructed and coached in high school by Dave Spraw, Marilyn Stepro, who at the time was Miss Cottrell, and Tim Weiskopf.

I guess it’s not a surprise that I write for a living.

I learned to write in those classes, how to organize my thoughts and how to present them in a logical order.

Dave Spraw I see more than occasionally, and we always have a good conversation. In fact, I golfed with Dave in a church league for many years.

I’m always running into Marilyn and Bill Stepro: at weddings, at restaurants, at sporting events and graduations. I never had Bill Stepro in class, although he was my student council adviser in Middle School was I was class president. They are good friends and two of my harshest critics. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I know then cringe each time a typo or misspelled word makes its way into the print or online version of the Galion Inquirer … then again, so do I.

Tim Weiskopf is still in Galion. I see him speed-walking around the city quite often, but haven’t chatted with him in years.

I saw Miss Hayden several years ago. I think it was at a Galion Community Theater production or a production at the Renaissance in Mansfield. She was ahead of me in the concession line and we didn’t speak. I wish we had. I don’t know if she would remember or recognize me. But I would have liked to tell her that she made a difference in my life.

All my English teachers did.

So thank you Miss Hayden. Thank you Mrs. Stepro. Thank you Dave Spraw. And thank you Tim Weiskopf.

Russ Kent

Inquirer Editor


Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Bellville Star and Morrow County Sentinel. Email comments of story ideas to him at [email protected]