James "Pug" Douglas - A Tribute To My Dad
All of his awards and accolades could cover the wall of a small library. But if there was an award for humanitarianism, that honor might have overshadowed all the others.
For all his successes in the classroom and wrestling arena, I remember Dad , with great affection, for his passionate commitment to treating people with dignity and respect.
His stature, in my eyes, has grown in the years since his death. Sure, as a younger self,
I understood the depth of his caring, but only in recent years did I fully appreciate his impact on our community.
He was gifted and with that, there was a sense of duty. He was brought up by Scottish immigrants with a Protestant Calvinist inclination to help others. It wasn't in his job description to assist students when they applied for college scholarships or loans, nor was he expected to lend a hand to struggling students so they might move on to the next grade. But he did. Over the years, he showed students the way, by example, to becoming good citizens.
" He was more like a father to me", Jerry Champagne told me. " My dad worked in the woods up north and came home on the weekends ", So, during the elder Champagne's absence, my father looked out for the welfare of all four boys, all of them wrestlers. Dad was especially concerned with Jerry's brother Donnie. When making weight was a struggle for an upcoming match, Dad moved Don into our home and closely monitored his food intake. Champagne made weight and like two of his brothers, Don became a state champion.
I recall that he was an avid recruiter. Two time heavyweight champ Roger Pillath remembers, " He asked every kid in school to come out for wrestling." " He was the right guy at the right time", Pillath added. One day he spotted a transfer student in the hallway. Ray Champagne was short with broad shoulders and a tank chassis for a chest. Dad took him by the arm and recruited him on the spot. He would win state as a junior and take second the following season.
He sprinkled his wisdom and life lessons with humor. Sometimes wrestlers sent it right back in spades. Practical jokes were common. Pillath remembers one at the high school. During a mid- morning beak when students had cookies and milk in the lunchroom, Urban Johnson saw Dad approaching and rushed up, yelling, "Doug, Doug, there's a fight in the showers and you gotta break it up". Phy-ed classes were about to begin and both shower rooms were filled with students changing. Outside the showers, Dad asked which one. Pointing at the noisiest showers, Johnson said, " that one Doug". Dad charged through the door and immediately retreated, his face reddened with embarrassment.
" I'll get even with you", he scolded Johnson, then headed to the main office to explain why he'd barged in on a room of partially clothed female students.
He had a propensity for providing wrestlers nick names. Lynn Hoida became " Fireball", Harry Sincere was "Blinky", Mark Flink was "Troll" and perhaps most newsworthy was Nick Kinziger's nickname. When a black bear began helping herself to corn in Norb Doyl's fields at night, he asked Kinziger to rid him of the pest. Assisted by his brothers, Kinziger shot dead the marauding bear in the darkness of night. Soon afterward Dad named his 180 pound wrestler, " Nick the Bear".
A year before Colemans' first state championship in 1960, Dad was named high school teacher of the year. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Already a recipient of a Master of Science degree, Dad was on the cusp of a Doctorate Degree in genetics when he died of heart disease in 1970.
At home, removed from chemistry and biology classrooms and the wrestling mat, Dad set an extraordinary example of kindness, generosity and selflessness. He often helped me with troubling math equations and carefully guided my sister Robyn through troubling teen years. He was a dependable and loving buffer against the challenges of our youth And always, there was that sense of humor.
With his premature death in 1970, sports writer Len Wagner at the Green Bay Press Gazette paid homage to Dad. " Men like Jim Douglas live in the hearts of people who have come to know him. In Jim Douglas' case, he will be a legend, living from generation to generation in the small, proud community of Coleman. The folks in that town, especially the boys, many of them now men, who learned about wrestling and about life from him, will not let him die."
Tickets are still available for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dinner honoring the late Jim Douglas on Sunday, April 9 in Green Bay at The Rock Garden/Comfort Suites. Price of the tickets are $30 each and can be purchased by contacting the Coleman High School Office at 920-897-2291 or by contacting Kevin Casper at 715-923-3211. There will be a social from noon to 1 p.m. with dinner and induction from 1 to 4 p.m.
About the writer:
James "Pug" Douglas graduated from Coleman High School in 1962, then served in Navy Intelligence as an analyst.
He later attended the University of Wisconsin at the Marinette and Green Bay campuses where he majored in journalism and art.
Following college, Douglas had a forty year career as a broadcast photojournalist, traveling the globe for local news as well as NBC News and PBS.
In 2014 he transitioned from television news to portrait photography.
During his four decade career in news, Douglas was named National Television News Photogra-pher of the Year and won five EMMY Awards for best network news photography (PBS and NBC News).
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