07/08/18 — COLUMN: Rhodes had great disposition

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COLUMN: Rhodes had great disposition

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on July 8, 2018 3:11 AM

Since my return to the News-Argus more than two months ago, three very good -- and influential -- people who impacted my life in different ways passed from this Earth.

Dave Thomas could make even the most miserable days tolerable with a "Hey, Coach!" and regale you with a joke...or two...or three. I feel fortunate, honored and humbled to have written Coach's induction story for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame last August. He was enshrined posthumously this past April.

Mrs. Norma King, beloved wife of Mr. Clyde, always had a kind word. I'll never forget the night she sat in a chair on the Goldsboro High auditorium stage, stunned that she was getting inducted into the George Whitfield Hall of Fame. She drew a well-deserved standing ovation for her never-ending and selfless contributions, and her devotion to one of baseball's most-revered individuals.

Then, just a few days ago, Roger Rhodes died.

I'm still a little numb from the news. He was laid to rest Saturday afternoon.

Rhodes stepped into my life about 10 years ago.

It all began with a simple phone call. Then the head girls' golf coach at Charles B. Aycock, Rhodes wanted to report his scores from the day's previous meet.

I wrote down the information.

Rhodes talked.

I scribbled a few more notes.

Rhodes talked some more.

My scratch sheet full of numbers and squiggled quotes, I put the pen down and just listened.

Soon, what had been a not-so-good morning turned into one filled with laughter as Rhodes delivered a quote -- or two, or three -- that was not meant for print. It undoubtedly rivaled those that my dad, who passed away in January, would let loose in frustration while he either watched the Redskins, Yankees or Tar Heels.

That soon became the norm, particularly when Rhodes took over the girls' track program and started to submit those results. He'd go through his litany of what displeased him on the day, but quickly added that the girls worked hard to achieve what they accomplished on the track.

Rhodes coached two individual state champs -- Tara Simmons and Courtney Warner.

Simmons won back-to-back state 3-A golf titles in 2011 and 2012, and carried her talents to Ivy League member Dartmouth. Warner was a five-time state champ in indoor/outdoor track and field combined, and signed with East Carolina University.

They are the only individual female state champs in CBA history.

Rhodes dabbled a little bit in softball and boys' golf.

He didn't mind putting his carpentry class to work to help enhance the athletic facilities on campus. Morning chats with former head tennis coach Luke Vail and former athletics director Charles Davis were the norm.

The jolly gentleman who also had a love for racing spent 37 of his 64 years in education.

Facebook has been flooded with messages from former students, friends and colleagues since Rhodes died from an extended illness. While each person has expressed their own feelings, one theme is evident -- Rhodes touched everyone's life in a special way and won't be forgotten.

I will certainly remember those early-morning phone calls.

RIP Coach Rhodes.