116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
We’re laying my dad to rest today. It seems inappropriate, considering how hard Howard Dorman worked and how little he rested.
He died last week of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 89. His decline was gradual and then swift. He was a teacher, guidance counselor and legendary girls’ basketball and softball coach. He was a father, grandfather and tireless community volunteer. A guy who was constantly in motion died of a disease that eventually robbed him of the ability to move. The storyteller fell silent.
But almost until the end, one part of dad survived. His sense of humor. Just ask any of the people at Bickford Cottage in Marion or with St. Croix Hospice who took such good care of him.
His humor was desert-dry, tinged in sarcasm and on the acerbic side. Maybe it wasn’t your cup of tea. But you were going to get served anyway.
The old-school coach admired longtime Yankees manager Casey Stengel and had Stengel’s gift for colorful quotes while dispensing wisdom to his players.
To the hesitant: “Don’t just stand there with your teeth in your mouth.”
To the thinkers: “Don’t think. Know.”
To the mistaken: “Do you know what you did? Don’t do it again.”
To the angry parent confronting him in the dugout: “Do you have a softball team? Because that’s where your daughter will have to play if you don’t get out of this dugout.”
With a regional final game tied with just seconds to go and state tournament trip up for grabs, a foul sent one of my dad’s players to the free-throw line. The other team called time out to ice the shooter.
“Why did they call time out?” the player asked.
“I have absolutely no idea,” my dad said.
She made both shots.
In retirement, he watched his grandkids’ games. He did not retire from dispensing his coaching opinions, loudly.
“There’s no such thing as a good try,” he would say as nearby parents enthusiastically yelled “good try!”
Once, when my daughter was pitching, she hit a batter and was reduced to tears. Dad comforted her in his own way. “She should have gotten out of the way.”
A high school friend of mine recounted golfing with my dad. My friend reacted after he thought he mishit a long putt, but it went in. “Keep your mouth shut next time and people will think you know what you’re doing,” my dad said.
My dad argued violent crime would disappear if everyone carried a shotgun. He adopted columnist Mike Royko’s argument that you could deter littering by hanging a litterer in the park with a sign saying “I littered. This is what happened to me. Don’t let this happen to you.” OK, maybe he watched a few too many westerns.
His first and only Facebook comment was on a friend’s post about the great seats he got for a basketball game. “Who cares?” my dad responded. It’s kind of perfect.
And there were stories. Too many to recount.
There was the one about his bet with a fellow teacher at Woden-Crystal Lake during a frigid winter over who could get their car started. He drove by his friend’s house just in time to see him walking out the door carrying a car battery.
There was the time my mother wanted a pink-frosted Christmas tree in the trailer where they made their first home. The flocking machine went haywire. For years, each time they pulled a book of the shelf or moved a knickknack, they found pink fluff.
In college, he threatened to charge the dean of students with theft after a campus cop confiscated a bottle of whiskey from his car. He got the whiskey back.
In the Army, he and his buddies were stopped by a southern sheriff who also took their booze. He sent them up to the road to a place they could buy more, owned by his brother.
He was part of an atomic cannon artillery unit, operating a massive weapon designed to hurl atomic shells. Once, as he and a fellow gun crew member wheeled shells out for practice, a frantic officer sprinted toward them yelling “Those are armed!” They very carefully returned them.
Among his favorite jokes was this one:
Two hunters were walking and came across a big hole. Wondering how deep it was, they tossed in a rock, and then a larger rock. But they heard no sound. They grabbed a nearby railroad tie and threw it into the hole. Nothing. But a few moments later a goat sprinted by them and jumped into the hole.
Soon, a farmer came along. “Have you guys seen a goat?”
“Yeah,” the stunned hunters said. “It just jumped into that hole.”
“Couldn’t have been my goat,” the farmer said. “My goat is tied to a railroad tie.”
Good one, dad. Rest in peace.
(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette. com