By Mary Sharp, correspondent
A star volleyball player at Iowa City West High School, Caroline “Line” Found, 17, wrecks her moped on the way home and dies in August 2011. Caroline’s mother, Ellyn Found, gravely ill with pancreatic cancer, dies two weeks later, at age 55. The West volleyball team pulls through its grief and somehow repeats as state champs without their captain and champion setter.
Those are the facts behind “Live Like Line/Love Like Ellyn,” a new book by Bill Hoeft about the remarkable Ernie and Ellyn Found family and the 2011 volleyball season at West High School.
But the facts are just the starting point.
Hoeft fleshes out the members of the Found family with memorable detail – how Ernie and Ellyn, two “hopeless romantics,” met and married, the gifts they gave each other through the years, the annual family trips to New Hampshire to climb Mount Monadnock, where they’d honeymooned.
Hoeft blends the profound – Ernie and Ellyn learning of her pancreatic cancer – with the humorous – Caroline’s epic belches, anything to get a laugh, to keep her teammates loose and happy.
She’s no saint. She’d skip homework to lift weights with the guys. She struggled with math. She’d sometimes not be where she’d told her parents she was going. She was a teenager full of spunk and life.
“She was wonderful and maddening and endearing, all wrapped up in one,” Hoeft says. “Like a westerly summer storm, she’d blow in and then go away … until another one blew in.”
“Live Like Line” looks at impact her loss, and the loss of her mom, had on a community and school – the playing of “Sweet Caroline” at volleyball matches, the thousands of “Live Like Line” T-shirts, the team playing the season with her sneakers beneath an empty chair. Kathy Bresnahan, the West volleyball coach, also has written a book about Caroline and the 2011 season, “West on Nine,” which was Caroline’s jersey number. It will be released at the same time as a movie by LD Entertainment, probably next year. The West volleyball team, in a statement, said Hoeft’s book is his interpretation of the volleyball season, “not necessarily ours.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Hoeft understands that many in the Iowa City area have deeply personal memories of Caroline, and many of those stories couldn’t be included in a 300-page book. He had to tell the story, he says, in a way that people would want to keep reading, to get to “the inspirational part.”
Hoeft, 48, is a member of the Coralville City Council. He’s a Navy veteran who married his high school sweetheart, Mia, a medical doctor. He’s worked as a prison correctional officer, an Iowa City police officer, a teacher and is now a stay-at-home dad. He’s written screenplays and short stories but says he was a bit worried about tackling a book, especially this story.
But in his first meeting with Ernie Found in December 2011, Ernie told him: “So many good things have come from something so tragic.”
“I knew right then that would be the theme of the book,” Hoeft says.
Hoeft spent the next two years interviewing the Founds and the people close to them, then two years writing and editing the book.
“I felt like I was being guided along in the storytelling,” Hoeft says. “Every time I needed a piece of information, it came into my life, or when I needed to speak to someone, it happened. For all the difficulties and challenges, the book kind of guided itself.
“This is an amazing story.”