Passing of a coach

Spending an hour-plus waiting in a visitation line at a funeral home on a Friday evening is a good thing.

It is the ultimate tribute a family can receive. To see first-hand how adored, admired and respected their departed family member was is fitting proof of the impact the individual had on a multitude of lives for many years.

Such was the scene on Friday at Joines Appleby Funeral Home, in Newman, where mourners paid their respects to the family of  Jim Skinner. The outpouring of support included numerous teen-agers and recent teens, many of whom were -- or are -- athletes on the various athletic teams at Westville High School where Skinner had volunteered his services, often on squads where his son Shawn has coached for 14 years.

Football, girls' basketball and softball were the primary activities where Jim Skinner was one of the behind-the-scenes workers. Maybe his role was keeping a scorebook in softball or sitting on the bench at a basketball game and offering input on whether the Tigers should switch to a zone defense.

Maybe it was to listen to an athlete's problems. Maybe it was to watch over some of his grandchildren. Maybe it was to offer advice to his son.

Schools that are successful year after year have these types of individuals. They are people who don't seek glory or to be in the spotlight. They have a love and passion for sports and the young people who play these games. They don't want to be the decision-makers. They want to lend a hand.

Maybe it is helping carry some equipment. Maybe it is consoling a player after a loss or a costly error. Maybe it is simply watching and enjoying the game unfold. Maybe it is just being there and showing that he cares.

What is clear is that Jim Skinner's contributions were many and extremely significant. People of all ages dropped by the funeral home on Friday to make certain the family understood the heartfelt appreciation they wanted to display for his devoted efforts.

As the family prepares for the funeral and burial later this morning, there's a feeling that Jim Skinner's spirit is smiling with the acknowledgement that so many folks were touched by his passing this week. More than that, they were touched by his presence throughout the years.

The procession line told the story, one person at a time.

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