On a spring day, in the mid to late 1980’s, Dennis Petersen called me in my office in the early afternoon and invited me, my wife, Alexa, and son John, to attend the I-Club gathering at the old Elks. They had arranged for Hayden Fry to have a meet and greet with my son.
At the age of about five, he was getting a wheelchair to help him get on and off a school bus, get around in a classroom, and better motor around like a five-year-old. The physical therapist and the wheelchair vendor had visited the house to help him understand what was about to be delivered. The provider mentioned to him that the wheelchair would come in colors. He could get the chair in black and gold. He was all for it. The order was made.
I had mentioned to Dennis and my work peers that he was getting a black and gold chair. Delivery was scheduled for the day of the I-Club gathering here in Muscatine. At the golf outing, Dennis and (I’ll say his associates) plotted to have John, in his black and gold wheelchair, meet and shake hands with the guest speaker, Hayden Fry.
Dennis and “his associates” met us at the door and they hand carried the boy and his wheelchair up several flights of stairs. They positioned us to the left of the stage. After the ceremony, Hayden came down, and with full attention paid to the five-year-old said, “John, you’re too good looking to be a football player.”
My heart jumped for joy! Here was the University of Iowa football coach taking time with a 5-year-old.
Many years later, I showed a picture we took that day to a former player. He told me that Hayden would remember names of former players, even if they only played on the team for a short time.
I have to admit that I am not the greatest when it comes to remembering names. To have that skill and ability needs to be recognized and appreciated. I have read about a number of ways to remember a name. I know it takes discipline. The best suggestion I can share with you is to use the name at least three times in your first meeting. Yes, not once but three times. (I added two times). I will try the three-time method and will let you know in a subsequent article.
I have a deep admiration and respect for what Hayden did and said. Hayden, as a good teacher, has taught me something from afar. Hayden, you will be missed.