When I chose to make a donation to the OU Softball program a few years ago, I had no idea of the blessings I would receive in return. In the early stages of my being a member of the booster club (appropriately named Diamond Club), I was more of a spectator. In a short amount of time, I encountered a wonderful group of people, some of whom have become friends. Thanks to some persuasion from our head coach, it didn’t take me long to get more involved. I’m now the Secretary or “Communications Director” as I have jokingly dubbed myself.
The Diamond Club is a group of softball fans who have chosen to give their time, money and resources to the OU Softball program. They come and help because they want to and believe in the vision that Coach Gasso has created. Whatever path led them members have joined and their interest is contagious thus leading to more members by word of mouth. We have grown to care about one another so when someone is sick or has surgery, phone calls are made and e-mails are sent. Cards get signed and prayers are a given. One person we can always count on to express her concern in a genuine way, along with her staff, is head coach Patty Gasso. She is down-to-earth, approachable and one who will jump right in and help when she can. These attributes help members feel appreciated and even more motivated to help.
Take our last Christmas party for example. Always one to try to divide her time between personal and professional obligations, Coach Gasso e-mailed me a few days before the party notifying me she had a conflict the night of our party. I simply wrote her back saying that any time we can have with her would be great, but totally understand her having to be short. In typical fashion, Gasso stayed longer than she probably should’ve but never appeared in a rush. She stopped by each table, visiting with members and never saying no to a picture. Thinking about one member in particular who was in attendance makes me smile. As Gasso approached the table where Gene Fuzzell was, he stood up to greet her. When Coach speaks, Gene’s attention is held and the respect he has for her is quite apparent. Moments like this are even better when captured.
This past Monday, shortly after I got to work I received a phone call from Barbara Stemm, a friend and the co-president of the Diamond Club. She shared that Gene was in the hospital and his cancer had returned in an aggressive manner. I sat there numb with a lump in my throat, not wanting the call or news to be real. Before the tears started to fall, I told her I would send out an e-mail to let everyone know and vaguely recall mumbling something like “Okay, keep me posted” before managing to hang up.
Fast forward to Friday and I got the call from Barbara I was dreading since Monday. Our sweet and kind friend Gene lost the battle to cancer and had passed away. After I hung up, I called Coach Gasso who had just recently returned from being out-of-town. When I told her he had died, she said, “I was just there visiting him. He was still on the respirator.” As I write this today, I can’t help but think of an expression we’ve all heard many times “God works in mysterious ways.” I do believe that Coach Gasso was meant to get back when she did so Gene could see her one last time. He was taken from his family and friends all too soon. However, he is in a better place with no cancer and no pain. Though he’ll be missed greatly, I know he’ll be smiling down on all of us, especially when we cheer on the team he loved so much, the Oklahoma Softball team.