Throughout your life, people come along your path; and only in hindsight do you realize the significant impact they had on you.That is the case with Coach Rose.
I grew up in Houston, Texas and lived there until I transferred to UT Austin during my second year of college. After college and law school, I began my professional career as an attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani.
While I was practicing law in Houston during the 60s and 70s, I was privileged to handle the routine legal affairs for two of my high school football coaches – Curtis “Dike” Rose and O.L. Middleton. After moving to London in 1976 and later to Boston, I rarely saw them. Soon after my arrival in Boston, I learned of Coach Middleton’s passing. I deeply regretted having missed seeing him before his death; and so I made it a priority to go out to Coach Rose’s home whenever I was back in Houston.
When I was with him, I always addressed Coach Rose as “Coach”, while I noticed many of my teammates in their later years began referring to him as “Dike”. I always thought I did that purely out of respect. I have attributed many of my successes in life to the guidance, discipline and life lessons I learned from my father and from Coach Rose. But recently, a friend of mine reminded me that there might be another reason.
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During football practice one afternoon, I was talking (as usual) when I should have been listening. When Coach Rose had had enough, he ordered, “Jaworski! Take 4 laps!” We all knew that meant the dreaded “duck walking”; there was no need to explain.
It was a hot, humid September day. By the third lap, I was passing by where Coach Rose and team’s trainer and manager were standing, observing the scrimmage. I called out, “Dike! Dike! I can’t finish. I’m cramping up.” Coach Rose turned to me; put his hands on his hips; and raising his voice said, “Don’t you ever call me Dike. Two more laps, Jaworski!”
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Each time I would visit Coach Rose during those years away, we would talk about old times. His wife, Hazel, was my fifth grade teacher at Sutton Elementary School. I vividly recall her introducing Coach Rose to us at school one day when he was home on leave resplendent in his dress blue Naval uniform. He was serving as an officer on the aircraft carrier Corregidor, while she participated in the invasion of Saipan and the Battle of Guam, among others. What a figure he was – ramrod straight, movie-star handsome and representative of the hopes and aspirations we held for victory over the forces of evil.
During our visits at his home, Coach Rose would inevitably tell me of his respect for my dad (whom we all referred to as The Colonel, from his service during WWII). He shared with me how supportive the Colonel was of Coach Rose and the team during the early 1950’s — generously purchasing equipment that was needed for the practice field.
Each time, before leaving Coach’s home, he would take me out in front of his house to observe the enormous live oak tree that grew in the corner of his beautiful front yard. It was majestic and handsome in the extreme – just in the way I remember Coach Rose in our classroom at Sutton Elementary. We would reminisce about how he planted that tree the year he and Mrs. Rose built their home in 1950, when the subdivision was being laid out and developed.
Over the years, that tree became a symbol of what Coach Rose meant to me: A pillar of strength; determination and tenacity in the face of adversity; high aspiration; a loving presence; and life-long values that sustain me to this day.
It is said that the oak tree is a symbol of courage and power – and the most powerful of all trees. “The mighty oak stands strong through all things”.
Coach Rose died on July 31, 2009 at the age of 96. Considered a legend in Houston high school sports, he was a tough taskmaster on the field and a dedicated mentor to his players. And just as his tree continues to stand in the front yard of the Rose’s former home, the renovated San Jacinto High School will display a statue of Curtis Rose in its garden – a reminder to everyone graced by his presence – an inspirational icon that will continue to stand through time.
Adapted from an article to be published in The Campus Cub (a publication of the San Jacinto Alumni Association and HCC)