One person can make difference

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2000-01 Hillsdale High School basketball team
Hillsdale High School basketball team members inducted in to the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame (left to right) Adam Bargar, Joey Brightbill, Chris Bisesi, and Josh Wolf, stand with bus driver Vic Kahl who the team insisted be included in the honorable induction ceremony, saying Kahl drove them to every game and was their biggest fan. Kahl, a retired dairy farmer, drove students for 54 years, spanning three generations.

Response to my column regarding our champion local high school basketball team asking that their bus driver, Vic Kahl, be included in their ceremonial induction to the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame has been phenomenal.

It says so much about this man, a local dairy farmer and retired Hillsdale School District bus driver, that both my email and my daily delivered mail contained so many glowing memories. His kindness, generosity and interest in the lives of young people at a critical time in their lifespans every arena.

“Vic was such a positive influence” was one comment repeated throughout comments from all ages.

One of the earliest standout stories shared with me about Vic Kahl took place in 1970. Vic had driven the high school basketball team and cheerleaders to a rival school in the next county. After a very heated basketball game, which Hillsdale won, the cheerleaders were walking to the bus on a dark, winter night. Some of the irate fans started throwing snowballs, mixed heavily with mud, at the girls, hitting them at close range.

From the bus, Vic realized what was happening.

“Vic flew out of that bus and was able to grab a guilty student, then single-handedly drag him to a security guard at the school doors.”

Later the host principal and the student both wrote notes of apology and paid for dry cleaning of the uniforms.

“Vic was our knight in shining armor that night and forever after!” Sandie Young Maynard recalls.

Focused on positive

When coach Mike Wolf took over the Hillsdale baseball program in 2005, it seems an understatement to say it was a struggling venture. The losses far outweighed wins, and players returned to the bus dejected and defeated.

“We were being pummeled, game after game,” Coach Wolf said.

Vic drove the bus to every away game, watched and cheered, and focused on the positive. Every single game.

“He paid attention to what each kid did right, and praised the positive. Man, we needed that.”

As the program grew and strengthened over the years, Vic continued to drive the team, see the remarkable, comment to individual players and cheer them on.

“He could see the good when there just didn’t seem to be much good there,” Coach Wolf says. “And when we started winning, he was still there, still cheering everyone on.”

He cared

Many recall Vic’s generous spirit over three generations, giving full size candy bars to each student on the last day of school before Christmas break. One letter said Vic helped him realize that somebody cared about him at a time when it seemed no one else did.

Vic saw needs and didn’t look away. He showed up. He looked a child in the eye, greeted each one with a genuine, jolly smile and a word of encouragement.

Vic helped his daughter Kim prepare her 4-H project, a Holstein show cow, for the Ashland County Fair. After Kim’s classes were judged, Vic offered to let one of my sisters show it in senior 4-H showmanship class after he noticed her normally calm heifer was in heat and acting up. While Vic and my dad made sure it didn’t violate any rules, my sister quickly learned the pertinent facts about the Holstein and showed it to a win in a large class. It meant so much to my sister who loved showing cattle.

Drove my children

My own children would later ride Vic Kahl’s bus, and I often picked them up at school to head to my parents’ farm. I would find Vic to let him know, and he always took the time to ask how my family was doing.

“Is your dad running corn? How’s the moisture reading? Man, it’s been wet!”

If my kids didn’t need picked up in the morning, my son would call Vic’s house to let him know he didn’t need to come out of his way just to travel down our road.

One summer day, when I heard Cort carry on a long telephone conversation, I asked who he had been talking to.

“Vic and Sally. I hadn’t talked to them in awhile, and I kind of missed them.”

Both Vic and his sweet wife mentioned over the years how much they enjoyed those unexpected calls from my young son just to catch up.

Role models

Vic and his bride, Sally, are today celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. They have spent all of their years in this community, always reaching out with kindness and an incredibly generous spirit.

“We are mighty blessed,” Vic said to me one night last summer at a wedding when they were the last couple on the dance floor in the anniversary dance.

We, each of us lucky enough to have been touched by this couple, count ourselves as the blessed ones.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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