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On remembering and being remembered...

All of us have a few people in our life that have deeply influenced us – be it from our childhood, our school days, or professional or social environment as adults… Now, think about those people, about how they have contributed to you, and how happy they would be if you thanked them for this after all these years… Who knows how content you would feel for having made them that happy?

Here's my story on this… A man, 66 years old, still young, fit as a fiddle (young at heart); he spent the first half of his life in Alabama, and the second in Arnavutköy. Dave Philips, Junior... He retired last month after having taught at Robert College for 33 years.

For all those years, Dave was the PE teacher of the same school, and the coach of all the basketball teams of that school – he had had about 4000 students. Particularly by coaching more than 500 students in basketball teams, he instilled in them the love for sports, and more importantly, being a team and playing in a team, and stretching/improving one's own limits. And he did all these with a smile on his face that never disappeared for 33 years.

From 1981 to 1990, Dave was first my coach and professor too for 6 years at school, and then became my trainer in the amateur league team of the university I studied at. With him, I experienced some of my dearest memories in life winning the "Istanbul Secondary Schools Basketball Championship" and the "Third Prize in the Turkish Championship". Those who play licensed team sports will know very well, many frames of such wonderful moments leave a deep mark in one's memory, and become everlasting.

The first time I heard that he would retire was three years ago when I was chatting with the academic director of the school, Maria Orhon, at a dinner party. I suddenly had this revelation that we had to do something to show our loyalty to Dave once again before he retired, and to make his name a lasting memory of that school. While I was racking my brain trying to figure out what kind of a project we could make, how we could support it, concerned about the little time left, thank goodness, Dave postponed his retirement for two years, and we gained some more time.

Finally, last November, we started the project. Myself and more than 20 other volunteering friends* of mine that had played basketball and had been captains of their teams in the past 30 something years got together. I cannot find the words to describe to you the hodgepodge of people (the most senior being 50, the youngest 21 years old), and excitement and joy of coming together at our first meeting. We had so many school and basketball stories to tell that it took us two hours to get down to business! We sat down, made a good plan, and decided that our project would be to renovate a now idle basketball court at the school, and name it "Dave Philips". For that, we needed to raise USD 150 thousand in a short time. First, we set off getting organized to reach more than 500 graduates that had played basketball in school. There were days when we thought we wouldn't be able to raise even half the amount, but we didn't give up, and intensified our efforts. While supporting one another, we received big support from most unexpected friends.

And very close to the school break, we reached USD 150 thousand, and on the last day of school, while our professor was making his valedictory remarks in front of all the students, we as the project team made a surprise appearance, and offered our donation in his name to the school. What I felt, what we experienced as a team at that precise moment, was at least as precious to me as our championship.

Dave taught us:

  • to "think of the team" above everything – even above winning,
  • to always regard "improving our game" as the main goal,
  • the discipline to "focus on the game", be it when we are winning or losing,
  • and to smile, no matter what.

We, in return, showed him that we didn't forget him neither his teachings with a nice surprise, and moved him beyond our expectations.

As the project team we had an unforgettable memory where we experienced both the joy of thanking him in a very special way that day, and the fun of the great party we threw for Dave a few weeks later – in a way, we became a team again. It would be fair to say his joy of living and conviction rubbed off on us – I hope it stays until we are 66.

I understood there is nothing like remembering a person who has left their mark in your life, and making them happy – you feel both how time is flying, and you are refilled with the joy of living. If you have a chance like this, don't miss it, use it in the best way; make and be happy.

Kind regards,

Mehmet N. Pekarun

*I'd like to take the opportunity to reiterate my "special thanks" to Mehveş, Yonca, Cüneyt, Zeynep, Kaan, Ersan, Nevra, Igal, Moris, Nilhan, Tamer, Konçuy, Arif, Ebru, Hilmi, Pınar and Arman.

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