To pay homage through photography to a person who has impacted so many and who is so respected and loved really means more to me than words can describe. We drove from Ithaca last weekend to my old high-school where the 2nd Annual Hearts of Iron 5K for Jim Tuck took place.
The entire ride I watched white birds in flight fervently flapping their tired wings. They were so high up that sometimes their wings looked lined with silver as the hidden sun mirrored them. They weaved in and out between the ominous grey clouds and I smiled at them thinking about their squinting eyes as they looked toward the bright sun. Regardless of the weather they stuck together through the wary clouds. Grouped with one another they were stronger trusting that warmer days were on the horizon. What a coincidence that I was able to witness this natural exposition on the way to honor a man who instilled the very foundation of team work, larger-than-life moments, and determination in me and so many others that knew him.
The day was windy, but the rain held off - through the clouds danced copious streams of light. Every once in a while an orangey hue would surround us all and a chantily coloured ray of sunlight would pour down from the sky. It was a reminder that we all needed to have a little bit of a challenge in order to really relish the win. Regardless, I learned a little bit more that day that warm hearts beat even the most bone-chilling weather.
Before I go any further, I really want to take a moment to thank Jim Tuck's daughters - Claire, Jessie, Erin and Brie for putting together this event in honor of their father and for allowing me to photograph it. I'd also like to thank all of the sponsors and the community who aided them with this venture - and also the runners! All of you have inspired me as individuals as well in whole. What an awesome community we have. It is so encouraging and enlightening to see so many wonderful people come together for such a great cause. Thank you.
The birds really got to me on the ride out. I started thinking about Mr. Tuck. I thought about my junior year in high school. I was on the outs with school attendance and sports, but he never judged me for that. Instead, he encouraged me in more ways than one - one of these times stands out to me when I think of him. I had to give a presentation in his history class and I was mortified. He asked me about my family heritage and gave me the idea to interview my Japanese grandmother who lived through WWII. On the day of my speech, he could tell I was nervous - so before class we went over it a bit. Mostly we just joked about how much I hated medium point pens (his favorite) and he hated fine point pens (my favorite). I was loosened up and prepared by the time all my classmates got settled. I talked about Pearl Harbor, kimonos, and Japanese food.. once I got going it wasn't that bad! I barely remember the part about being nervous - mostly I remember his big smile in the back of the room. He taught me a lot that day - about conquering challenges, standing up when it's tough, about the importance of family and history, and taking the time - really taking the time to connect with someone, and laughter - those are the things that people will hold onto forever.
I thought about the memories I had and figured that he must've impacted so many more people, those that were really much more close with him - in even more profound ways.. I wanted to hear these stories, so while I was at the race I struck up some conversations with people. Some of the questions I asked were; What about him made you smile? What's your favorite memory? If you could describe him in one word what would it be? I got some really awesome answers! Some that made my eyes well up and others that had me cracking right up. I reached out to Liz Brown who put me in touch with a group of individuals, mostly ladies who had played basketball for Coach Tuck - their responses came through for a couple of days - every time I read more, I felt closer to him - and my heart more buoyant.
The following stories are so inspiring and beautiful. Thank you to Korin, Tanya, Jaime, Mickey, Meg, Kate, Maria, Miranda, Mary, Coach McLoughlin, Bess, Lindsey, and Amy. Special thank you to Liz Brown <3.
Words to describe coach are mentor, inspiration, motivator, heart, friend, devoted, driven.. –Korin K.
Mr. Tuck and I used to have bets over who could make a half court shot first, he beat me every time! My parents had to drive me to Wegmans almost every night to buy him half moon cookies and fruit cakes! Also, he nicknamed me Tony and to this day every time I see Ron Clark in Wegmans he calls me Tony and I know Mr. Tuck is smiling bright when he hears it! This man left such an huge impact on myself and others and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him. –Tanya K.
Passionate! He spent so much of his time with us girls. I agree with inspiring as well. He changed the direction of my life. He builds character and that is a life long gift! Best coach ever! The best memories, it’s hard to say, but probably all the hugs he gave us after big wins! –Jaime O.
Glad to spend some time thinking of my good friend Jim Tuck…One word? That is a tough one. Inspirational! Unforgettable! Motivational! Caring!
We bonded up at Golden Valley Camp where our daughters went. We spent several years there together and most of what I remember is just laughing a lot. He had a great laugh. A tough, tough competitor but a great laugh! We played often until 1 in the morning with other coaches and then played "Name that Tune" in the coaches' bunkhouse and then hit the courts early the next morning.
On visits to his home, he was always welcoming and we would sit outside and talk hoops and reminisce about the golden days at Golden Valley. When I watched his Marcus Whitman team play and talked to some of the girls, it was so obvious the love and respect they had for him.
It was just a gift that he was part of our lives. –Mickey G.
I think of Love: love for basketball, for teaching, and for every child he coached. My memories include all the ones where he pushed me to believe in myself as much as he believed in me. That being smart was just as good as being talented. That being driven to succeed will help you to overcome every challenge that you face in life. – Meg S.
I’m with Meg. So much love, and first blood! Ahhhh, Pepsi! – Kate B.
One word - friend. He was a friend to everyone; and a true giver of self. You don't find people like that too often. Also, he was always giving me rides - to school, from school, to games and tournaments -- and during that time he would somehow sneak in a life lesson. He was the first adult to talk to me like I was important and had something to say or share. He was tricky like that; you wouldn't realize what he was doing until after he'd dropped you off. Mostly though, he was just present in my life, a constant, which is what I must have needed or he wouldn't have done it. -Maria B.
I knew him as a history teacher. His dry humor made that class one of my favorites as a freshman in high school. A dynamic personality. – Miranda B.
As parents of the basketball players, we thought the world of Coach Tuck. He was fair and believed that everyone on his team had an important role whether you were a starter or first off the bench... He empowered everyone to do their best. He had so much strength but also compassion and caring. – Mary F.
Words to describe Coach Tuck... Inspiring, yes! And passionate- it was his passion and his ability to inspire others to find the connection to their own passions that was incomparable. A passion about living, about engaging. Also, about participating in all of the elements of life around you. About relationships, and building yourself into something you could be proud of. He had and will always have my love and respect. He changed my life in profound ways and I’m only proud of that fact. It was my dream in high school to transfer schools and play for him (and be a teammate to so many of you). Although that couldn’t happen, we maintained a strong connection through summers, visits, phone calls and letters. When I was in the midst of going through my second knee surgery in high school and was finding myself down and confused, he wrote me a letter and told me to write the phrase "HARD TIMES NEVER LAST, BUT TOUGH PEOPLE DO," and put it next to my light switch so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up and the last thing I saw when I went to bed. That piece of paper hung there for years on end until I moved out of the house and went to college. The last time I spoke with him I was living in Denmark playing basketball and called him from out of the blue. I was outside of my apartment. I remember how much we laughed. How surprised he was and how completely supportive he was. His love reached all the way across that ocean that day...and it still reaches me today. – Bess G.
If I could describe Mr. Tuck in one word it would be "Coach” - for obvious reasons, but not just because he coached me in basketball. He coached me on life. Everything had a deeper (and often times MUCH deeper) purpose. He really made me reflect on my actions, my purpose, and myself. It wasn't all basketball. He was inspiring and uplifting and he was always there when I needed him. He was my second father.
I have so many memories of him. I remember our long chats in his room during lunch period. I remember standing on the corner of Gilbert and Main Street in Rushville at 5:30 every morning, waiting for him to pick me up to play ball with the faculty before school. I remember our long van rides to Golden Valley Camp every year. I remember him shaking and grooving and singing every word to Salt N Pepa's "Shoop" at the top of his lungs. I remember our half court buzzer beater attempts where he would wage my first-born child. I remember him talking about what a great woman I would become. I'm starting to cry. I have so many great memories.
I think of Mr. Tuck when I see Cannoli's or a brand new pair of sneakers. I think of him when I see someone drinking a Pepsi or when I hear Rusted Root on the radio. I think of him when I talk to his daughters. They are SO him and I love feeling that love when I talk to them.
He was the best. I'll end it by saying what he would always say to me when we said goodbye..."Shake it easy!!" – Liz B.
He was genuine. Back in the day when I was in his class I had a pair of blue and orange Adidas running shoes that were my Syracuse shoes. He always complimented me on them. His nickname for me was "Princess.” I don't really remember why but he said it once and it stuck all throughout his class. He was always honest with his students and so inspiring. – Lindsey T.
I have so many great memories, ones I should probably not mention! Who could forget his sneaker collection!? He’d always say, “It’s just another day in paradise.” – Coach McLoughlin and Amy P.
What a legacy. What a person! He is so great, and I love that he lives on through his children who are just as wonderful, inspiring, and fun! <3 Surely, he is so proud.
If you'd like to learn more about Jim Tuck, run or participate in a race in his honor, or donate - please click here.