From today's Times and News-Star
In the mid-’90s when our children were small and we were young and could play golf for 24 hours straight without killing ourselves or each other, about 10 of us did just that, using glow-in-the-dark balls and persistence to make money, through pledges, for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes each autumn.
This particular year it was around 2 a.m. when Jack Witte, a Shreveport dentist, natural athlete and devout FCA supporter, disappeared. We’d made fun of the light he’d rigged for the rear of his golf cart; “Doc” Witte was never unprepared and was always longsuffering around the lesser-thans, by which I mean the rest of us.
But after 14 hours of golf and after midnight, it wasn’t so funny when we asked him if he was growing begonias in the back of his golf cart. Or if he had a hot plate back there. Or if he’d hooked the light on the wrong end.
So he just disappeared to another part of the course, then showed back up around breakfast. He could have a short fuse. Of course, he’d taken two days off at his own expense to play, he’d played more holes and raised more money than the rest of us – almost always did – and he knew that, sometimes, you just have to get away from the people who hold you back. As we did.
He was gone for only a few hours that night. Now, he’s been gone for more than 13 years. Our former Little League coaching friend and golf buddy died of cancer in the spring of 2001, only four months after the diagnosis.
I got to visit with his wife, Joyce, last week and will again next Thursday at East Ridge Country Club when we play in the annual Jack Witte Memorial FCA Golf Day Oct. 2. The format’s more age-appropriate for us now but we still write checks and hope others will to help carry the load of FCA, which Doc Witte contributed thousands of dollars and weeks of time to during his 44 years. If you wish to help, please send a check with “Jack Witte Golf Day” in the memo line made out to FCA, 3018 Old Minden Road, Suite 1121, Bossier City, LA 71112. In Doc’s honor, several area dentists contribute each year, for which Joyce and FCA are grateful.
Despite that severe trail 13 years ago, Joyce continues to grow in gratitude, her life since that time a testament, she says, that “God uses the tragedies in our lives to lighten to load for others in the same position.”
Now remarried, Joyce is grandmom to four, including little Jack, who has a twin sister. She has two daughers-in-law and a son-in-law. And one of her sons, Scott, this month celebrated the one-year anniversary of his Shreveport dental practice. How that happened, Joyce said, is part of “God’s gracious plan which brought us all to the place we are today.”
Just a few years ago, Scott walked across the stage as a dental school graduate. Students with dentist relatives were awarded their hood and degree by the relative. In comparison, Scott’s solo walk seemed to signify that Doc’s legacy was now erased from public view.
But not really. The sudden passing of a dentist in East Texas gave Scott the opportunity to become the fill-in dentist for all the patients who missed and were shocked by the loss of the dentist they loved. Through personal experience, Scott was able to help soothe the feelings of many of the late dentist’s friends and patients.
Then when longtime Shreveport dentist James Cosse suffered a debilitating stroke and passed away last fall, Scott was able to buy the business; Dr. Cosse’s brother had put braces on a much younger Scott years before. As he’d done in East Texas, Scott was in a position of one who could empathize; he knew exactly what it was like to lose your dentist, but also your dad. In part because of Doc Witte’s friendships, Doc’s son became the perfect person in the perfect position at the perfect time.
Some people would call that coincidence. But I don’t think Doc Witte would.