September 30, 2008
Tifton - He retired from the sidelines 20 years ago, but people still fondly call him 'Coach.'
He taught thousands of young people about football, basketball, baseball and life. "A lot of us have a reduction in skills because we don't try things," says Lonza Seadrow, a former Tift County coach.
He earned numerous professional and community awards and recognitions, but they are a bit hard to find among all the family pictures hanging on walls and sitting on shelves.
"They don't make me who I am," says Coach about the trophies and certificates.
One award sits behind a large, white, unburned candle. Plastic roses partially obscure another honor, but pictures of his family matter most to him and they sit out front.
"This is Brittney Phillips," says Coach, my granddaughter, as he holds a picture of a girl with a beautiful smile. "She's about 12 years old in this picture."
Family pictures dominate, small pictures; large pictures of family members sit everywhere, mental triggers of the past. Each one stimulates a story.
"It can't be about me," says Lonza as the twirls a layer of cake on a turntable and gently brushes crumbs away with a paint brush.
He remembers making his first cake at age eight.
"It was a coconut cake. I got a real coconut, broke it open, scraped the coconut out and used the milk in the cake," says Coach. "We were using woodstoves."
He made a coconut cake a week with his mother helping him improve each one. Some layers were thicker than others causing the cake to lean to one side, but his mother showed him how to keep it straight. The thin side of one layer off-sets a thicker side of another layer. What if layers had different diameters?
She had an easy solution. Use a knife to carefully remove the oversized portion of the cake.
Coach went on to make several cakes a week, improving with each one. He's made them for the past 66 years, equating cake making with life.
"It's like constructing a plan for your life. You do it in layers," says Coach, as he covers a layer with rich, white icing.
He makes sure the icing between layers is as perfect as the icing around the sides even though people won't see it.
"This is my work and it represents me. I'm the one who has to be satisfied with it, not the observer," says Coach about why he's concerned with something hidden from view.
Cakes represent planning, deciding on the ingredients, buying them, mixing, cooking, decorating, delivering and eating.
"If you don't plan your family, it's not going to turnout to be the family you want," says Coach.
Family is no spectator sport. He urges people to get involved.
"The more of yourself you can put into it, the more you become family," says Coach.
He believes cake making can lead to a legacy and even immortality. Take the cake he's making, really two cakes requested Brittney, Coach's second granddaughter. (He made one for the other granddaughter when she got married about nine years ago.)
"When you show that picture of the cake to your friends or your own children, (they'll say) ‘Granddaddy did this,'" says Coach with a smile.
A five-layer wedding cake just for her, and a groom's cake for her husband.
"I wanted something different, something crazy, fun, because that's how we are," says the new Brittany Lupo.
Coach came to the wedding site hours before the ceremony, with five layers of cake, iced and ready for assembly, just what Brittany wanted. He watched the ceremony without moving, positioned almost equally between his cakes inside and the service outside.
"This is her entry into a different segment of family life," says Coach.
In about an hour, his granddaughter and her husband, Brian, cut their cake, the one Coach spent literally days making, while keeping his word that he's make each of his two granddaughters their wedding cakes.
"It's wonderful in so many ways. He's so sweet to make it for me and we really appreciate that so much," says Brittany moments before taking the ceremonial first bite.
"She'll have this memory as long as she lives: ‘My granddaddy made my cake.' That will live in her as part of her," says Coach.
Coach did what he said he would do, make two homemade cakes served at a special family gathering where Brittany and Brian would add a layer to their lives.
"Our lives can be lived when we are gone because we've been a contributor," says Coach. "When people accept your work, they have accepted you."
An enduring acceptance where a granddaughter can have her cake and memories, too.