Greg Jahde sat at his father's bedside talking to a close friend as the hours, the minutes, and in this case, the seconds slipped away from his dad's life.

Tom Jahde, who had always been there to coach his son in nearly every athletic season, who built a life in Bellwood then David City as a school administrator, junior high coach and athletic director, was in his final inning, the final at-bat of his time on earth.

Tom began coaching at 16, leading a little league team in his hometown of Arcadia, Iowa. He didn't stop leading teams until just recently when a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) forced him to involve himself less and less in Greg's Blue River softball program.

Through it all, through 35 years of education, Tom built himself a reputation as a living legend.

Little did Greg know, that exact word might have been the vessel that perhaps transported his father to that big baseball diamond in the sky.

"I’ve kind of always wanted to be a coach, and a lot of that was because of my dad," Greg said in an interview, a day short of a week since he said goodbye to his father.

"The main reason I went into teaching and coaching was to be a positive role model for kids. I always felt that I had the greatest role model ever sitting right in front of me every single night growing up."

Tom Jahde was born in Carroll, Iowa on Dec. 28, 1950. He grew up in nearby Arcadia, graduated from Ar-We-Va High School in 1969 and married his high school sweetheart, Patricia, three years later.

Tom earned his degree from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, in 1973 then worked alongside his wife at the Jerry Rabiner Boys Ranch in Fort Dodge before accepting a teaching position at Bellwood Elementary in 1977.

He taught physical education and coached every junior high sport he could manage into his schedule. A master's degree from Nebraska-Kearney and an administrative degree from Concordia allowed him to move up to Bellwood, and later on, David City Public Schools principal.

Tom also became the Scouts' athletic director, completing more than three decades as a coach, teacher and administrator after a 2012 retirement.

The lives he touched and impacted, whether in the classroom, on the field or the court, numbered in the hundreds, possibly the thousands.

"Teacher, coach, athletic director and principal are all titles Tom held here in our district. But the title that best described him was Papa Jahde," said current DC Athletic Director Ronda Gestring.

"He really did see each student as one of his, and he would do whatever he could to help them reach their potential.

"Tom was instrumental in starting the softball program here at David City. He knew a number of girls wanted the chance to play with the hope of playing at the next level. Tom made that happen ... Tom's impact will long be felt by those who were lucky enough to know him."

Naturally, the term legend became synonymous with Tom as the decades went by. It was a term that was somewhat of an annoyance to Greg, who often argued with his dad about who was the better baseball player.

Tom played for Buena Vista while in college. Greg's career sent him to Doane, but injuries forced him to give it up. He returned to baseball in an adult league after college.

Once those days had passed, Greg and Tom joined forces as summertime umpires.

They called balls and strikes, signaled safe or out and interacted with players and coaches for sometimes 100 or more games each season, all the while, debating who was the better player.

"I'm sure he was better, but I would never admit it," Greg said. "He would always say, ‘I’m a legend, I’m a legend,’ and I would say, ‘Aww, shut up and let it be already.’"

Greg's career took him to basketball coach of the girls program at Prague, where Tom visited for as many games as he could.

He was there in 2007 when Greg's team sank a shot late in the district title game and qualified for the state tournament.

"Obviously, I hugged all of my players, but one of the first things I did was run up into the stands because dad was there for a lot of my games to support me, and knowing him, probably to critique me a little bit, too," Greg remembered with a laugh.

"I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him and that the win was kind of for him."

Greg and Tom last shared their final wins and losses together last fall on the softball diamond. Tom was diagnosed with ALS on July 31, 2017 - sadly, Greg recalled, the same day as his own wedding anniversary.

The girls on the team put together a "Strikeout ALS" game to honor Tom, who they all saw as a grandfather of sorts.

"Tom Jahde was a man of integrity, easy to communicate with and work within our schools," longtime Aquinas athletic director Ron Mimick said.

"Tom was always honest, but also respectful of other ideas and input. He was well-liked by all his peers outside David City as well."

Since Tom breathed his last, Greg kept hearing and seeing that word again, over and over, on Facebook or in conversations with friends and family: Legend.

As Greg remembers the story his dad once told, it was around 20 years ago when Tom went back to his old stomping grounds in Iowa to pick up some shirts he had ordered from a printing shop.

The guy at the counter took one look at the name on the invoice and had to ask.

"The guy goes, ‘The Tom Jahde?’ and of course my dad ate that up a little bit," Greg said. "The guy asked if he was from around there originally, he said he was from Arcadia, and the guy said, ‘Man, you’re a legend around these parts.’

Years later, Greg bought a shirt for his dad for the holidays or his birthday, he can't be sure which one since they're three days apart. Before unfolding the shirt, he asked Greg what brand it was. He said he didn't know, but to unwrap it and find out.

Unbeknownst to Greg, he had bought his dad a shirt by a manufacturer with the name "Legend."

Greg couldn't really argue the point any longer.

"If I could ever talk at my dad’s funeral, I would, but I don’t think I could get through it," Greg was telling his friend sitting next to his dad's bed in Tom's final moments. "But if I could, one thing I would make sure to say is a quote from a movie he and I both really liked, 'The Sandlot.'"

Babe Ruth appears in a dream to one of the major characters in the story, Benny Rodriguez, with the advice, "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die."

Greg shared that quote with his friend then both got up and left the room.

Although Tom gave no indications he was listening, Greg believed his father was hearing everything that went on in the room.

"After I said that, and I’m a believer in higher things, I think dad heard that my good friend and I walked out of the room, my sister walked back in and let him know somebody else was there to see him. In that short 30 seconds dad passed away," Greg said.

"It just seemed to bring the whole story full circle."

Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net.

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