Many kind words for a cool coach | Editor's Notebook
By ANDY NYSTROM
Redmond Reporter Editor
March 1, 2013 · Updated 3:39 PM
I never knew Don Wong, but after attending Wednesday night’s celebration of life event for the popular coach, I feel as if I’m part of his extended family a little bit.
Wong, 61, who taught at Norman Rockwell Elementary School since 2000 and was with the Lake Washington School District since 1976, died on Feb. 12 of heart failure.
On Wednesday night, current and former students, parents and faculty members gathered in the Redmond Middle School gym to share their remembrances of Wong.
The seats on the floor and the grandstand benches were packed.
The kind words flowed freely for two hours.
It appeared that people didn’t want to leave, and that brought smiles to the faces of Wong’s sisters, Ann Cohen and Shirley Liu, and Liu’s daughter, Clarissa, who were seated in the front row.
The stories that people told about Wong were inspirational and will surely stay with me and the others in attendance.
I spoke with Cohen by phone from Portland two weeks ago for my story on Wong. She told me stories about her brother’s love for his students and how he was quite a talented rugby player — a sport he played until the age of 52.
I enjoyed hearing her tell these tales again in person — she’s got quite a way with words and has an infectious laugh.
“He was powerful, fierce, independent and noble,” she said, adding that Wong had a great sense of humor and a hearty laugh.
Norman Rockwell principal Kirsten McArdle said that Wong believed that each one of his students could find success on the playing field and in life. He made a difference.
“We will miss him like crazy,” McArdle added.
Wong, who was of Chinese descent, loved Hawaii and many of the people in attendance wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts.
One by one, kids and adults took the microphone and spoke about how Wong inspired them to succeed and made them laugh and smile each day.
With her voice shaking and hands gripped tightly around the mic, one young girl noted:
“He was a really great coach that I will never forget.”Contact Redmond Reporter Editor Andy Nystrom at email@example.com or 425-867-0353, ext. 5050.