In the fall of 1996, I was broadcasting Tippecanoe Valley football with Rita Price on WRSW.

The Vikings were just hours away from taking on their archrivals from Rochester in the battle for The Bell and bragging rights for the next 365 calendar days.

Normally, I would get to the press box as early as someone would let me in.

Not on that night. I was running a little bit behind.

Here’s the whole story.

Earlier that summer, I got a phone call at the radio station from my friend John Elliott. I first met John through sports. His three sons played basketball at Warsaw and two of them were stars at Grace College. He also had a daughter who was a Lady Tiger and went on to play basketball in college.

They all were excellent players. Their skills were honed at a court down the hill from their home in Warsaw where some of the great games ever that you won’t find on the internet were played.

They were, and still very much are, excellent people.

When he and I first met, he introduced himself to the new sports guy in town as “an Ohio State Buckeye fan, and a pretty big one.”

It made me laugh, but he was certainly right.

John and I talked a lot— mostly about sports (and his kids).

As we got to know each other better, I found out that we had something in common—we’d both been in marching band. Although it’s almost unfair to compare the experiences—he played the alto horn in the Ohio State Marching Band, and I played bass drum in the Argos High School summer band. As someone who appreciates tradition and pomp, I admired him for that.

He was really proud of it, and should have been.

Back to that phone call.

John was calling me to give me a scoop on what he proclaimed “the biggest news story of the year in Warsaw.”

Now, if you knew John Elliott, you knew that he was predisposed to hyperbole and especially when it came to his kids and Ohio State. So the leadup to his big revelation made me roll my eyes a little bit (or a lot).

He told me that the Ohio State band was spending the night in Warsaw the Friday before OSU played at Notre Dame.

“Cool”, I said, but my eye rolling felt very justified.

He went on to say “…and they are going to practice at Fisher Field Friday at 4pm and the public is invited to come.”

I sat straight up in my chair.

He asked me to do a news story on it, and I did.

On September 27, 1996, a fleet of charter buses pulled into what is now the Wyndham Garden hotel in Warsaw. It was impressive.

A couple of hours later, I drove to Fisher Field to see the spectacle unfold.

This is the “old Fisher Field” we are talking about—the field at Lakeview Middle School.

I arrived and there were hundreds of people already in the stands. Some of them were Ohio State fans, some of them were marching band lovers, but everyone was in awe that THE marching band from THE Ohio State University was right there in front of us in Warsaw.

The band was there to practice, and they had a few things to work out before the following day’s performance at Notre Dame Stadium.

And as the grand finale, the band played their school song “Across the Field.”

I knew the song well because so many of our local high schools claim it as their own school song. But it had never sounded like what I was hearing. It was so crisp and loud and clear that I know it rippled the waters of the western basin of Winona Lake.

I certainly am no fan of Ohio State sports teams, but in that moment, it didn’t matter one bit.

It was tremendous, and I was so glad that I had broken from my normal pre-game routine to take it in.

I thought about that day when I was told that John had passed away two weekends ago.

It was John who made that visit from the Buckeye Band possible. He orchestrated it. He made the phone calls and…and all of it!

And he orchestrated so many other things for so many organizations that helped and benefitted so many people in his adult lifetime.

He loved Warsaw and Ohio State, and he never stopped.

And we love him still…and we won’t ever stop either.

If you take a moment to sit in the quiet of a peaceful day on Winona Lake, you can still hear the echoes of that song on that day across that lake.

And if you look around the community, you see those same ripples and hear those same echoes, too.

Goodbye, my dear friend, and thank you. John, we’ll see you on the other side of The Crystal Sea very soon.