Coach Farr’s Home-Going Weekend

John 14:1-4

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

My father, Mr. Lester E. Farr Sr.  (aka Coach Farr) passed away on Wednesday, April 16 at the age of 101. Here is a recap of his glorious “home-going” weekend.

At the end of visitation for my dad on a rainy Friday evening in Dublin, Georgia, Mrs. Townsend, the 89-year-old matriarch of the Townsend Brothers Funeral Home, slowly shuffled into the visitation room. She said that she came to see “what all the fuss was about” because it was “very unusual for that many people to show up” to honor a 101-year-old. To me it was a great compliment and demonstrated the impact that a teacher / coach can have on the lives of their students. As we stood by Daddy’s coffin, my sister Regina and I shared a few stories that helped her understand his legacy.

I shared this remembrance at Dad’s Saturday celebration service.

Good afternoon!  Regina, L.E. and I are so pleased that you joined us today to celebrate our father’s amazing life of 101 years. Some of you called him Mr. Farr, but most people knew him as Coach Farr. He taught history, bookkeeping and math and coached high school basketball, baseball, track and field and golf during his storied 36 year career. Regina and Bennie, L.E. and Gail, and I were fortunate enough to play for him, as were many of you today.

Coach Farr is most remembered for his basketball success. His boys and girls teams won eight hundred one game from the 1930s through the 1970s. Dad’s boys and girls teams captured thirteen region championships, one girls state championship in 1951 and one girls state runner-up in 1971.  The underdog 1971 team upset three teams with a total of five losses, sort of like the 8 seed Kentucky defeated the 1 and 2 seeds in this year’s tournament.  Most important were the positive ways that he helped shape the lives and careers of hundreds of young men and women with his integrity, strong Christian character, determination, coaching skill, and strong sense of fair play. Those attributes are why so many of you came to honor Coach Farr.

Dad’s sense of fair play was most evident in the 1952 state tournament in Macon. His Cedar Grove girls’ team had a great opportunity to repeat as champions and trailed by one point in the final seconds when a bizarre play occurred. Following a timeout, the official incorrectly awarded the ball to the opponent.The Cedar Grove forward drove to the basket and scored to put her team ahead.  Only then did the officials realize that something was wrong.

Somewhat confused, the officials walked over to my dad and asked him what they should do, likely out of respect for him.In the heat of the battle, Coach Farr surely must have thought,You figure out the mess you made! There was no correctable error rule in 1952 that would have reversed the points on the board.But Dad told the officials that it would be all right to take the points off the board as long as the clock was reset with the same amount of time. The opponent inbounded the ball and ran out the clock to win the game, ending Cedar Grove’s chance for a repeat.

The following morning, Macon Telegraph sportswriter Sam Glickman wrote that Coach Farr’s willingness to do the right thing, especially considering the circumstances and what was at stake for his team, was one of the finest acts of sportsmanship he had ever witnessed. It was an act of sportsmanship that surely carried over into the lives of his players and their friends and families who watched that evening.

Coach Farr coached over 1,200 ball games and received only three technical fouls.That’s one every 400 games,which is pretty doggone amazing. Once, he was convinced that the officials were calling too many fouls on his team.Dad called a time-out and told his player in the huddle loud enough for the official to hear,“Virginia, when that girl comes near you,I want you to run up in the stands so that you can’t foul her.” (Laughter)  I believe that was one of the three technicals. (More laughter)

Most scoreboards only went to 99 back in the day. On the rare occasion that a team scored 100, the score would show double zero. The students called that busting the clock. You can say that Coach Farr busted the clock on February 10, 2013, when he turned 100 years old. It was a very special birthday celebration that an estimated 250 former students, ballplayers, friends and family members attended.  Dad was very handsome in his navy pinstripe suit as he greeted well-wishers for three hours on a warm Sunday afternoon.  It was an incredible day that we will always cherish.

John Chapter 14 says that Jesus prepares a place for us in heaven, and Jesus led Daddy to his special place on Wednesday evening. Let’s envision his new “home court.” First, consider the excitement as he was welcomed by our friends and loved ones, including hundreds of players and students who preceded him, enough of them to create a state tournament! I see a beautifully stained hardwood basketball floor just like the oak floor in the Cedar Grove gym. The teams play with new orange Wilson Jet basketballs and have plenty of cans of Cramer Firm Grip for a sure handle. The open air court is bathed in the brilliant light of the glory of God. The stands are filled with husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and classmates and friends who cheer enthusiastically for their teams. The talented teams are full of fight and determination, just like their coach, and expertly run the fast break that he taught them. Coach Farr gives the players sticks of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum for quick energy and keeps one stick for himself. He wears a new suit, and his new body is energetic and pain free. Mrs. Farr is at the scorer’s table, holding up three fingers to notify him of any player in foul trouble. What a blessed arrival it was in heaven during Holy Week!  

Daddy, we love you so much and look forward to seeing you and Mom again.

Rev. Tim Paulk of Cadwell-Rentz UMC closed the memorial service on Holy Saturday by sharing an emotional tribute to Coach Farr. He told us how he had known Mr. Farr for five years, and that Mr. Farr would be in church at 9 am on Sunday morning whenever he was physically able.  When he heard Dad’s walker scraping the front porch of the church, he would open the door and greet Dad with, “Good to see you, Mr. Farr!” Dad would reply, “It’s good to hear you.”  Brother Tim thought long and hard about the one thing that Mr. Farr would want you to know, and said with emotion that he would “want you to put your trust and faith in Jesus Christ.”

Mr. Farr’s death leaves Cadwell-Rentz UMC with only one member, so the church will close after over 100 years. But Rev. Paulk offered to hold one final service on Easter morning.  Twenty-one of us gathered, mostly from Dad’s family, to praise God for the risen Christ.

In his later years whenever Dad celebrated a birthday, all he wanted for his birthday was for his family to go to church with him.  He would ask us, “How many did we have this morning?” I believe Dad counted the crowd with glee from heaven on Easter morning.  What a home-going weekend it was!