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 Nick Laping.. " A Man for Others "

A Personal Letter from John Robertson on Dec 1st, 2009...Nick's birthday!
This file is not available for general public access but shared with the community of St. Pauls......

Dear Nick,

It's 3am and I have had trouble sleeping! Have been thinking about you sooo much these past few weeks, especially after OUR Crusaders winning the High School football championships!! Just wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And fittingly, coach....we are getting our first real snow fall...on your special day! Forgive me, ...but I just poured myself a small celebratory drink in your honor (a shot of whiskey , and I looked at your picture, raised my glass high... and proudly said ..."To you, Nick...on your birthday!  I know you are watching over us! We will  see you again...we will see that smile...we will hear that infectious laugh...we will get our required dose of encouragement...and then walk away anew. YES...our common faith affirms that we WILL see you again..but not just yet! "  What can I say, Nick? Saying that I miss you is just not enough! Saying that I am doing just fine ...well, I am --and though I DO believe that you still 'follow me'.... It was so much easier to simply know that you were just a call away...just an email away...and that your door, your ears, your heart...were always open to me!  I miss that, coach! I always called you ..to share not only my joys but my pains as well! And when grand child #8, little SETH was just born at 3:12am on last weekend...for a split second, I thought about calling you ; guess old habits die hard!
How about a short walk down memory lane, Coach?
----Do you remember buying me my very first pair of new football cleats? Pair of size 10 Rydells? I was16! You & George Dawson took me to the Red Top Inn and you gave me the new cleats, George gave me a new jersey with a big C on it, and the owner, John Scouras, put a huge plate of fries and a burger in front of me, saying " that's from me, son! ". And I remember taking my sons to the Red Top years later just to see John.
----Do you remember the very first time that you called me BIG JOHN in football practice? At only 150 pounds, I suddenly felt 190!!
----Do you remember asking me in grade 11 to be captain? Do you remember just how proud I was?
----Do you remember going to bat for me...to be able to play football....after cutting off tops of 2 fingers while during a summer landscaping job...and  being at my side during three operations to re-attach them in time to begin my senior season?

----Do you remember shedding tears with me ...on the bench in an empty locker room, after telling me that a league ruling was handed down...stating I could not play for three games because of a concussion? Remember telling me that I was still the leader of the team? That there was only one JOHN ROBERTSON! That I was special? That the team needed me...That the school needed me! That GOD had great plans for me! 

----Do you remember, that after coming to my rescue so many times, that I stole the podium from you at the pep rally...when you walked up to the  lecturn...pulled your speech out of the inside pocket of your dress jacket...and after saying a sentence or two, you were too emotional to continue; so I 'took' the hand off....and started my pep talk early!

----Do you remember when I asked you about the 100% mark that you gave me in my final grade 12 History exam? I asked if I really deserved that mark...or was it because of our friendship. You said you would have given me 110% if you could have!!

----Do you remember when I was asked to leave your class and report to the principal's office on Dec 5th? You smiled while I was walking out and I had wondered why! Arriving (nervously) in Fr Monaghan's office...he said the following! " Congratulations, John...you have won the Harry Hood Memorial Award! And please do not be offended by what I am going to say. You are our school president, captain of the crusaders, our first ever Hood winner and the press want to meet with you and your family and you are also going to be on TV! I want you to take this permission card and go with Father Joseph and buy some clothes at The Bay downtown! We are very proud of you. "  

***With 16 kids at home, mom and dad did their very best to clothe us and I never felt less than any other boy. But when I walked into the principal's office that day, I had elastics holding up my socks, patches on my dress pants (knees) and also on my sports jacket (elbows). GOD surely had plans for this 'poor but blessed' boy! St Pauls not only gifted me with thee best catholic education, they formed me, they clothed me!

Both the Winnipeg Tribune and Free Press visited our home to take pictures of our family! And former CFL players also visited to 'sit and share' stories about Harry Hood, the tremendous athlete, coach, and ' Man for Others!' who died far too young...at age 33, from cancer! And that very same week, I appeared on two TV shows, one sitting next to the Guess Who's Chad Allen! NICK: All memories courtesy of you!! (and St Pauls)
Just to see the smiles of Mom and Dad, meant so much! May not have had much, but we had OUR family!

                          Winnipeg Tribune

 Good friend & Crusader team mate Steve Chipman looks on
 while Roger Hamlin  of Blue Bombers presents the Award.

  To this very day, Nick, I carry this worn out but now thrice laminated card, with me always, to forever remember what St Pauls and many others did for me, and meant to me! Every now and then when I am feeling down, I pull it out and read it...knowing that 'others' ....like you,coach...believed in me! I could never have achieved what I did, Nick....nor even dream about holding the Harry Hood...if it was not for YOU...and George Dawson...and all those I was lucky enough to call friends! While so many others that wanted to attend St Pauls...but could not, and the vast majority that DID so...at the benevolence of their parents, this poor south end boy---5th born into a family of 18...NOT only was afforded a FREE ride, but had shoes placed upon his feet...and clothes upon his body! I will never forget where I came from, Nick! NEVER!!

You never judged me when I chose to become a father at 18 instead of pursuing my dream of pro football~ And when I became a single father at 20, raising two diapered boys, you said you were so proud of me! I really don't know if I could have become the man I am today, without you in my life, Nick!

 ----And do you remember all those community committee and city council meetings that we went through during the Canford relocation saga? How many times I wanted to walk away? And how many times you inspired me to keep on going?

----Do you remember how you were there for me...my family...every time Colleen took another turn for the worse? Thru four trips to London, Ontario....and through those 16 years of her sickness, you helped me through the most difficult of times!

----And do you remember that I asked you the following question on Jan 14th, earlier this year (a very special day to me) just before giving a talk to the 700 students, staff & admin at St Pauls? I simply said... " Nick, how come you are soooo good looking? "  You could have been in the movies, Nick...but you chose to hang with us!

         Coach Nick Laping and I....in front row!
I could go on and on, coach! I am speaking at more and more schools and yup---I always mention you when I get the chance! Just can't help it! Simply put, you know I miss you...as do all the others; and though I no longer see you in the hallways of St Pauls...or on the sidelines,..I DO thank you for giving us...and especially me...the 'gift of your son', Jeff! His presence at the school has continued to 'ease the pain' of your loss! I know you are watching him.... And I watch him all the time...each & every visit I make to St Pauls or Paulinian game away! He is something special! I can only imagine what Jeff has gone through and continues to go through, ....while teaching, while cheering, while coaching, while encouraging, at the same school that you did these very same things! Jeff is continuing YOUR Paulinian legacy, and when I watch him with his boys, I envision you, with yours! And with your girls! Your grandkids WILL be well cared for, Nick!  
And somehow I know you played a part in St Pauls winning both of the Top Divisions in football on Friday the 13th! Stacey, CRU coach, had invited me to speak to the team before the Churchill semi-final...right at mid-field! I told them that I was not going to pray to GOD for them to win (cuz GOD is on every team)...but that they play to their potential. I also told them that I was never able to give 'Nick Laping' a victory over Churchill in the three years that I played for you! I asked that they carry all the alumni (that never did win)..over the goal line, and in so doing....they would earn the right to live to play under the 'FRIDAY NIGHT LITES"....and to avenge the loss to Oak Park Rdrs in the 2007 Championship! WELL, coach!  The Crusaders did you proud! It may just be the best high school final ever played, with the CRU rallying from 11 points down with under four minutes left...to win 52-49...but you already know that!

    Nic, Bev, and family...(Mike missing)

Dec 1st...your birthday... has come too fast, Nick! And if I am thinking  of you...and missing you, I can't even fathom what your lovely Bev, and Nicole,Suzie, and Mike, and Jeff...are going through ... spending the very first day of December...ever, ..without you! Rest assured, there are countless others that are also thinking of you, and if not on your special birth day, coach....I bet they do so on many...many other days!

             Nick at the lake...

And finally, I must thank you once again...coach, for being there for me! After losing you---my 'drafted' second Dad, I decided to go for a full medical check up! The doc noticed something and after being referred to a specialist...and two surgeries for skin cancer, the second just two weeks ago, GOD only knows what may have happened, had I not been prompted by the loss of you!
I love and miss you, Nick!  And yes...as  always, I will continue to ask of myself ...whenever necessary:          " What would Nick want me to do in this situation? "  It has never failed me before...why should it now? I am who I am because of what you saw within me, coach, and gave of your self, gave of your heart  ...to be a man for others" ....and challenge those men...to strive to do the same." 

SICUT MILES CHRISTI! ...As a Soldier of Christ! (another Paulinian expectation). That's what we strive to be, Nick. You have  set the standard by which we will do our very best to follow!

And one more thing, Nick! When thinking of you, I often picture you as a gardener! GOD planted the seeds using YOUR hands,and without proper care, without the tilling of the soil or providing exactly what is needed, 'in good or bad conditions' (weather mirroring life!), that garden would NOT bear beautiful flowers, nor fruit! And you never ...ever, gave up on that garden, Nick! The countless hours, days, over the many years that you spent 'weeding' that garden, a hell of a lot of weeding---has paid off! It's a beautiful garden, Nick! And having passed on the tools to all of us, ...that garden will only get bigger and bigger and will serve so many more!  Thanks Coach, Thanks Second Dad!! Thanks CRUSADER!" 

And knowing that I am not far behind you, Nick...none of us are----I will not waste a day, nor even a minute in being all that I can be...and in doing all that I can...." ...in the service of others!" And thank you coach for telling me not to give up on my mission! There are no time limits on dreams, Nick! I will not let you down!
Looking forward to HEAVEN, Nick...to being with you once again, and many many others....to 'playing FOREVER', but not just YET!

John Robertson  
Forever a proud Crusader...
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