Chelsea Football: 2015 in photos

My dad and I went to a lot of Chelsea football games together.

We started filming freshman and JV football for the coaches when my brother was on staff; somehow we ended up being the regular film crew for the varsity, too. My brother eventually left coaching behind, but we continued filming JV and varsity. We dropped varsity when photography became my Friday night priority — something he understood because he loved photography — but we continued filming JV simply because we enjoyed our Thursday nights in the press box. Though he was no longer filming on Friday nights, he continued to make them a priority on his calendar; it was a rare fall Friday that he didn’t prowl the sidelines with me, keeping a close eye on the action and offering occasional commentary. It took something quite unavoidable to keep one or both of us away from the games on Thursdays and Fridays.

I don’t know exactly how many Chelsea football games we went to together (in part because I don’t know exactly which year we started) but we probably went to well over two hundred Chelsea football games over a span of well over a decade. (I think it may have been closer to 15 years.) We enjoyed every one of those seasons, but for a couple reasons — one that was immediately obvious by the end of the season and one that didn’t become clear until a few weeks later — the 2015 season was especially significant for me.

The immediately obvious reason was the unprecedented success the varsity Bulldogs achieved in the 2015 season. Chelsea has had more than a few good teams over the last 15 years, but none could conquer the pesky regional final. Not only did the 2015 Bulldogs finally break through the regional final, but they also won the semifinal and punched their ticket for Chelsea’s long-awaited first-ever trip to the state championship game at Ford Field. The final didn’t go Chelsea’s way, but even with the loss, the experience of the playoff run and the trip to Ford Field was remarkable and memorable for the team, the fans, and me and dad.

The reason that became clear later wasn’t about football: the 2015 season turned out to be the last football season my dad would ever see. At the end of December my dad received an unexpected diagnosis of acute leukemia; two weeks later he died.

This year has been a long year of adjusting to a world without my dad’s steady presence. There is no shortage of reminders of who he was and what he did, reminders that also serve to mercilessly reinforce the fact that he’s no longer around to be who he was and to do what he did. For me, few reminders can carry the weight that football season does. That was what we did. Together. Now I can do that only with my memories of him.

The reality of the first season of Thursdays and Fridays at the stadium without him is one I’ve been dreading, but for most of the year I haven’t had to think about it because it’s been off in the distance. Now the calendar reads August and football season is about to start, so these days it’s nearly all I can think about. But as difficult as it will be to face his absence for the first time in a context in which I’ve always counted on his presence, I know I can’t give it up. Not just because I love it, but because we loved it. Together.

These photos are for dad.


August 27: Chelsea 27, Grand Rapids Northview 14

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Photo of the Veterans Day Now: 11 November 2011

Chelsea held a Veterans Day ceremony at the city’s veterans memorial. The event attracted a great crowd of veterans.

See those veterans kneeling in the front row? Those are the World War II veterans.

A group of students from South School — South Meadows Elementary for you newcomers who don’t know any better — walked down to the park to sing a couple songs for the crowd.

Chelsea mayor Jason Lindauer introduced the speaker.

The speaker was Col. James Coolican.

Coolican served 28 years in the U.S. Marine Corps; his assignments included: Brigade Chief of Staff Advisor to the South Vietnamese Army; Company Commander, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Naval Academy Faculty; Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations Division-NATO HQ, Italy; Director Marine Corps Doctrine Center; and Chief of Staff, Marine Corps Forces, Europe.

His personal awards include the Navy Cross; Legion of Merit; Navy-Marine Corps Medal; Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device; Purple Heart; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry; and Vietnamese Honor Medal.

Col. Coolican started out by talking to the kids.

He then spoke to the crowd as a whole. His speech wasn’t short, but it was worth every second.

When the ceremony was finished, the students thanked the veterans for their service.

Afterwards, the veterans headed to the conference center at the Comfort Inn to watch the Chelsea library’s documentary detailing the experiences of local World War II veterans.

Before the documentary, Jeremy Ziegler gave the Toast for the Fallen.

Veterans Day 2011

Today, the city of Chelsea held a Veterans Day ceremony at the local veterans memorial. The memorial was dedicated two and a half years ago, but — as I’m embarrassed to admit — up until a few weeks ago I didn’t realize it existed. On a clear day last week I visited the memorial to get a few photos.

(I’ll post photos of the ceremony on another day.)

Photo of the Now, vol 220: in memory of Lt. Joel Gentz

Two weeks ago, Air Force 1st Lt. Joel Gentz, a graduate of Chelsea High School, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.  Yesterday, his funeral procession brought Main Street to a halt as grateful Chelsea residents stopped to pay their respects to a man who died in service to his country.

The rock in Pierce Park received an appropriate paint job.

Businesses around town expressed their gratitude, too.