Eric Driskell would have been impressed with the turnout. His celebration of life at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood on Saturday was as crowded as a Blue Valley High football game.
And many looked the part, with players in jerseys, athletes present and past in letter jackets and students and parents wearing team-inspired slogan shirts.
Kari, Driskell’s wife, had requested the black and gold gear.
“Thank you for wearing black and gold today, I find it very comforting,” Kari Driskell said. “Eric had other clothes, but he doesn’t wear them … this is perfect.”
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Among the 3,000 were coaches and officials from area high schools, wearing their teams’ colors. A group of referees in their striped tops sat together.
All were there to pay tribute to “a big football coach but gentle, tender and loving,” man, said Kari, there with daughters Rachel and Laurel. “Our girls had him wrapped around their fingers.”
Laughs accompanied the sniffles and tears on Saturday. Kari said she could never stay mad at him, even on that Mother’s Day when she received a gift card from him.
“Which I saw was so nice,” Kari said, “and then I opened it and it said, ‘To coach, thanks for talking to the kids at the elementary school.’ ”
Eric Driskell’s team won two state championships and played in three other title games. He also played on a Tigers state title team.
Many of those memories were on display in scrapbooks and photographs near the entrance to the sanctuary. There was also his Baker University No. 58 jersey and coach of the year awards.
But football isn’t the only memory Hank Driskell’s has of his uncle.
“He was incredibly full of life,” Hank Driskell said. “And he was genuine. He was the same person to everybody he had ever met in his life. ... He gave himself to everybody that he knew.”
The true sadness, Hank Driskell said, is for those who won’t have the opportunity to know his uncle.
“I had 27 years with the absolute best guy I ever known, and now I’m sad for the people and kids who won’t get that opportunity, sad for the people that Eric won’t get a chance to help. Because that’s what he was all about.”