Strive to follow Jim’s precedent

Strive to follow Jim's precedent
He never pitched a no-hitter.

He never scored a hole-in-one on the golf course, or bowled a perfect game.

He never dazzled a crowd by breaking a track and field record, or by making the most tackles on a gridiron, or by sinking the most baskets on the hardcourt.

Jim Prosser will always be remembered by us here at the Plain Talk, however, as a sports legend.

Our hearts are a bit heavy this Thursday morning, just moments before our press time. We have just learned that Jim's indomitable spirit that inspired his presence at just about every sporting event imaginable here in Vermillion for years, has always been much stronger than his body.

Call it the human condition with which we all must deal. The spirit is boundless. The body, however, is fragile.

Jim has battled, and conquered, a number of health problems over the years. He beat cancer, but not before it forced doctors to remove most of his tongue and his salivary glands.

That, naturally, affected his speech. People who truly liked Jim – and we know that number is large – usually didn't have trouble understanding him, however.

He always tried his best to be understood, and it's remarkable how, when you are on the receiving end of such an effort, you in turn go the extra mile to listen.

During his working years, Jim was an educator here at Vermillion High School, teaching math, algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

It is that love of numbers that played a part, I'm sure, in his devotion to local sports. While teaching, he kept stats for various high school sports, and was often on the sidelines at USD athletic events.

The strokes of his pencil recorded some historic moments.

We recently published a story on our front page about a fabulous group of USD men's basketball players, who, in 1958, put together a 20-game winning streak and in March of that year brought home the championship trophy from the National Collegiate Small College Championships in Evansville, IN.

"Pross" was on the sidelines during that glorious season, keeping stats and no doubt soaking in the incredible competition he witnessed on the playing court that year.

Nearly a decade ago, good fortune rained upon us here at the Plain Talk. Jim was already a regular at local high school games, keeping stat books for the various teams. He agreed to go one step farther for us, and compile those numbers into sports stories for publication.

He never took a journalism course. He was, as I mentioned earlier, a math teacher by trade. But his stories were so compelling that they were honored by the Better Newspaper Contest of the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

In December, I wrote a feature story about Jim. After working with him for almost a decade, I thought I knew him well. But he shared things with me that remained "just between the two of us," that helped me understand how our personal backgrounds eventually define who we are.

Gary Kipling e-mailed me soon after reading the story, with this message for Jim:

"Mr. Prosser, I think I still need to call you Mr. Prosser even after nearly 40 years since VHS! I still read the Plain Talk and today I enjoyed reading the article written about you. Your career as a volunteer statistician for VHS probably is unparalleled in the whole Midwest. I can still see you behind the scorer's table. In my case it was probably keeping the turnover stat or fouls. In the article you mention football games being played at Prentis Park. I remember watching Joe Delaney throw a jump pass to Jeff Wirth on that field …"

There no doubt will be scores of VHS graduates who, upon hearing of Jim's passing, will recall fond times with him in the classroom, or how he made long bus trips enjoyable, or the meticulous way he recorded the history of young athletes.

We all should strive to follow Jim's precedent, and be remembered in such a positive light.

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