Friday night I had the opportunity to attend the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame banquet. My sweet dad was posthumously inducted into the humanitarian category for his contributions as athletic trainer at Bloomington High School South. Following, you will find the speech I gave on his behalf. So proud to be his daughter.
Dedicated. Skilled. Responsible. Respected. Trusted. Likable. Honorable. Hard worker. Fast learner. Cool under pressure. Caring. Encouraging. Conscientious. All of these are words and phrases that have been used to describe Tom, also affectionately known as “Doc” Petry, specifically related to his 30 year athletic training career. He would be so humbled and feel incredibly privileged to become a part of this Hall of Fame.
Fame is an interesting concept. The word fame means the condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements. Aside from Indiana Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1994, my dad didn’t have a treasure trove of trophies, medals, or other awards. I doubt he ever broke any records. In fact, he started in athletic training because of his own physical limitations due to an illness he had as a child. He might not have been able to participate on a field or court himself, but he knew he could help people who wanted to do so. Regardless if someone was first string or fourth, he provided the same degree of care, probably because he knew what it was like to be sidelined.
Some of us get to be in the spotlight, and others are the ones running the spotlight. My dad was more of a behind the scenes person. One of our favorite stories about him concerns another Monroe County Sports Hall of Famer, Dave Reeve. Dave was a football player for Bloomington South in the early 70’s. He was badly burned in an accident in August of 1973 while filling a gas tank on a houseboat. Doctors felt his injuries would prevent him from participating in football for at least a year due to the weight of the shoulder pads. My dad was convinced he could rig up special pads, and sure enough with the doctors’ permission Dave was able to suit up a mere three weeks after his accident. Reeve later ended up in the record books of Notre Dame. Who knows what his future would have looked like without the care and ingenuity of Doc Petry.
In his long career, which by the way is nearly unheard of any more as the average American changes careers 5-7 times in their lifetime, it would be fascinating to know how many athletes he helped continue playing in spite of injuries. How many might not have received scholarships? How many might not have gone on to play at the collegiate level or beyond? How many are more comfortable even now as a result of the treatment they received?
Training didn’t come without its hazards. My dad had a terrible habit of keeping his scissors he used in his back pocket. My mom reminded him probably hundreds of times about taking them out before he would get in the car at the end of the day, but to no avail. Our 1971 Cutlass eventually sported a hole in the driver’s seat due to his negligence.
Those of you who knew my dad know he was a man of few words and didn’t get visibly excited about too many things. However, a hard-fought win, a success during a championship game, or a player’s personal achievement would bring one of the biggest smiles to his face with maybe even a few cheers.
My dad passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s four and a half years ago. One of the few awards that does grace the wall in his old office is the Ted Hall Memorial Scholarship plaque. He received it from the YMCA as recognition for making significant lifestyle changes in their rehab program he participated in. My dad used all of his marvelous qualities to stave off the effects of the disease for as long as he could. I watched his dedication in physical therapy and still remember him doing arm exercises with a Lysol can just days before he passed when that was the only part of his body that still functioned to any degree.
I have heard it said that our sense of smell is the sense that can lead to the most nostalgia. For instance, the smell of apple pie may take us right back to our grandmother’s kitchen. For me, the first overwhelming sense of loss from my dad’s passing ironically came when I took my boys to one of their first indoor track practices at IU. Who knew a sweaty gym smell could bring tears of sadness to a person’s eyes? And, even now, I can instantly recall the smell of the tape my dad used to wrap up the athletes. I didn’t ever get to witness him teach, but I did get to see him tape a fair number of ankles as I waited for him to take me home after school. One article about my dad by Rex Kirts indicates that in one given year (some time in the mid to late 60’s) he had used nine miles of tape. The hard-core numbers guy that Dad was, I have no doubt that measurement was fairly accurate.
One of his jobs as athletic trainer was to train upcoming young people interested in the career. He was a patient teacher, and so thorough it was said students under him learned more in their time in his high school training room than they would have in two years of college classes. Those who worked closely with Doc grew a deep respect for him.
I will close with these words from a plaque given to my dad before his retirement:
“For your unrelenting commitment in the classroom and your many years as the State’s Most Valuable Trainer we recognize the professionalism, dedication and talent you have provided this school. The high degrees of respect and admiration that you have earned and the standards you have set make you a significant part of the tradition and pride of Bloomington High School South.”
My family is honored for my dad to be included in the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame. Thank you for recognizing him as a valuable part of the athletic community.
*Additionally, I found out after writing this speech that a player’s whose life he helped save during a practice by making a critical decision and personally rushing him to the hospital for what turned out to be ruptured spleen, is now the athletic director at Notre Dame. “Small” jobs matter. So thankful for a wonderful example to follow.