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Students honor Eudy with equal parts celebration, inspiration

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published December 14. 2013 4:00AM   Updated December 14. 2013 12:59PM

Waterford

They gathered Friday morning in the fieldhouse, all wearing green T-shirts bearing the words "Stay Strong. Eudy Nation."

And they stayed strong. Cheers, not tears. Just the way Josh Eudy wants it.

This was 8:30 a.m. at Waterford High. Kids on the gym floor in four groups, forming the letters "E" "U" "D" "Y." Chants of "Eudy Nation." A Eudy Nation Celebration. A brilliant, 6-minute, 41-second video in Eudy's honor, brilliantly scripted, directed and produced by senior Kyle Chung.

This was Waterford's tribute to a teacher and coach they adore. A 35-year-old history teacher with cancer that left him unable to attend. A 35-year-old teacher who has honored the essence of the word, teaching the concepts of courage, inspiration and faith just by being Josh Eudy.

Josh Eudy has cancer.

Once again: He is 35.

It is not unexplainable.

Unless it is explained through the kids. And what Josh Eudy teaches them. Their compassion and their spirit, their unwavering faith, runs like a current from Eudy's soul, fortifying the timeless Jim Valvano line about how cancer cannot touch your mind, your heart, your soul.

"All you ever hear Josh say is how he's blessed," history teacher and boys' basketball coach Greg Gwudz was saying. "Blessed for his 35 years and working with the greatest kids he could ever have hoped for."

It was Gwudz, special education teacher Kristen Crump and assistant principal Gene Ryan that conspired on the original idea, a fun run. Then the kids got involved. And it morphed into ... celebration, inspiration.

Eudy Nation.

They went to the football field first and spelled "Eudy" with a mass of bodies. They wrote their own song, supplanting the lyrics to "Ms. New Booty" with "Eudy," a staple of bus rides to volleyball matches.

Not one adult had the microphone Friday. It was mostly an Elaina Sullivan Production. Sullivan played volleyball for Eudy. She is one of the CEO's of "Lancer Nation," the clever student section. She is why teachers teach. They'll endure the fraudulence of teaching to tests and the drone of education-speak just to spend some time with a kid whose personality could light up Cleveland.

"We love him," Sullivan said of her coach.

Sullivan, Lexi Moger and other volleyball players starred in Chung's video, which is on You Tube. Football player Bishme Sheppard wrote in Eudy's honor, "For we have gone through thick and thin and we are still standing, when we thought it was going to be hard to get back up."

Another student shared the story of how they sang "Amazing Grace" in chorus, saying, "If we have nothing else in common, it's the amazing grace and the faith we have in you."

Makes you wonder if there's really a nobler profession than "teacher."

"I'm totally floored," Rena Eudy, Eudy's wife said Friday. "It shows what people can do when they come together."

Rena Eudy was told "to just show up" Friday. She couldn't believe her eyes.

"I'm amazed. Blessed," she said.

Of Josh, she said, "He's doing OK. We take it day by day. He's trying to build strength, eat as much as he can and sleep as much as he can. We get through on our faith. We rely on God. It comes down to trusting God for this."

No one can say for sure how much time Josh Eudy has left. And yet he is timeless. Part of him lives on through Elaina and Lexi. Gwudz. All the people - kids, teachers, administrators - who wore green Friday. Who spelled "Eudy." Who believe in something greater because of him. Maybe this is the unintended consequence of such unspeakable circumstances.

Josh Eudy. Teacher.

"We handed this over to the kids and they took it from there," Gwudz said. "This is a special place. The kids showed that again. It's their way of showing how the whole school is always thinking about him."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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