Keep Going

Published On: June 15, 2023By Categories: Business Management, Editor's Note, Editor’s Note

By Thad Plumley

From the infield of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University, I watched high school athletes warm up for the state track and field championship.

The boys and girls were a bundle of excitement as they anticipated what was to unfold. Meanwhile, I had knots in my stomach. I didn’t know any of the competitors; my nerves centered around a message that was to come any second.

And then it began.

Prior to the national anthem, the voice over the public address system suddenly boomed: “Ladies and gentlemen, the sport of track and field and the Ohio High School Athletic Association lost a great one with the recent passing of Fred Dafler.” The speaker continued by listing some of the numerous highlights of Fred’s career before asking everyone in attendance to stand for a moment of silence in his honor.

The silence was deafening.

Seconds later, the speaker said thank you and tears welled in my eyes. Tears streaked down my wife Claudia’s cheeks as the national anthem began playing. Fred Dafler was my father-in-law and the moment unfolded just weeks after he passed away at age 95.

The announcement occurred three times that day, once prior to each division’s championship. Yes, my wife and I were there for all of them, and yes, they were all beautiful.

Fred didn’t like people making a fuss about him, but this—he would have liked this. Being at a track with high school athletes buzzing around always made him smile. It was a happy place.

In his life, the sport gave him the roles of athlete, coach, official, administrator, and meet manager, and he excelled in all of them. The Ohio high school track and cross country career coaches of the year annually receive the Fred Dafler Award.

Here’s all you need to know about Fred: I’ve been married to Claudia for decades and we just found out in recent years the award is named for him.

His passing has left a giant void. As he grew older, his care became a critical part of my life and Claudia’s. She recently asked, “What are we going to do now?”

My answer: “Keep going.”

I know many of you can relate. The groundwater industry has always been filled with people who cast large shadows. Talented forward thinking company founders, inventors, business owners, regulators, scientists, and engineers have impacted our  field—and the entire world—through the years.

Some are no longer with us, and yet you and your companies keep going. Providing life-sustaining water is what you do. It’s what you know. So, you keep going. Claudia and I will do the same.

Fred always went to the banquet where the coaches of the year received their awards. He just never told anyone he was passing out hardware with his name on it.

Claudia and I have been asked to step in this year. We can’t wait. It’s our way to keep going.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and the director of publications for the National Ground Water Association. He is currently the secretary for the AM&P Network Associations Council Advisory Board. The AM&P Network is a national association for publishing professionals.. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.

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