men•tor – a trusted counselor or guide; a tutor or coach.   Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Salem lost two giants last month.  A generation of students and athletes in various Salem-Keizer schools grew up under their tutelage.  Like many, I am a better person thanks to Millard Bates and Mike Doran.

Millard is most famous for his lifelong career as a uniquely animated referee and umpire. Many news articles over the years chronicled his verbal and physical gymnastics, especially on the basketball court.  But Millard was also an accomplished math teacher and coach, as well as Salem’s most feared/beloved driver’s-ed instructor.  I’m ashamed to say I’m one of a handful of 16-year-olds who didn’t take lessons from Millard … and flunked the driver’s test twice.  Ouch.   I met Millard on the basketball court at Leslie Jr. High.  After two years of being a JV scrub on the hallowed Golds basketball team, Coach Bates chose me for his blue-collar Blues.  We were short on tall guys so he created a three-guard offense with Shane Pielstick, Brad Hynds and me.  We shot the lights out.  He taught me how to play low post on defense and use fierce box-out techniques to compensate for my height.  I led the team in rebounding and we finished 7-6, bucking history.  More importantly, I learned the can-do potential of the underdog from Millard.

At South High I made varsity baseball as a sophomore, which was intimidating.  Like Millard, Saxon coaches Mike Doran and Ken Wilson knew how to bring out the best in me.  I made four errors my first game as a starter.  Back to the bench, I figured – but no.  “We believe in you, Skill.”  I never missed a game.  The coaches hired Ed Hinges and me to paint houses with them during the summer.  As on the baseball field, Ken would bark out orders and Mike would quietly explain.  He coached by axiom and quip.  They taught us so well that Ed and I formed our own company and painted our way through college.  School + baseball + business success = mentors.

Thinking about Millard and Mike has me thinking about other mentors in my life.  I invite you to do the same.  If they’re still alive, reach out and say thanks.  Either way, with honor, tell people about them.  So here goes … Dick Lucco.  Jane Arst.  Bob Patterson.  Jim Goodwin.  Jill Jones.  Lorraine Weeks.  Mike McLaran.  Kent Crawford.  Morris Dirks.  Mary Gerlinger.  Doug Coe.  Wally Carson.  Duane Rawlins.  Iral and Gwen Barrett.  Dick Withnell.  Sue Miller.  Dave Lantz.  Jim Seymour.  Mike Cooley.  Jesse Jones.  Mr. Manuel.  Vic Backlund.  Marge and Loren Lottis.  Matt Boda. Fr. Brandon Filbert.  Scott Ashdown.  Your turn; have fun!