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Former Football Coach: Eulogy for Coach Russ Faulkinberry by Lee Faulkinberry Morgan

Eulogy for Russ Faulkinberry
November 19, 2005

I’m Lee Faulkinberry Morgan, Russ’ daughter. On behalf of our family, I extend our thanks for sharing this day with us as we honor my father.

Russell Miller Faulkinberry was born in 1928 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His father was the head football coach at Middle Tennessee State College.

Unfortunately, Dad lost his father when he was 4. He and his brother and sister were raised by their mother Maggie, who had a powerful influence on Dad’s life.

It was the middle of the Depression, but Maggie made ends meet, by taking in college students as boarders, and taught the children how to be respectful of others and to never give up.

When Dad was 13, he and his sister were both stricken with polio. Dad ended up with one leg shorter than the other, and his sister Tee, who was 18, became a paraplegic. Aunt Tee was an inspiration in and of herself, as she led a productive life and was a large positive influence upon my sister and me. She never gave up, and I’m sure she, Dad, his brother, Frank, his father, and Maggie are reunited again.

After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Dad married our mother, Sis, and served 4 years in the Navy, coaching Navy football service teams. From his father, coaching was in his blood. He held some assistant coaching positions at several universities before coming to be the head football coach at University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1961. He loved that job, and you’ve heard about his skill in that role from others today.

What I remember from the sixties was this huge, larger than life, presence. Dad was a bon vivant. He loved to entertain and I remember helping to prepare for the big parties he and mother threw. He was a gourmet cook and even had a cooking show on TV. However, with those huge hands, he was often a hazard. He set fire to the set on the cooking show, and I remember fearing for the curtains in the dining room at home. But, he made some of the best steaks and flaming desserts we ever had!

To us as children, and as I understand it from others, Dad appeared to be an unstoppable force. He was, but he also had a softer side, that was seldom directly seen, but was manifest in all his actions.

I remember one very hot July, when mother was away at an educational conference. Our beloved Beagle, Frisky, died at the vet’s office. Dad picked him up to bring home for burial. But, Frisky had been frozen with his legs straight out. So Dad had to find a large box, a refrigerator box. This meant he had to dig a refrigerator-size hole. Actually, he cut the box in half, but it was still large. To make matters worse, the hamster had died too. So, there Dad was, sweating buckets, and saying a prayer for the two dead pets, all by himself with two grief-stricken little girls. But, he sure made us feel that the pets were in a good place.

Another example from which I learned a lot was the parents’ sports fair when I was in elementary school. They were doing slow pitch soft ball and Dad was striking out. It was quite embarrassing to him being a renowned jock. At the lunch break, Dad had me pitch him slow pitches until he got the knack. You see, he was used to fast pitch. That taught me that if at first you fail, go back and develop your skill or plan, and try again. Never
give up.

His 13th season at USL was less spectacular than some of the previous seasons had been. For the last game of that season, when Dad was no longer the coach, he brought our family to the game and we watched it from the stands of Cajun Field. I was very proud of my father that day and learned a valuable lesson in mental toughness, and to never give up. 

After coaching, Dad had a successful second career as an administrator for drug rehabilitation facilities. He loved helping young people and providing guidance. And, that is what he did for my sister and me and those around him. Dad could hold forth on any subject, especially politics, history, and of course, football.

Over the last 20 years, my sister, her family, my husband Jim and I spent many enjoyable holidays and visits with Dad and our stepmother, Bonnie. Last Memorial Day, we spent a fun family
holiday in Dad’s beloved Destin, FL.

Over the last few years, Dad’s health has been declining. My sister and I will be forever grateful for the love and care given to our father by Bonnie, especially in the last 3 months. I am also extremely grateful to those of you who threw the reunion party for Dad back in August. That meant so much to him to be honored by all of you.

I saw him about 10 days before he died, and although he had been bedridden for some time, he told me that in the next week he was going to make a big effort to get better. He never gave up.