More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.
My dad was a college football coach, and he spent the last 23 years of his professional career (1981-2003) at DePauw University, home of the Tigers. His big personality and even bigger heart made him a legend on campus and beyond, and he remained a wildly popular figure there until he died. The song I will always associate with him, as cheesy as it is, is Survivor's 1982 hit "Eye of the Tiger." It has been played at pretty much every DePauw football game since that year, and it fired him up like no other. It helped that this song talks about "rising up to the challenge of our rival." DePauw has a longstanding rivalry with nearby Wabash College, and their annual meetup draws legions of fans cheering on their respective teams to bring home the Monon Bell, the game's 300-pound trophy.
The photo I've included shows Nick at his last Monon Bell game, in November 2019. As you can see, he carried his Tiger Pride with him to the end. It seems fitting somehow that there was no game without him this year. Nick died in a nursing care facility at about 10 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2020. We thought he had defeated COVID-19, but his heart slowed and finally stopped that night, about two and a half weeks after his diagnosis. My brother Ted, who lives nearby, drove the hour to Greencastle to pick up my mother so that she could say goodbye. Naturally, on their way home in the wee hours of the morning, "Eye of the Tiger" played on the radio.
Being a coach's kid is a magical experience. It's one thing to be a loyal fan of a team, but when it's the center of your family's life, it's another thing entirely. Football Saturdays, from the sun-soaked ones in early September to the frigid and sometimes snowy ones in late November, are at the center of many of the best memories of my life. And "Eye of the Tiger" is the soundtrack to almost every one of those memories, since I was only 9 when my dad started work at DePauw. I will always think of him when I hear it, first with tears, then with a smile at some recollection of him jumping in the air with joy after a touchdown that led to victory, or breaking down the game stats in the living room after a crushing defeat. Sadly, COVID-19 was a battle he could not win. —Pam Mourouzis, daughter
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