I am a firm believer in the adage that it indeed takes a village to raise a child. For some, that principle may no longer be valid; for others, they continue to adhere to it and hope that their neighbors, their friends, their kids’ coaches and teachers will in fact have an impact on the positive outcome of their life.
I lost a villager this week. Many of you may have already read in this newspaper about the passing of Janna McLaughlin. Janna is the mother of one of my best friends on this planet, Jeff McLaughlin. He and I met in preschool, where Janna was one of our teachers. Throughout my upbringing the McLaughlins were always around, and even more so in my junior high, high school and college years as the bonds between her son and another friend of ours, Saul Sanchez, grew even tighter.
Funny part is, she first met Saul when she wrote him a bus ticket when he was in elementary school. Boy did she enjoy repeating that story to us over the years. Her passion was children and serving them on a daily basis, first as a bus driver and then eventually as the transportation director for Tehachapi Unified School District. She gave more than 25 years of service to this community, and countless kids who rode those buses to and from school.
You are never truly prepared for death, and it surprised all of us this week when she passed at the young age of 62. It happened fairly quickly resulting in a stunned response from those of us who were there at the hospital with the family, and those who received the news through her massive network of friends. To say she is going to be missed, in this case, would be a tremendous understatement.
Her impact on my life stems from her and her husband, Tim, raising an outstanding young man in their son and my friend Jeff. The McLaughlin home was always open to us post-game football hungry kids or as a gathering spot during the holidays when we would come home from college. It was sometimes open a little more than they would have liked, but you’ll have to press my good buddy Saul for those details. I think he still owes them a grocery reimbursement well in the thousands of dollars.
Death is never easy to deal with. Even when the passing eases pain on one end, it leaves it for so many more on the other. Services will be held this Thursday and as seems always to be the norm, my radio and travel schedule won't allow me to be there. Instead, I paid some of my respects both here on these pages, and with a short message at the conclusion of one of my CSUB basketball broadcasts last week. While the written word can have such an impact, it is tough to rival the emotion and the immediate impact of radio.
Last Thursday was our Education Day game when 3,497 school kids came out to see a college basketball game. Hundreds of school buses lined our parking lot as they delivered and picked up their precious cargo. I guess it was fitting that day be the tribute, so I came up with these final words to end the broadcast, and I leave them with you this week:
“Finally today, I’ll admit that I went through this broadcast with a heavy heart. Earlier this week, one of my closest friends lost his mother, Janna McLaughlin, who passed away unexpectedly and far too young at 62. Ironically today was Education Day and as I say this, thousands of school kids that experienced today’s game are loading school buses in the parking lot headed for home.
"Janna McLaughlin dedicated her life to that aspect, a bus driver and then eventually the head of transportation for Tehachapi Unified School District. She was tasked with getting kids to and from school safely every day amidst logistical and natural challenges presented by the Tehachapi Mountains.
"We all loved her smile, her laugh, her support for her children and her tolerance for us high school and college kids that used to come home to raid her fridge or take advantage of a free meal at the McLaughlin house over the years. They say it takes a village to raise a child and one of my villagers passed away this week never to be replaced. So hug your loved ones and give thanks for another blessed day on this Earth.”
Corey Costelloe, a Tehachapi High graduate, is assistant athletics director for communications for California State University, Bakersfield.