One of Western Rugby Alumni’s great supporters and former WWU and Chuckanut Bay rugby player, Vic Coudriet passed away last week and friends put together a memorial for Vic that took place Saturday, January 17, 2015 in Bellingham.
Not everyone who wanted to be there could make it and one of those people was Big John Willahan who now lives and works in Alaska. John set me this e-mail and wanted me to read it at the memorial, which I did. What follows is the text of John’s message:
Just read in your WWU Rugby newsletter about Commander. That was sad news. He was one of a kind, a great guy, no BS straight shooter, philosopher with a great sense of humor. One of my heroes and favorites during my 15 years in Bellingham.
I’ll always remember how we mobbed Vic in congratulations during the game in Roscrea, Ireland on the 1984 tour, when he scored a try after not having played for a number of years (he was one of the older Chuckanut boys on the tour at the time at the ripe old age of maybe 37).
On the flight over the boys had gotten a bit out of hand, so on the flight home we were on a pretty strict probation and limited on the number of drinks we were allowed. I went up to the drink station to find myself cut off. On the way back to my seat I told Vic about the situation and between us we cooked up a solution. I put on my new Irish wool sweater, borrowed Vic’s glasses and his new Irish tweed cap and went back to the drink line. Using an English accent I ordered what all of the Brits in front of me were ordering (Vodka-Lemon Please!) from the same stewardess that had just cut me off. I walked back down the aisle with my drink to an ovation from the other passengers (who had witnessed the whole show) and got a cheers for a well executed plan from Vic as I gave him back his hat and glasses.
In the mid to late 1980s I spent a good deal of time in the Cocoanut Grove, and a good bit of that time on a barstool next to Commander discussing rugby, philosophy, and life in general. Vic was intelligent, deep thinking, funny, and a no bull crap guy. You knew where he stood on things (for instance he was definitely a Viking Rugger, when I’d talk about the Warthogs he would inform me that we were the Vikings–there were a couple of beer fueled philosophical discussions on this topic).
I remember once, before he was married, over at his house (an old victorian with tall ceilings about a block away from the Grove) he picked up a golf club and whacked a golfball across the room, embedding it into the plaster of his wall (the wall was pockmarked with holes). As I recall he said something like “The nice thing about being single is that I can come home at three in the morning and do this in my underwear”.
I drove out to Milt’s Cain Lake fishing derby with Commander a couple of times (I still have my “Controversial T-Shirt” from the 1988 derby in a tub somewhere–should probably get rid of it before my daughters find it after I’m gone). I remember singing with Vic on the way down and at Cain Lake (and on tours or occasionally a line or two at the Grove)–stuff like El Paso and Sloop John B. He knew a ton of early ’60s songs.
After I moved up to Alaska I was only in Bellingham about every 5 years or so, but I always made a trip out to the Grove and saw Vic. I did manage to see him for a few minutes last spring, Milt said something about his cancer, but you never think anyone is actually going to go.
Anyway, it was great seeing you and everyone last March. Give my condolences to Vic’s family and the boys (especially to Milt, I know they were best pals from High School). Hoist one or a number of beers to Commander tomorrow and sing a song or two, he was a damn great guy and deserves the best of send offs!”