WOSTER: Neighborhood, city, state rally to support native son
When Nancy and I moved into the corner house in the Pierre neighborhood that includes the governor's residence, we were the young couple on the block.
That was 40 years ago. The older, established residents of the neighborhood watched our comings and goings closely. At first, I wondered if they were displeased with our noise, commotion and general disruption of the peace in a neighborhood of older homes and tree-lined streets. As we came to know those older residents, we realized they were interested, even fascinated, by the young couple with the small children.
We settled in and made it our home. It's where we raised three children, sent them through the neighborhood schools, then down the street to T.F. Riggs High School and eventually off to college. We grew older, Nancy and I, as we waited for calls home from campus and as we began welcoming our children home with families of their own over the years. During that time, we went from being the young couple on the block to being the old folks on the corner.
I never minded that, really. It has been a wonderful place to raise a family. I can't imagine a more family-friendly part of the world. Although the older neighbors who were living in the homes around us have long since moved away, the homes remain, and they have gradually been filled with younger families who spruced up the houses, added on for child space, planted shrubs and flowers and generally became part of the neighborhood all around us.
For as long as we've lived here, we've had a garage that borders on the back alley. For as long as we've lived here, I've driven down that alley nearly every working day. Some time ago, as I reached the end of the alley and pulled out into the street, I realized that Nancy and I have become those older neighbors. We find great joy in watching the young families who have become our neighborhood.
At the far end of our alley lives one of those families. They moved in when the parents were no older than Nancy and I when we came to this place. They became the new kids on the block. We watched their kids grow from toddlers to youngsters tooling around the block on tricycles and scooters, and we watched them grow old enough to go through the Pierre school system.
Their dad often walked around the block of an evening with the older children, a girl and a boy. The kids would be riding toys or pulling wagons. The dad, a giant of a man, would invariably tell the youngsters, "Say hello to Mr. Woster, kids.'' The girl and the boy would do that, very politely, and I'd return the greeting before turning to the dad and saying, "Hey, Karl, they don't have to call me mister if they don't want to.''
That young boy, Conrad, grew into a tall, strong high-school lad, and last basketball season, he saw a lot of court time for the Governors as a sophomore. This year he hasn't been playing any basketball, but he's competing like crazy. He's been to hospitals in South Dakota, Minnesota and Texas, being treated for a cancer that forced amputation of his lower leg. The medical center at Houston offered an aggressive form of treatment, and Conrad spent much time there this past fall and winter.
People everywhere have followed his progress. We followed it from our corner home through online updates and occasional first-hand reports. I paused at the end of the alley one day last fall to talk with Karl. He told me the family was fortunate. They'd be together for Thanksgiving. I told him Nancy and I were fortunate, too. We'd shared the joy and the life his family brought to our neighborhood.
When the Pierre Governors won the state basketball tournament last weekend, Conrad was on the sidelines, on crutches but wearing his warm-ups. When the net came down, he wore it around his neck, a kid from the old neighborhood who didn't need to play the game to show what it means to compete.