“Hey Frosty! Go Frosty! Attaway! Attaway!”
More than 1,200 people gathered Saturday at Tacoma’s Life Center church to celebrate the life of Forrest “Frosty” Westering, the legendary Pacific Lutheran University football coach who died last month at the age of 85.
There were tears as family members and former players recounted, sometimes with painful openness, the influence Westering and his Christian-based coaching had on their lives.
But there was also laughter in the memories of a man who wore mismatched socks, drove a famously battered station wagon, occasionally commandeered the pep band’s drum at half-times and employed unusual coaching techniques such as having his players run onto the playing field holding hands and singing Christmas carols.
“You knew that when Frosty was leading the way, there was going to be joy in it,” said Westering’s grandson, Chad Johnson. “Football was a vehicle, and he used it to show us what was beyond.”
Westering was the coach at PLU from 1972- 2003, leading the football team to 32 winning seasons and four national championships. He coached 26 All-America players at the Parkland campus.
“I had the wonderful privilege of knowing a man who was the answer to my parents’ prayers,” said Steve Ridgway, a two-time PLU football team captain who’s now in Christian ministry. “He taught me to be kinder and to serve those that could not serve me back.”
Ridgway, who played in the ’70s, recalled a game during his senior year—his fourth with the Lutes – in which he earned a personal foul for unsportsmanlike behavior.
“I heard a thundering voice. ‘Steve!’”
Ridgway saw Westering beckoning him, and he ran to the sidelines to meet him, expecting the worst.
When he got there, he said, Westering drew him close and said quietly, “You remember one thing.”
Ridgway saw that he was smiling.
“I love you’” the coach said. “’Now go out there and be the man I know you are.’”
Scott Westering played for his father, took over the football program from him and is PLU’s current head coach. He struggled to compose himself for more than a full minute at the microphone before he was able to speak.
He then delivered a composed eulogy, praising his father’s consistently positive attitude, his generous love and his excitement for life.
“I’m sure heaven just got him more excited,” he said. “He’s saying to the angels, “Have a great eternal day.’”
Nearly every speaker stressed that Westering’s strong Christian faith was what formed the basis not only for how he coached but how he approached life. His daughter Holly Johnson said the Bible was “his ultimate playbook.”
Brad Westering, the late coach’s eldest son and a former PLU quarterback and team captain, noted that hundreds of people have told him that his father changed their lives.
“That’s fine,” he said, “but if you excuse Jesus from that, you missed it. That’s what it was all about. His power was in the Lord.”
Donna Westering, Westering’s wife of 62 years, received a standing ovation when she read what she said was her husband’s favorite poem, “I Met the Master Face to Face,” a Christian poem of uncertain origin.
At the conclusion of the memorial, Westering’s large extended family spread out across the front of the church and led the audience in the “Attaway cheer,” a PLU tradition invented by Westering.
When led by him, the cheer would support whatever and whomever he thought deserved it – from his players to Mount Rainier, from restaurant cooks and airline pilots to newspaper photographers.
The crowd stood and yelled, some with tears on their faces:
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