People like Steve Wohlmuth don’t come around often.
His passing on March 24 left a notable void throughout the community. It’s not your average friend that will give you a hand with kitchen repairs at the drop of a hat, or drive across the province to check in on a friend. It’s not your typical coach that gives up his time to create a much-needed training facility from the ground up. Odds are your high school geography teacher didn’t facilitate a field trip to Hawaii and two to Iceland.
That’s because Steve wasn’t like everyone else.
Proof of this can be found on the arm of one of the many throwing athletes Steve mentored as the head coach and founder of Launchers Athletics in Port Williams.
As a coach, Steve would support his athletes when required but, when it was their time to shine, he would proudly step back and watch them reap the rewards of hard work.
I spoke with one such athlete, David Bambrick, about what it was like to have Steve as a mentor.
“He was like my second dad,” Bambrick recalls. “I spent a lot of time with him over the past 10 years. He knew when to be a coach and when to be a friend. When we stepped off the track, it was all about personal life more than giving orders and instruction.”
Bambrick is sporting some fresh ink dedicated to his late coach. The aptly-placed tattoo, stretching across the accomplished thrower’s left bicep, reads “It’s your time – Steve Wohlmuth” in Steve’s writing. It’s a message Steve penned for “Bambi” as a special send-off before the commonwealth games.
“He worked with me one-on-one a lot, but over the past month I’ve been finding out how many other people he was giving his time to. It’s amazing how one person was able to do so much and still have time for everyone.”
Those who knew Steve Wohlmuth knew of his many incredible accolades, his awards, and his accomplishments. Maybe you knew about his acting roles in the film Terror in the Woods (2017), or his cameos in TV shows The Mist, Diggstown, Pure, Cavendish, Mr. D and Trailer Park Boys. Perhaps you knew of his extensive and quite successful career as an internationally recognized track coach. Everyone who knew Steve knew a different side of him. He could have been your favourite teacher, your track coach, a fellow volunteer or, perhaps, just a dependable friend.
What you may still be wondering is how he became such an influential and respected person fondly remembered for radiating positive energy when he walked into a room. What special ingredient was in him that made him such a standout individual?
I was fortunate enough to speak with one of Steve’s best friends about what made Steve different than the rest.
John Aker said the first and most notable thing that comes to mind when remembering Steve is flashbacks of his immense desire to give to others. He speaks of a man whose genuine unselfishness was contagious, inspiring others to go the extra mile with him. One of his favourite sayings, “If it’s for kids and it’s fun, I’m in!” goes to show just how much the Port Williams man wanted to improve the lives of those around him.
A friend read a quotation from Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet at Steve’s funeral: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
With all the giving he did, it’s a shock Steve ever had any time for himself. But, whenever he got a quiet moment, one may have been able to catch a glimpse of him saddling up on a horse, carrying his fishing pole down to his favourite spot on Starr’s Point, or driving around in his bright red Jeep.
As a teacher, Steve drew his students into his lessons by modifying the curriculum to allow for more student interaction and participation. He took teaching outside of the classroom and opened the eyes of his students to a whole new way of learning. Knowing Steve was never one to allow young learners to miss an educational opportunity, a cultural, geographical, and geological expedition to Arizona that he organized for 12 students went ahead as scheduled this spring. The students returned in May, bringing home memories from an experience they won’t likely forget.
In his personal life, Steve was a kind husband and loving father to three children.
Memories of Steve paint a portrait of an admirable person – family man, teacher, coach, mentor, explorer – with a wholesome view of the world.
The world needs more people like him, and he’s left behind several lessons we can learn from as the communities he touched in many ways carry his legacy forward.
At your end, if you could add up your highlight-reel worthy meaningful moments, would you be satisfied with your number? I’m sure Steve is up there somewhere wishing he could’ve gotten his number up a bit higher, but I’m guessing he’s still got the rest of us beat by a long shot.
Theo Giesen is an Acadia University student completing a summer work term with the Valley Journal-Advertiser and Annapolis Valley Register.