‘Once a Zephyr, always a Zephyr’
As current Whitehall football players gathered around former quarterback Robert Smale, the prevailing sentiment was that time cannot erase the bonds between those who wore the maroon and gold on the gridiron.
“Once a Zephyr, always a Zephyr,” said head coach Brian Gilbert, who accompanied 11 of his players on their visit to Smale’s room last week.
Smale, 97, is a resident at Whitehall Fellowship Community. It was during a recent visit to the facility when Al Voorhis, a Spiritual Counselor with Lehigh Valley Hospice, learned that Smale had been a quarterback on the football team. This was revealed during what Voorhis called a “life review.”
Voorhis said that Smale became very animated talking about his experience as a football player.
“It was such an important part of his life,” said Voorhis.
Upon seeing Smale’s reaction to recounting that part of his life, Voorhis took the initiative to get in touch with the school to see if they would reach out to the former quarterback. He quickly got a response to his request and that’s when Athletic Director Robert Hartman put the wheels in motion.
“They were really so gracious,” said Voorhis.
After practice last Tuesday, Gilbert gathered together players Jacob Hudak, Michael Smith, Dabriel Ayala, Bret Legath, Christian Cooper, Dez Boykin, Braxton Marrero, Michael Ajami, Markes Cruz, Roberto Rivera Colon, and of course quarterback Ethan Parvel.
Gilbert said that they all jumped at the chance to visit a fellow Zephyr. And once they arrived in his room, the smile they saw emerge on his face demonstrated how much their visit meant it him.
“It was real exciting for him to see everybody,” said Gilbert. “You could tell it made his day.”
Gilbert understood that one of the things Smale wanted to do was connect with current Whitehall football players. Players carry that bond of brotherhood with them forever.
“It was great for him and it was great for us,” said Gilbert. “It goes really deep, the football family.”
Smale said that playing quarterback was something he enjoyed.
“I was the leader of the team,” said Smale.
Smale’s face brightened once again when asked about the visit from the players. It clearly had a positive effect on him.
Voorhis said that the whole experience shows the value of people helping people. One person who plays a big role in Smale’s life is Scott Yost. Yost, a former neighbor, has looked after him for two-and-a-half years. He stepped into that role after Smale’s daughter passed away a couple of years ago. Yost said that Smale is a veteran, and the two have spent many hours together at the Fellowship Community.
“I’ve gone to visit him every day, seven days a week, for the last two-and-a-half years,” said Yost. “And I expect to keep on doing so.”
From Yost’s unwavering commitment, to the players appearing at his bedside to share a few moments together, all of that helps to bind a community together.
“It’s a matter of the community helping people,” said Voorhis. “That’s what it’s all about.”