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Harris Blackwood: Chuck Clausen made a big impression
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Chuck Clausen had one of those voices that was instantly recognizable. One did not have to turn around to see who was speaking when that deep Midwestern growl was heard.

“Hiya doin’,” he would say.

When he shook your hand, his huge paw wrapped around and enveloped yours. You couldn’t help but notice the gigantic Super Bowl ring from his 1980 tour with the Philadelphia Eagles.

When he moved to Gainesville, he had learned the language of the real estate trade. But it didn’t take him long to shift back to his native tongue, the language of football.

On radio shows and in his newspaper columns, Chuck Clausen told us things about football we had never heard before. This man had coached with legends such as Woody Hayes, Lou Holtz and even a guy he hired named Tom Coughlin, who guided the New York Giants to a Super Bowl championship in 2011.

He could talk about games of yesteryear and last Friday night with equal aplomb. He had a storyteller’s way of making his verbal recalls interesting to his eager listener.

Chuck was a Catholic in his early life, but became a member of First Baptist Church. If you’re half Catholic and half Baptist, you are a captist.

Like all good Baptists, he sat in the same place every Sunday. And you knew when Chuck was there. His tall frame lingered above the folks who sat near him.

Right next to him was his beloved, blond-haired Betsy. She may not have carried pom-poms, but she was his biggest cheerleader.

Chuck became involved in Rotary, not only in the Gainesville club, but in District 6910. He was a familiar ambassador for the civic club throughout North Georgia.

One of Chuck Clausen’s greatest gifts to our community was as an encourager. He was known for sharing a good word with young coaches who were finding their way in the game of football. He also was an encourager for those who had been in the game, but may have found their teams struggling a bit.

I’m told he had a way of being an encourager without being a know-it-all. A guy who had coached in four Rose Bowls, a Super Bowl and directed the defense with players who made quite a mark in their sport could have folded his arms and shown his prowess. But Chuck was Chuck, folksy, easy-going and a joy to be around.

While few here knew Chuck Clausen as a coach, we called him by that title. There are those who are instructors of a sport, but a true coach is honored with that title long after he hangs up his chalkboard and whistle.

I saw him at church earlier in December. He had to leave the service early and didn’t look well. I was saddened to know he died on Christmas Eve but was relieved he didn’t suffer a long time.

I will remember him as the mountain of a man whose entire face smiled when he did. I can see that mane of salt and pepper hair and those reading glasses perched on his nose. He would take them off periodically and wave them around to make a point.

Many people have moved to our community and left it a little better than they found it. Chuck Clausen is one of those people, and we will miss him, his knowledge and his kindly ways.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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