It was back in the late 1960’s shortly after arriving in Orange as a budding young sportswriter with the daily newspaper. We were attending some social event in town and crossed paths with a middle-aged man with premature white hair.

We introduced ourselves to each other and found out real fast that we had many similar interests. He told me his name was Jack Couvillion and that he worked at an office in town.
After grilling him for a few more minutes, he told me he was a dentist, but said he doesn’t tell strangers that right away because most people are afraid of dentists. And when he found out I was a sports writer we hit some common ground. He said that he was the starting quarterback for the Lutcher Stark Tigers while in high school.

After viewing his slight build, I figured he looked a lot more like a dentist than a former high school quarterback. But I found out very quickly that Dr. Jack knew quite a lot about the sport of football and loved to play golf.

He invited me to play with his weekend group at DERA, but I told him that I used to play as a kid, but quit when I went away to college at McNeese State and never played while I was a pro baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Finally, I accepted his invitation and became a regular in that weekend dew-buster gang at DERA. It seemed the more things we did together, the more comfortable we became with each other.

He found out I enjoyed playing cards and insisted I learn to play bridge. He gave me a book with the basic fundamentals and then suggested I attend classes at the old Thomen Center to learn the game with a group. He really worked with me and grilled me about certain situations until I became quite adept at bridge.

He would phone me at work to check on how my morning was going after he dismissed his last dental patient before he went home for lunch. He did this on a regular basis around 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday—like for 35 years, even after I retired as the inventory control manager at a local automobile dealership seven years ago.

He told me that his close friends called him “Jackie Baby” and asked if he could call me “Joe Baby.” I hesitated and told him that would be okay, but I certainly didn’t want anybody but he and his family calling me “Joe Baby.”

So when the caller on the other end of the usual 30 or so calls I would get in the morning at the office would say “Joe Baby”, I immediately knew who was calling.

Jack enjoyed accompanying me to some of the football games I covered for the newspaper, especially watching the Houston Oilers in the Astrodome. I would get him a sideline pass and a camera to carry and we would be right there on the field with those huge professional football players.

We didn’t shoot too many photos on the sidelines, but we certainly heard some new cuss words being uttered by the players at the referees on the gridiron.

Jack enjoyed sharing stories with me about his kids while they were growing up. From the oldest to the youngest he and his wife Jane had Mark, Keith, Craig, Steven, Ken Michael, Janet and Jean. But then he would talk about Artie, Beefy, Levy and Chick and when I asked who they were he said they were his kids. “You have 11 kids?” I asked. “No, I only have seven—those are just their nicknames,” he said with a laugh.

Although he never pushed them to play football, all five boys played Pee Wee Football, junior high football at St. Mary School and varsity high school football at either Stark High or West Orange-Stark High.

Mark and Keith played together at Stark, Keith and Craig played together also with the Stark Tigers, Craig and Steven played together at Stark and Ken Michael played for the West Orange-Stark Mustangs.

I wanted to take our weekend golfing to the next level—weekend tournaments. Jack and I partnered up for various two-man tournaments and some regular ones. We played together at the Babe Zaharias Tournament in Beaumont, the Morris Mixson in Silsbee, the East Texas Seniors and the McNeese Alumni and Friends in Lake Charles for many years and even have a couple of trophies confirming our success in some of them.

Jack enjoyed playing the piano and was surprised when I told him I played the piano accordion. He said he played by ear. I told him I read the music. He said he always wanted to do that, too, so the next thing you know he began taking piano lessons from Catherine Herm.
We enjoyed many an hour having two-man concerts with Jack playing the piano and me on the accordion.

Jack was almost like the older brother I never had. Any time I asked for advice it was always positive and optimistic. Very rarely did I ever hear Jack say anything bad or negative about anybody or anything.

And as a dentist, he was like no other one I had ever used. My fear was that huge needle full of Novocain being stuck in my gums. He promised me that he could stick me and I would never feel it. He’s the only dentist that could find a groove that I couldn’t feel the needle going in.

A little more than four years ago Jack had a stroke that paralyzed his right side and impaired his speech almost completely. Despite having several therapists to assist him, Jack never got any better, but he never got much worse, either,

He liked to play cards and learned to eat with his left hand, although he couldn’t eat many solid foods. His wife Jane was at his side the entire time.

Last week he took a turn for the worse and died Wednesday morning. His funeral and burial was Saturday. Although many of his old patients and friends hadn’t seen Dr. Jack in a few years, they certainly filled St. Mary Catholic Church to pay their last respects.
It was so hard for me to say goodbye to my dearest friend.

KWICKIES…When was the last time Orange County had three high school football teams undefeated going into the fourth week of the season and none of those teams was the West Orange-Stark Mustangs? The Orangefield Bobcats are 3-0 for the first time since 1988, Bridge City is 3-0 for the first time since 2005 and Little Cypress-Mauriceville is 3-0 for the first time in such a long time we can’t even remember. Let’s hope they all keep winning and make it to the state playoffs in two months.

The Houston Texans certainly exposed some weaknesses in Indianapolis’ rushing defense Sunday. The game wasn’t even as close as the 34-24 final score indicated. Indy quarterback Peyton Manning tried to win it by himself by completing 40-of-57 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns, but Houston’s undrafted running back Arian Foster was too much for the Colts’ defense as he rushed for a team-record 231 yards on 33 carries and scored three touchdowns. Foster had the second-best opening day rushing output in NFL history, trailing only a 250-yard performance by Buffalo’s O.J. Simpson in 1973 against New England. O.J. is enjoying his retirement incarcerated in the Nevada Correctional System.

Orange pro golfer Scott Sterling earned a check for $1,623 last weekend on the Nationwide Tour Utah Championship played at Sandy, Utah. Sterling finished 17 strokes behind winner Michael Putnam, who shot a consistent 66-66-67-67—266 to win the $99,000 fist place money.

The Houston Astros continue their quest to finish the 2010 major league baseball season at the .500 mark. Houston split a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend and stood at 68-75 going into Monday’s three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

JUST BETWEEN US…Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones needs to quit dreaming about his team hosting the upcoming Super Bowl and think more realistically about dumping overpaid offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and hiring somebody who can produce offensive points on the scoreboard. The Cowboys “out-dumbed” Washington Sunday night and lost 13-7. Quarterback Tony Romo made a stupid play at the end of the half by slinging the football to Tashard Choice instead of taking a knee as time ran out. Choice tried to get positive yardage after the pitch and had the ball punched out of his grasp by Redskins’ DeAngelo Hall, who scooped up the fumble and waltzed 32 yards for what proved to be the winning touchdown for Washington. Another boneheaded play occurred on the last play of the game when Romo connected on a pass to Roy Williams as time expired only for the play to be nullified because offensive lineman Alex Barron had a choke hold on Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo that everybody and their brother was able to see.