ON HAND: Maurice Potter

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

I went to a wake on Friday night. I wasn’t very eager about going, of course. But as I entered the funeral home, I was greeted by a packed room. People were laughing, chatting, and hugging. I immediately thought, “How perfect!”

You see, Maurice Potter was a colorful character. In fact, that’s a word that kept popping up over the past week–colorful. At 96 years old, Potter was spry, talkative, and deeply loyal to the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD). I only met him once, though I observed him many, many times at various events. We had a five-minute conversation. Within two minutes of our chat, I was blushing and laughing. He was always quick-witted, making others chuckle at his–yes, colorful remarks.

Potter is known for being one of the first deaf baseball umpires, but locally, he’s more known for his loyalty and involvement with MSAD. The football field at MSAD is named after Potter. He attended 75 straight homecomings (missing only this year’s), and attended as many other athletic events as possible.

At a memorial service at MSAD last Thursday, one of Potter’s sons (also deaf), Jim, described how Potter’s love of MSAD was true and deep. A 1928 graduate of MSAD, Potter often would ask his son to drive him around the campus, even if school wasn’t in session. He simply wanted to “feel” the presence of MSAD.

As I watched Jim talk about his father with happiness, I thought to myself, “1928. My grandmother was only six years old in 1928.” She’s 81 today. That really drove the impact of Potter’s presence and longevity home for me.

At the wake, I had to smile. Potter was buried in his umpire outfit, with baseball and MSAD memorabilia surrounding him. I looked around the room, observing people’s conversations. I looked at the various displays filled with pictures, articles, and awards from Potter’s life. And I looked at the conversations around me. I had a feeling that the wake–both hearing and deaf people chatting, laughing, and remembering–was just exactly how Potter would have liked it.

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