Educator remembered for kindness
To many, he was known as “Worm.”
Dave St. Cyr acquired the nickname as a baby, according to his younger sister, Deanna.
She said her mother always wrapped her older brother up in a blanket as an infant. And like a worm, he would always wiggle his way out of that blanket.
Saturday, friends and family shared stories and spoke warmly of St. Cyr, a teacher and coach in the Tonganoxie school district the last 10 years.
He died Wednesday, Dec. 30 at the age of 37 from complications associated with a seizure.
A near capacity West Haven Baptist Church listened as Benny Smith, American Indian traditional elder and retired Haskell Indian Nations University faculty member, as well as Tonganoxie High School principal Jamie Carlisle officiated the service.
Smith spoke about St. Cyr being a provider for others and on several occasions would translate the language of St. Cyr’s American Indian tribe, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, to English.
American Indian traditions continued during the burial ceremony at Hubbel Hill Cemetery. St. Cyr’s grandfather, Norman Fourd also an American Indian traditional elder, performed a graveside honor song. And, as is American Indian custom, each person who attended the burial ceremony was to take a handful of soil with the person’s left hand and sprinkle it on St. Cyr’s coffin. The gesture is known as a “final handshake.”
Smith shared many memories of St. Cyr, noting he would play pick-up basketball games with Haskell Indian Nations University faculty during many a lunchtimes. Smith noted they liked to call it “buffalo ball” for the way they would “buffalo” one another jockeying for position underneath the basket.
Time and again, Smith spoke about St. Cyr caring for others.
“To me, Dave was a natural,” Smith said. “I don’t think he had to be encouraged much to like others.”
Carlisle told about getting to know St. Cyr’s family during the days leading up to the funeral. He said St. Cyr was a selfless man and, after interacting with St. Cyr’s family, found that “he came by these traits naturally.”
Carlisle was introduced to St. Cyr’s nickname of Worm, but also found that many family members also had nicknames, such as Mighty Mouse and Bubbles.
“They are all Indian names,” Carlisle said, triggering a roar of laughter from people in attendance.
St. Cyr was proud of a pair of sunglasses, which helped produce another nickname for St. Cyr, “Baby Gino.”
That was short for Baby Mangino, as former Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino wore similar sunglasses. St. Cyr liked to add to his ever-growing shoe collection and loved to shop at T.J. Maxx, Carlisle said.
But, Carlisle quickly pointed out, St. Cyr was a spiritual man, and he believed in youths he taught and coached.
On the front of St. Cyr’s funeral card were the words “Ogligle wakaê wacekiciciya miye.” Translated the words mean “Only angels will pray for me,” Carlisle said. He recently had the words tattooed to his chest.
In his eulogy, longtime Tonganoxie Middle School coach and teacher Phil Jeannin spoke of St. Cyr having a “patience of gold” with students in the classroom.
St. Cyr taught alongside Jeannin in some middle school classes where students called St. Cyr “Uncle Dave” as students also called him Jeannin’s “brother.”
During his time at Tonganoxie, St. Cyr coached several standout javelin throwers. St. Cyr liked to research everything javelin on the Internet. Jeannin said St. Cyr would throw out some interesting information.
“You know in Finland, javelin is the thing everybody wants to do,” Jeannin said of information St. Cyr relayed to him, noting the sport is bigger than baseball and basketball there.
Jeannin went on to describe how St. Cyr shaped the lives of his javelin throwers, including Jeannin’s niece, Chrissie Jeannin. Though everyone else called her Chrissie, St. Cyr referred to her as “Chris” because she needed her own identity, Phil Jeannin recalled.
When it came to the javelin, St. Cyr liked to joke with his throwers as he told the freshmen they would be “javelin catchers” during their rookie season.
As Jeannin shared more memories, he mentioned St. Cyr frequently giving him various items, including a hat that read Pine Ridge Thorpes.
Jeannin never knew what a Thorpe was until he recently wore the hat to the hospital to visit St. Cyr. Family members explained it was a South Dakota high school and the nickname was in honor of Olympic champion Jim Thorpe.
As Jeannin concluded the eulogy, he fought back tears. He spoke at Jeremy Elliott’s funeral earlier in the year and said that was a difficult task, as was speaking at St. Cyr’s funeral.
Elliott, who won the javelin event at the Tonganoxie Invitational, died in his sleep that night at the age of 17 from complications of a heart condition.
Jeannin said Elliott was reunited in heaven with his javelin coach.
“He’s going to give you that one last pop, that one last throw you need in heaven,” Jeannin said.
In Hubbel Hill Cemetery, St. Cyr’s burial plot is right next to his young thrower, as the family selected the plot next to the coach’s former thrower.