OAK GROVE, Mo. – We’ve all seen the power Facebook has to connect people. A metro community is pulling together to support a longtime coach suffering with cancer, and a page created in his honor has generated thousands of likes in a matter of days.
Orange ribbons and writing dot businesses and cars all over Oak Grove, east of Kansas City. You’d think it’s a sign of team spirit or a campaign. Instead, the movement is for George Pirch, known in the community as Coach Pirch.
Pirch called himself a “small town Missouri boy growing up.” The Air Force veteran, who loves Christmas, was a teacher and longtime high school football coach for nearly 40 years. Pirch is now facing a tougher opponent than a rival team: kidney cancer.
“It’s kind of frustrating. I can’t even read the paper like I like to read it,” Pirch said.
His wife Ruth, with a smile, described him as “honest, truthful, a little bit on the stubborn side.” She says the couple is overwhelmed by the support and how quickly it has spread on social media.
“It’s just been wonderful to read all the comments and to think we were just an ordinary couple here in Oak Grove that made a difference,” Ruth said.
Oak Grove High School Athletic Director Jerry Girdner also commented about the Facebook page recently created in Pirch’s honor.
“It’s already got 3,000 people following it, and there is a lot of impact Coach Pirch has on people,” Girdner said.
An impact Girdner says has made Coach Pirch a mainstay in the community, especially on the sidelines.
“Without Coach Pirch, it’d definitely be a different atmosphere. We don’t want to miss him. We’re hoping he’ll get better fast,” Girdner said.
The same spirit he imparted on his players on the field for years is what he holds onto now as he, his family, and his town tackle his disease.
“I appreciate their thoughts and prayers and deeds that they’ve done for me. I hope I get to tell all of them that sometime when I see them,” he said.
Pirch has surgery scheduled Tuesday and plans to continue radiation.