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Give It Your All – A Tribute to Peter Kohn

Pete Kohn and Dave CampbellBeloved lacrosse manager and longtime Middlebury College friend, Myron G. “Peter” Kohn, 77, passed away on Aug. 5 at University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. The lacrosse legend was unable to recover from a heart attack he suffered on a fishing trip near his home in Cape May, N.J., on Aug. 1.

Peter Kohn was one of the most beloved and unique figures in the lacrosse world. For more than 50 years he was connected to the sport. The subject of a much-publicized documentary, “Keeper Of The Kohn,” he started as a field manager for the Park School in Baltimore in 1954. He was manager of the U.S. teams from 1978 to 1998, for the North-South All-Star game for over 25 years and for club teams in the United States Club Lacrosse Association for over 20 years. Peter Kohn worked in the equipment room at Middlebury from 1981-1988, while serving as a manager of the men’s lacrosse team. He later began to spend his winters in Florida and returned to campus each spring to work with the team. When time permitted, Kohn also enjoyed helping out with other spring teams at Middlebury as well as teams during his brief visits in the fall and winter. Peter Kohn is well-known throughout the lacrosse world, having served as manager of the U.S. National Team several times at the World Games. (From Middlebury Press Release, Aug 5, 2009)

Give It Your All
by Dave Campbell (Middlebury ’09)

As our bus pulled into the parking lot adjacent to Gettysburg’s stadium, Coach Quinn stood at the front and calmly made an announcement, “Pete Kohn will be joining us today and will be returning with us to Middlebury for the remainder of the season.”  The team erupted with unprecedented energy: cheers, foot stomping, and a “Kohn” chant.  Not knowing exactly what was causing all of the excitement, we freshmen must have looked quite bewildered.  “Keeper of the Kohn” was released later that year, so we had only heard the legends of Peter.  Over the next five years I would learn a great deal about Pete, but it was already apparent that Peter had the unique gift of bringing people together with energy, openness, and enthusiasm.

Peter Kohn with Team Gutman (Midd alumni team) at Vail '08.
Kohn with the Midd alumni team at Vail, ’08.

The next day we played Gettysburg in a brutally cold, torrential downpour.  Out with an injury from the previous game and in the press box filming, I watched Pete down on the sideline.  Water dripped from the flat brim of his wool, circa-1980, Middlebury Lacrosse hat, an oversized sideline jacket drooped off his lean, slightly hunched frame, soaked khakis clung to his legs, and waterlogged loafers splashed in the puddles.  He slowly worked his way up and down the line offering water and dry towels to every player on the Middlebury bench.  His canvas tote bag — likely holding nine variations of gum, loose cash, crumpled receipts, a half-eaten Hershey Bar, three marbled lacrosse balls, a game program, and a spare hat – sat, soaking, at the end of the bench.  Full of passion, he would intermittently call, “Go Big Blue! Go Big Blue!” and “Give it your all, men!”

Peter led by example – he always gave it his all.  He gave his heart wholly and fully to those around him.  This deep-rooted love for the people in his life was the foundation of his sincerity and selflessness.  This was the inspiration for his ceaseless effort that enveloped all of the tasks in his life.

Before a game, Peter would rehearse his pregame speech in the solitude of his house or hotel room.

During practice, he had once crawled through the juniper bushes that surround Alumni Stadium, unearthing dozens of lacrosse balls that had not seen daylight in a decade.

On occasion, Peter joined the captains to lead our team stretch.  While far from fluent, he would count off in all sorts of “languages”: “Chinese”, “German”, “Spanish”, and the always popular “Alien” and “Caveman”.  In doing so, he would lift spirits, relax tension, and prepare the team to play Middlebury Lacrosse: loose but amped.

Pete treasured the seniors and captains, respected their role in guiding the team, and delighted in treating them to Senior Night which featured dinner at the restaurant of our choosing.

His eyes would tear up and he would struggle to find words when telling stories about his late-mother or his childhood.

He took thousands of pictures (thumbs included), meticulously placing them in hundreds of photo albums, documenting generations of teams, events, games, spring break trips, team functions, and reunions; he has thereby become one of Middlebury’s finest archivists.

My freshman year, upon his return to Middlebury from Cape May, he asked if I had time in my schedule to “stop for a few groceries”.  The next thing I knew, I was following Peter around the aisles of Shaw’s, balancing a stack of eight Swanson Hungry Boy Frozen Dinners, four boxes of frozen cream of spinach, three boxes of frozen Mac N Cheese, a pint of vanilla ice cream, a bottle of Palmolive, and a box of Q-Tips.  From then on, I always had the time and always brought a cart.

When taking a group out to dinner, Peter would clink a glass and announce to the table, “It has always been my policy that when we go to dinner you order anything you want and all that you want.”  With that he would give a smile and a nod and sit down, satisfied that he was allowing everyone to fully enjoy the meal he was providing.

Every time Pete sang he was striving for his best performance to date.  He would place his hat backwards, grab a “microphone”, stomp, clap, and improvise.  When singing “Dinah” he would always hit the high note on the last “Old Banjo”.

Not only did Peter Kohn have a generous heart, he had a grateful heart.  With great humility, he never missed an opportunity to thank God, his family, and his friends for all that he received and all of the good in his life.  That was Peter’s gift – to give and receive with equal sincerity and grace.

Peter Kohn huddleWe should all strive to embrace Peter’s advice, “to give it our all”.  We should give our whole hearts to the people we meet and the endeavors we undertake.  We should have gratitude for all the good in our lives.  Only then will we begin to experience, for ourselves, the special world in which Peter Kohn lived and thrived.

In his own words, from a speech in Vail (2008), I now repeat to Peter: “it’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here and share with you.  You have given me so much love and care through the many years.  I can never repay you all for that – there is just no way you can do that.”

Thank you, Peter Kohn.  May you rest in peace.