Worthington News

Remaining 'GussStrong'

Community gathers at TWHS to say goodbye to coach Stephen Gussler

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The Worthington community will continue to be "GussStrong."

That was the basic message shared by hundreds of people who have spoken out over the past week, since the death of Thomas Worthington High School baseball coach and teacher Stephen Gussler Jr.

Gussler died May 27 after a six-year battle with cancer.

During a candlelight vigil the next night, at calling hours June 2 at the school and through written messages and social media, those who were touched by the inspirational man shared his message and their determination to continue to live by his example of strength and optimism.

The vigil was put together by members of the baseball team, who spelled out OTS 15 in candles on the pitcher's mound. OTS stands for only the strong; 15 was Gussler's jersey number.

Nearly 1,000 people filled the baseball field that night to share their memories and promise to carry on as Gussler would want them to.

"We all know Stephen is looking down on us, and the last thing he wants us to do is continue being sad," said Sean Luzader, a fellow teacher and friend of Gussler's.

Himself stricken with medical issues similar to Gussler's, Luzader experienced the inspiration and caring of the legendary coach.

"It is our duty as a 'GussStrong' family to continue to move forward and inspire other people," he said. "It's about being GussStrong for your life."

Other speakers said Gussler was a man who never complained, who always appreciated the small things in life and who never took a day for granted.

"Cherish the daily grind" was a message shared by many, including those who signed message boards at the gathering June 2 at the school.

Among the answers to "What Coach Guss taught me" were:

* "To stay positive no matter the situation, the pain or the struggle."

* "To live life to the fullest."

* "He has taught me that Worthington is more than a community; it is a family."

Gussler, 43, coached the Cardinals from 1998 to 2013 before stepping down this year.

He had fought colon cancer for six years. In 2010, he was told he had nine to 12 months to live.

As he fought his medical battle, the Thomas Worthington community supported him via the "GussStrong" movement, which included a foundation, events, fundraisers and thousands of "GussStrong" T-shirts.

Thomas Worthington athletics director Scott Dorne closed the candlelight vigil by calling Gussler a game changer for young men and for the Worthington community. And that won't change, he said.

"Remember that the community will always be GussStrong," he said.

For more reaction in the sports community, go to ThisWeekSPORTS.com.

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