Friday, June 11, 2010

Last night a gentleman I'd never seen before shuffled in to the pop tots classroom and sat down to observe. He was older, very tall, and dressed in black pants and a green blazer, the kind a theatre usher might wear. We get family guests coming in all the time, so I assumed he was one of the kids' grandfathers and continued with the class. Every time I glanced his way, he looked like he wanted to say something, but was laboring to find the words. Several times he stood up and took a few steps toward me, then sat down again. He stayed the full hour and at the end of the class, he came over to me, shook my hand, and asked me for my card, which I gave him. Then he left. All of us looked at each other and I asked the parents who he was. Nobody knew. I went downstairs and asked the park staff and they told me he was Ernie Terrell, world champion boxer who had famously lost to Ali in 1967 (beatdown!). Apparently, he started boxing at Fuller Park back in the day. Park Staffer Elaine said "they all come back to put it all back together, he's going back in time to figure it out". I ran out of the building to catch him in his car just as he was driving away. I shook his massive hand again and told him I was a fan of what he does. He said, "you're doing a great job with those kids" then he paused, looked up, and said to himself out loud, "they...they're gonna be ok" and finally 'I'll be getting in touch with you"
Then he drove off.

When I came home and looked him up, I found that he was also a record producer and singer. Terrell is the older brother of The Supremes early 1970s lead singer Jean Terrell. In the 1960s, she sang with his group, "Ernie Terrell & the Knockouts".