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In Memory of Wougger (Doug Orr)

March 15, 2002

Editor’s note: This eulogy was semi-delivered at Doug Orr’s memorial service, held at Mariner’s Church in Newport Beach, CA, on March 16, 2002. Doug was a friend of Dan Wallace’s in high school.

I was a student at CdM [Corona del Mar] my last two years of high school, transferring from cross-town rival, Harbor High. When I went out for football, I was stunned to see on the practice field this tall, awkward four-eyed kid that everybody called “Wougger.” He didn’t belong there, I thought. He was slow, uncoordinated, and lacking in both strength and attitude (football is not for nice guys). It was obvious that he had some sort of physical malady that made him the way he was. And that was enough for me to write him off. He just didn’t belong on a football field. But as we went through two-a-days, and scrimmages, and fundamentals, and runs up “the Hill,” I would often look around to see if Wougger was still there. He was. To be sure, he always brought up the rear, but he was there. I thought for sure that he’d throw in the towel any day now. But he didn’t… so I didn’t. I’ve never seen anyone with as big a heart as Wougger had. Just today I learned from John Moody that Doug Orr had been invited by Coach Holland to join the varsity team—and that this invitation turned Doug’s life around.

That was remarkable insight on Dave Holland’s part, because Doug Orr became the heart and soul of our team. If you’ve ever seen the film “Rudy” you know what I’m talking about. Wougger was the Rudy of the Sea Kings. And, like Rudy, Doug got into the game one time his senior year, and that was enough. His whole life, and our whole team—that magical bond that young men can forge with each other—was summed up in that one play. (It was the last play of a particular game; the quarterback fell back and tossed a pass, trying desperately to score. Wougger had his hands up, trying desperately to block the pass. The ball actually hit him on the helmet and bounced harmlessly away. At 6’ 4”, one can see why Wougger’s helmet blocked the pass! This was an unlikely act of heroism by an unlikely hero, but it was vintage Wougger. The team cheered, Wougger beamed; the game was over, and CdM won.) My senior year at Corona was the best season our school had had; it was the first season we ever beat an Anaheim school. And Wougger was, in a very real sense, the inspiration behind it all. He symbolized our place in life: we were the Cinderella at the ball, the unlikely candidate for glory who got it—not because of ability, but because of heart and loyalty and perseverance.

I wept when I got the news of Wougger’s death today. I had seen him only once since high school, at the 30th anniversary of our high school graduation in August 2000. Unlike many of us, he hadn’t changed! He was the same old lovable Wougger. And it seemed like only a few days had passed since I had seen him last. I learned this week that he has been the voice of CdM football and basketball—or, as Rich Kredel called him, the Chick Hearn of the Sea Kings—for the past several years. It didn’t surprise me. Wougger loved Corona, and gave his heart and soul to the school when he was a student there. Announcing games was just an extension of this love affair.

Last night, I took a long walk with two of my boys. We talked about the implications of Jesus’ statement, “to the one whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12.48). I told them, “God expects you to play the cards you’ve been dealt. Some people are smart, good-looking, athletic, and capable of multitasking. Others have none of these abilities. But God expects you to be faithful.” That was Wougger; Doug was faithful to use the gifts God had given him—to the max! Frankly, I don’t know anyone who has lived up to his potential as much as Wougger did.

But more important than all his perseverance, all his positive attitude toward life, all his dogged determination, Doug embraced him who is Life. Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6). The great truth of the gospel is that there is eternal life awaiting those who trust only in Jesus Christ’s righteousness to save them from their sins. No amount of good works, of perseverance, of positive attitude, of dogged determination has any merit before the holy God who must—because of his holiness—judge all sin. But God has judged sin by sending his own Son to die in our place; he has paid the price that no man can afford. And his resurrection from the dead is God’s receipt for a bill completely paid. When Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” he used a word that was often written on business documents in the ancient world. It meant “paid in full.” My friend, Doug Orr, knows this well, because he is now basking in the presence of his Lord and Savior. There can be no doubt that the Sovereign of the Universe, that man from Galilee, has already told his child, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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