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A Most Unusual Man
Douglas S. Looney
September 04, 1989
ROLAND ORTMAYER HAS BEEN TOUCHING PLAYERS' LIVES AT DIVISION III LA VERNE FOR FOUR DECADES
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September 04, 1989

A Most Unusual Man

ROLAND ORTMAYER HAS BEEN TOUCHING PLAYERS' LIVES AT DIVISION III LA VERNE FOR FOUR DECADES

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Your figure and curves intrigue me
Your power astonishes me
My lack of respect concerns me
Now I've changed since you burned me.

"You are all going to get A's," Ort tells the students. "So if you're working hard to get an A, forget it. You've got it." He just wants them to learn. They do. Preparing to move toward the Yellowstone River, Anderson finishes tying the kayaks on the top of the van. Ort watches but says nothing. Anderson knows it's not quite right. "It isn't great, but I guess it will be O.K.," he says.

Ort: "Try to be great."

Anderson reties the knots. A lesson.

Back at La Verne, Ort jumps onto a retaining wall, balances himself and walks along it—as boys have done since time immemorial. "I do it because I'd feel terrible if the moment came when I was afraid to do it," he says. He promised himself at 15 that he would not get old—which meant he would not get bald, wear glasses or grow fat. Two out of three isn't bad. His weight is down to 230 now, heading, Ort promises, for 200.

The sun is setting on the day and, relentlessly, on Ort's career. "I'm having a miserable football season but a great archery class," he says with a big pumpkin smile, and while the glory of Ort is all the lives he has touched, the sadness is all the lives he won't touch. "Life is a series of steps," he says. "No one of them is all that important. The more ways I can touch people and the more people who can touch me, the greater life is. But nothing I do is finished." Then, Ort says lightly:

"Some day in May, I'll just walk away."

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