Fridays always were Walt Braun’s days.
Every Friday night during his 33 years of coaching Marysville football, the bleachers were crammed with spectators hoping to see one of his hundreds of wins as a coach. People showed up in their favorite jersey, the band blared the fight song and seeing a Viking costume in the sea of people was almost the standard.
Yesterday, at the late Braun’s memorial service, it was just another classic Vikings Friday at the stadium named after him.
Once again, the bleachers were filled for the legend. Instead of watching one of his wins, they told one of hundreds of stories about their old ball coach. Former players and fans showed up in their old, worn out blue jerseys. The band played for him one last time. Sure enough, a man clad in a Viking costume was present.
Braun’s Marysville-blue casket was also stationed on the same sideline where he coached his players, right on the 50 yard line. It could easily have been a somber day, but the memory of Bruan’s sense of humor and appreciation for blonde and redneck jokes wouldn’t allow it.
“If a blonde and a brunette both dive out of a plane, who would hit the ground first?” Rev. Brendon Aspenson of the Community Wesleyan Church asked to start the service in Braun-like fashion. “The brunette, because the blonde would stop and ask for directions.”
The joke was followed by one of Braun’s eight grandchildren, Mikayla Warner, playing “Amazing Grace” on a trumpet.
From there, the memories began.
Dave Houck, who coached with Braun, was one of the first people to speak about Braun’s impact on the community. He asked for every former player, coach, cheerleader, teacher and administrator who knew Braun to stand up.
Hardly anyone was still sitting on the bleachers. One of those standing was Jeff Poulsen, whose family moved when he was 3 years old so he could be coached by Braun one day. Even though Poulsen never got to play under Braun, he still showed up to many flag football, wrestling and baseball contests while he was growing up.
“It didn’t matter how old you were, he knew your name,” the 2001 Marysville High graduate said. “He was one of the greatest men ever.”
To end Houck’s speech, he pointed out the service was held on the same day football teams can start full-contact practice — or “Christmas Day,” as Braun would have called it.
Braun’s long-time friend Dick Denuyl spent half an hour telling jokes and reflecting on Braun’s knack for a laugh.
Denuyl told the story of how Braun once moved all the Denuyls’ furniture into the basement, making them think they were robbed while they had been playing euchre next door.
Denuyl said he got his revenge by taking all the tires off Braun’s car.
The Rev. Aspenson closed the service stating, “Somewhere in heaven, a much more organized game of football is being played.”
Before the band cued up the fight song to end the memorial, three doves were released from their cage.
They flew over the 50 yard line of the field Braun once dominated.
They turned left and soared over the school where he’d changed so many lives.
From there, the doves disappeared into the city that Braun helped put on the map, one Friday at a time.