The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Mr. Coy was lone neighbor that didn’t shun students

Living in a neighborhood where the majority of residents are adults and families is not the prime way to spend these off-campus years.

I made this assumption shortly after I moved into the house I live in now and attempted to be neighborly to people in the houses around me.

Let’s just say it hasn’t gone well, overall.

Take for instance the couple across the street, who live in a house that takes up an entire block. I can’t even fathom how many times I’ve waved, or just said “hi.” Yet every time, they react with a blank look on their faces that barely hides their contempt that college students live in their beloved neighborhood.

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Or there are the people to the right of my house, who proudly display Confederate flags in the back window of their duelie pick-up. Yes, even the rednecks can’t spare a second to greet me.

But one neighbor always was nice to me. When I stopped at his house to say hi and introduce myself, he was actually glad to see me.

He was Dick Coy, a 67-year-old retired history professor who loved his Democratic Party, had loved to play football and spent time in the Army.

The first time I stopped at his house was when I saw his son and him cutting wood about a year ago. I had to ask him a question for a class project, and he sat down and ended up visiting with me for 45 minutes.

We watched his son keep working and he told me about the history of the neighborhood. He knew that the house I live in was built by a wealthy lumber baron and that it had an expansive pasture in the back where cows grazed.

Since that time, the house has been hacked into four apartments where eight people live. Mr. Coy remembered when at least 20 people lived in the house, and that they made a lot of noise.

But when he talked about the noise, he didn’t say it with that snide, contemptuous look that usually follows statements like that. He laughed, and told me about how he liked to have fun when he was young.

I told him if it ever got too loud, he should come over and tell us so we didn’t disturb him. Keep in mind, I didn’t offer this consideration to my socially challenged neighbors, nor do I plan to.

His response to my offer was another laugh, after which he said to have fun – he and his wife slept in a room on the other side of the house, and no way would they hear.

His only request was that he never had to hear rap music.

So as the year passed, we had a few more conversations, waved often and I never played loud rap music.

Then it seemed like he wasn’t outside as much as he had been. In fact, I hardly saw him at all during the summer.

Then in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, fire engines and ambulances surrounded the Coys’ home. I asked a paramedic what had happened and he said Mr. Coy, who had been suffering from cancer, had stopped breathing. He died later in the day.

Since his death, I’ve learned more about who he was. He was a very respected man at this university and in the community.

He was active in the labor movement, a member of the governor’s faculty compensation committee and a chairman of the Committee on Political Education for almost 20 years.

I’ve talked with his widow, met his children and saw his baby grandson just a few days ago on their porch. I didn’t go to his funeral or anything, but they said it was packed. I believe it – there must have been a lot of people who interacted with him and would have wanted to say goodbye.

And so even though I didn’t know him well, I’m glad I was able to talk with him a few times.

He was a friendly guy who was a bright spot in my neighborhood. Mr. Coy is proof that not all grown-ups hate college kids living near them, and if more people took his attitude, there wouldn’t be all this controversy about students in the Third Ward.

I know I’ll miss the waves and greetings, but at least I got to know him a little bit. I hope he knew how cool he was to take a little time to visit.

I know I did.

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Mr. Coy was lone neighbor that didn’t shun students