Three years ago Pat Pfeifer was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, the gland that secretes insulin to regulate body sugar levels.
Symptoms are like Type 1 or insulin-dependent (once called juvenile) diabetes .
While that malady can be regulated, cancer is insidious. Pat’s disease, in remission for a couple of years, is back with a vengeance, longtime friend and coaching compatriot Rick Giampietri said.
“When it went away, doctors thought he possibly had gotten lucky,” Central Valley’s football head coach said. “There was a small spot, but it just got worse.”
Giampietri had called to say they scheduled a gathering for friends on Dec. 12. The event has been canceled.
Like a diabetic, Pfeifer suffered dramatic weight loss because of cancer’s effect. Following treatment in 2007 we talked about his ordeal, which entailed two major surgeries and 10 weeks in the hospital.
Being able to coach again, which he did as an assistant at CV, was his salvation, Pfeifer said.
A year later we spent an evening in the press box at Richland’s Fran Rish Stadium, where he made calls of defensive and offensive alignments for coaches on the field during CV’s state playoff victory over the Bombers, and helped his daughter Stephanie compile play-by-play statistics.
“He is invaluable, a second set of eyes,” Giampietri said. “We used him in the booth exclusively and he did a great job of telling us what went on in the game.”
Pfeifer coached through this season although it was evident during a preseason practice that the cancer had returned.
“He kept thanking me for doing it,” Giampietri said. “I said, ‘I’m thanking you.’ ”
Pfeifer and Giampietri go back to their youth playing sports in the park. They were teammates at North Central and Eastern Washington. Pfeifer began coaching at Lewis and Clark as a volunteer in 1966 before he graduated from college and got Giampietri a job there in 1970. They assisted for 13 years with the Tigers and spent the past nine seasons together at CV.
“I knew he was loose and just liked his mind,” Giampietri said of the hire.
Pfeifer’s resume includes 12 seasons of a 42-year football coaching career as head coach at Ferris, guiding the Saxons to their first state semifinal in 1988 and teaching his son Mike, who set quarterback records.
He coached 38 years of track, 23 as head either of boys or girls and one year of both, winning two GSL titles. He also assisted in basketball and wrestling, a total of 96 sports seasons over the years. He coached twice at the East-West All-State summer football game and is a past president of the Washington State Coaches Association.
Giampietri has set the wheels in motion for his friend to be honored by his peers for those accomplishments.
We can offer our prayers to Pfeifer and his family.
Deer Park Invite
The wrestling tournament season always begins at Deer Park – a good early-season gauge for teams. The Stags, under coach Matt Jorgensen, have won the last two State 2A championships.
Saturday’s 16-school field for the event that begins at 9 a.m. includes Greater Spokane League teams Mead, East Valley, Ferris, North Central, Mt. Spokane and Lewis and Clark.
Most of the Great Northern League – Riverside, Cheney, Medical Lake, Colville and Pullman – join Deer Park. Class A power Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) is there as well.
“It should be a good one,” said Jorgensen.