LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Toni Morrison, Nipsey Hussle, John Paul Stevens - just some of the high-profile people who died this year. But this weekend, we're hearing from you about the people you knew who lived exceptional lives outside of the spotlight. David John Wilson of Scottsdale, Ariz., wrote to us about LeRoy Eaton, known as Roy.
DAVID JOHN WILSON: He was very similar to myself. He was small-statured, rigid-structured. You know, he came out of, you know, military schools. And he was tough.
FADEL: They got to know each other when Wilson was in high school. Roy Eaton was a wrestling coach, and Wilson wanted to be on the team.
WILSON: I was the smallest student in school. I was 4-foot-8 and very small, undersized.
FADEL: But Roy Eaton took a chance on Wilson. Later in life, they became close friends. Roy and his wife never had kids, but Wilson says Roy treated his former wrestlers like family. When Roy wanted to have a reunion, he even paid for 21 of them and their spouses to join him on a Caribbean cruise. During that trip, David Wilson realized just how far Roy Eaton had gone to support him back in high school.
WILSON: The athletic director and other school officials asked him into their office and told him that he needed to cut that little kid, which was me, from the team because I was a liability and a risk to myself of injury and to the school. And Roy stood his ground and said, no, I'm not going to cut that guy. He's tough. He gets through practices. And I have a no-cut policy. If you can get through it, I don't care what you are. You're on my team.
FADEL: Wilson said that decision had a profound impact on him.
WILSON: The sport itself was a centerpiece of my life because I did quite well. It got me recruited by some top schools, gave my parents some financial aid. You know, I studied computer science and mechanical engineering, and that is where I met my wife. And he set me on my way, and I owe him a lot.
FADEL: Roy Eaton's heart failed October 15 during his regular workout swimming laps. He was 73. David John Wilson says the way Roy lived continues to inspire him.
WILSON: He really stressed honor and, you know, the military code - honor, integrity - and that, combined with the coaching philosophies of, you know, work hard and be respectful of your opponent. I just wish there were more Roys out there, and life would be a better place.
(SOUNDBITE OF JAKOB BRO'S "HEROINES")
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