Looking for a Love Story?

There are some great ones out there:

Romeo and Juliet.

Edward and Bella.

Ivan and Gloria.

Yep, you read that right. Ivan and Gloria.

There’s probably only one thing Ivan McGlone loved more than Russell High School football and that was his wife and soul-mate Gloria. She lost her hard-fought battle with breast cancer on Saturday morning. Few were more courageous.

Ivan McGlone is Russell’s 73-year-old high school coaching legend. He has guided the program to a pair of state championships since taking over in 1976. He is beloved in the community, somebody fathers and sons and even grandsons relate to because generations have played for him.

Guess who has been there every step of the way?

Gloria McGlone.

Even though breast cancer took a lot out of Gloria in the last few years, her will to be there for Ivan kept her going longer than may thought possible. She has always been there for him. He made eye contact with her from the stands after the wins and after the losses. And, when their eyes met, it was kismet. They did so with the passion that comes to couples who have endured the good times and the bad, couples who understand what love really means.

You want a snapshot of love? Take any chapter from the Book of McGlone.

They have dealt with great tragedies and great triumphs and they dealt with it faithfully together. They have cried together, laughed together and shared a life together.

They were kindred spirits whose love for each other was so transparent that anybody who was ever around them could almost reach out and touch it. It was that deep-down love, the kind we all hope to find sometime in our lives.

Despite her bouts with cancer, when she didn’t feel like doing much of anything, she pushed herself to make it to Russell football games. Gloria would sit in the stands with Grady and Sue Walter, dear friends of the McGlones since Ivan came to Russell. Grady was his right-hand man on the coaching staff for years and the families drew close because of it. They count each other as family.

Gloria McGlone made it to all but three games in her husband’s long coaching career, an amazing achievement given her health situation over the past few years. But she enjoyed it as much as Ivan, who gained his 300th Russell victory last season, and wouldn’t have missed one second of it.

She went to Hawaii once when he was coaching at Vinson. She went to a nephew’s marriage in Florida another time and three years ago the McGlone’s daughter talked Gloria into staying home because of health issues.

“She said it was the most miserable Friday night she could ever remember,” Ivan said.

So she didn’t miss another one, even though her health was declining.

Gloria did it for the love of her life. She did it for Ivan.

She never wanted him looking up into the stands and not see her there supporting him. She was there for better or worse, after the biggest wins (which they were many) and the toughest losses (which have been few), supporting him every first down of the journey.

He celebrated with her every step of his Hall of Fame career.

I remember watching Ivan after Russell defeated Owensboro Catholic for the state title in 2005. His first move wasn’t to raise his hands in jubilation. His first move was to lock eyes with Gloria. Then he practically ran – at least as much as Ivan could run – toward the stands. Their embrace should have included fireworks going off overhead. They did for all practical purposes.

His victory was her victory.

That’s how love stories are.

The days, weeks, months and seasons ahead will be tough for Ivan McGlone. But the memories of Gloria will always make him smile, make him remember what love felt like. She’s still there with him, if only in spirit, looking out over the Red Devils.

Always, forever and ever.

After all, real love stories never end.

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