WORTHINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – It was nine years ago that beloved Thomas Worthington baseball coach and teacher Stephen Gussler died after a lengthy cancer battle. It was a loss that hit not just the Worthington community, but central Ohio at large.
But his legacy lives on in many ways, including through the Cardinals field hockey head coach, who made a promise to her friend, Stephen, before he died.
“The interactions with his players. He had that relationship where he could demand your absolute best in that coaching voice, but at the same time you knew he loved you,” said field hockey coach Terri Simonetti Frost.
For 15 seasons, Gussler served as the head coach of the TWHS baseball team. The last 6 years while battling cancer. He died in 2014, leaving behind a young family and a grieving Cardinal community. But the positivity and strength he showed inspired all who knew him.
“You just knew and learned from him that you can get through it. When you think you can’t go any further, you can,” said Simonetti Frost. “I mean he wanted to live so badly and so, I have to continue his legacy and continue to be a great coach at Thomas Worthington and try to keep remembering the things that he brought to his team and his community. Everything that he stood for. I hope I can represent in some small way.”
From day one, Simonetti Frost and Gussler were fast friends. So, before he died, she made a promise to him, regarding his youngest daughter, Jaidyn, who was just 6 years old when her dad died.
“I had promised her dad prior to his passing that I would not retire until she had gone through all 4 years with me. And I would win a state championship with her,” said Simonetti Frost.
Last season, in Jaidyn’s freshman year, that promise made was a promise kept. Thomas Worthington won its 7th state championship in school history.
“I knew they were very close, and they had a deep connection and that they would always talk to each other, and I always thought that was really special and cool,” said Jaidyn. “Being with her and having her coach me makes me close to him.”
“I said I promise I won’t leave. I will be here for you. I will be here for Jaidyn. And by God, I talk about him all the time just so she knows who he was because she was so young,” said Simonetti Forst. “To be honest with you, I don’t know how many memories she really remembers of him. But I want to share the memories that I have of him, so she knows what her dad was like and how much he meant to me and this program.”