A light drizzle could not dampen the spirits of those who gathered Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the life of the late Joe Wakeland with the unveiling of a monument dedicated in his honor.
Perry Giles of Giles Monument began the ceremony with the construction details on the roughly three-foot-tall grey marble memorial.
Part of that process included four shops in four different states that worked together to perfect the photo on the front side with a smiling Joe wearing a Waxahachie ISD Athletics Hall of Fame ballcap.
Joe was inducted into the hall of fame in 2014 but did not take a photo in the hat before his sudden passing April 21, 2016. The cap, Giles explained, was photoshopped onto the picture before being etched into the marble.
Joe was a longtime Waxahachie ISD coach at the junior high and high school levels, including the Waxahachie Runnin' Indians, Indian football, and Lady Indian softball.
He also graduated from Waxahachie High School in 1971, where he starred in baseball and basketball.
Will Wakeland, his son, explained to those in attendance the meaning behind the quote on the front of the monument, which was made famous by the movie, "Sandlot." The quote reads, "There are heroes and there are legends. Heroes get remembered by legends never die."
"My dad was always a big sports guy and baseball guy, so I thought it would be good for generations of people to come out and see it and think it is some profound saying," Will said. "It just says that your actions will carry on and your legacy will live on if you make something of yourself. I thought it would be good on there. I think they did a great job with the detailing and it took a while for them to [build the momument]. I'm glad they got it right."
Waxahachie head softball coach Steve Howell and several Lady Indians were also in attendance. Joe was an assistant softball coach when he passed away in 2016. The Lady Indians were often referred to as "Joe's Angels."
Howell recalled Joe being "a great guy and a great guy to work with. He was always good around all of the girls and all of the girls liked him."
He also drew a laugh from the crowd when he remembered times Joe would "say stuff that was real funny sometimes and I would have to say, 'Joe, you can't say that.'"
"Joe was a great guy, did a great job and had an impact on all of our girls — especially our juniors and seniors. He was a great friend and great coach," said Howell as his voice cracked. "I miss him every day. Our girls still take the field and write JW [in the sand] before every game, so he hasn't been forgotten."
The family then presented scholarships to current and former Waxahachie Lady Indian softball players, which were made possible through donations from the public to the Joe Wakeland memorial fund.
"The gracious people of the Ellis County area were nice enough to put some money forward for these girls that my dad loved to coach so much," Will said. "You guys meant so much to him."
Debra Wakeland, Joe's wife, added that the average donation was about $25 and then presented each player with a $500 scholarship.
One of those recipients was Ariel Ortiz, who is currently in her senior year at Texas State University. Her mother, April Ortiz, read the backside of the monument aloud to the gathering.
It reads, "Joe achieved success because he lived well, laughed often and loved much. Dedicated husband to Debra and loving father to Joe Wilson Wakeland.
"Dedicated to his students and team, retiring from WISD, ending his time leading the Lady Indians softball team, 'Joe's Angels.'
"Dedicated to winning. The Club Champion of the Waxahachie Country Club Senior Tournament and inducted into the Waxahachie Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.
UTA baseball, Trinity University baseball, and UTA and Kilgore College basketball. If there was a ball bouncing in the neighborhood, Joe Wakeland was playing.
"Dedicated to making everyone laugh, at the happiest and saddest times. He was a record holder, a champion, a medalist.
"In a word, he was sensational."