Since 1990, Ed Latimer has been a fixture at St. Mary's, either on the playing field, in the classroom or as a fan of the many who wore the Pirates' kelly green.
That's why his peers and friends face a difficult adjustment after summer break. Latimer is riding into the sunset, off to enjoy the bounty of his nine grandchildren following an 11-year run as athletic director in which St. Mary's claimed three state titles and became a perennial small-school power in volleyball, girls' soccer and girls' basketball.
'He was always that rock, not just for the coaches, but for the players and parents, too, ' 13th-year Pirates volleyball coach Melissa Sweeney said. 'There was unconditional support that he gave us. He understood the many different hats, being a coach and parent himself. That's what comes to mind when I think of Mr. Latimer. '
A track athlete at East Texas State - now known as Texas A&M-Commerce - Latimer later embarked on a military career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a major in 1994. By that time, he and his family had settled in Colorado Springs, four years earlier accepting a position to coach track at St. Mary's.
He then moved into the classroom, working at St. Mary's as a history teacher, ascending to dean of students from 1999-2001. The next year, he succeeded Pirates Hall of Famer Robert Otto as the school's athletic director.
'That seemed like a logical progression for me, ' Latimer said. 'Athletics was a passion for me. '
Once on board in that capacity, Latimer changed the culture around the St. Mary's athletics program, especially in girls' soccer, which won consecutive 3A state titles in 2009-10 after falling in the championship game the two previous years. Success in volleyball (11 state berths in 13 seasons) and girls' basketball (three of five) followed as long-tenured coaches planted roots fostered in Latimer's belief in developing the whole person, not just the athlete.
Add a boys' 3A soccer state title in 2010, and that adds up to three titles during his tenure. The school, established in 1885, had previously won just two state crowns.
'For him to turn us into a small-school power in a number of sports speaks well of him, ' said 12th-year girls' soccer coach Gregg Braha. 'He has assembled a nice group. The ones who wanted to be there bought in and were all on the same page. And the whole time, it wasn't about him at all. He had a strong sense of service to the school, the kids and the coaches. '
Now, a different type of service calls.
'I made a decision this past September to step down as athletic director and retire, ' Latimer said. 'This was due to the fact that I have nine grandkids, and I felt the Lord said that it was time for me to devote more time to my family. '
For 23 years, he guided a different kind of family, one that played, studied, prayed and celebrated together. Many weekends started with Latimer on hand at an early morning volleyball match, often followed by soccer and then football games under the lights of the gleaming Grace Center.
Soon, he'll still be watching, but from a much different point of view, as he witnesses another generation playing the games that kept him young at heart.
'It's time for Ed to have that luxury to enjoy those moments with his family, ' Sweeney said. 'He's given so many moments to us, and he has sacrificed a lot. We appreciate what he and his family have done for the St. Mary's community. '
Mike Burkett, one of the few coaches on the Pirates' staff before Latimer earned his promotion to athletic director, will miss the personal interaction, along with support from a colleague and longtime friend.
'During the season, I'd be in his office three to four days a week, just bouncing things off him, ' said Burkett, whose 15th season as girls' basketball coach ended with a heartbreaking loss in the 3A state championship game. 'He helped me develop into a better coach, especially in relating to the kids. I'm very appreciative to Ed for that.
'I know the new AD will do great, but St. Mary's will lose when Ed walks out that door. Everything goes on, though, and it has been an honor to get to know him. '