Sim Safford was a humorous, larger-than-life character who was a big part of the Sheboygan South community, according to Redwings athletic director Chris Hein.
“When he walked into any room, people just started smiling because you knew that there was probably some kind of exaggerated story that was going to be coming quickly,” he said. “He was a great storyteller, always the biggest personality in the room.”
Safford, 60, passed away unexpectedly on May 13 after long-term health issues.
The golf coach was replaced by TJ Pitsch, who spent four seasons on South’s varsity team before graduating in 2015.
Like most, Pitsch has countless stories and memories of Safford – including three (en route to a golf meet, during one and coming home from another) while he was in high school.
There was the time Safford was driving the team van to a meet and got pulled over. He told the officer he was going with the flow of traffic, but got a ticket and was pretty upset.
“I think he said we better not tell anybody about this,” Pitsch said.
Another incident left such an impression on Pitsch, he remembers the course (Blackwolf Run – Meadow Valleys Course) and the hole (No. 8) it was on.
Despite lousy weather, Pitsch hit a good shot onto the green. But he ended up four-putting even though the ball started six or seven feet from the hole.
Safford was nearby in his golf cart when a big gust of wind blew over Pitsch’s bag.
“I look over and he’s just laughing,” Pitsch said. “Seeing him laugh made me laugh.”
South would usually stop for food after meets, and Pitsch recalls a visit to Burger King’s drive-thru.
Pitsch does not like cheese, however, and his coach would always give him a hard time.
Bags of food were passed around and Pitsch’s burger had cheese on it.
“So I’m like, ‘are you kidding me?’” Pitsch said. “I screamed or something like that. And he knew right away; he turns to me in the van with a mouth full of food and just goes ‘Cheese?’ I said, ‘yep.’
“Right away he turns around, goes through the drive-thru, and this is an example of him exaggerating all the time, he says to the person: ‘we’ve got a kid who’s allergic to cheese and he took a bite. Now he’s swelling up like crazy. We need a new sandwich without cheese on it and then we’ve got to rush him to the hospital.’”
Those are only some of the reasons Safford was just named golf coach of the year in the Fox River Classic Conference.
Safford was born in Upper Michigan, attended Rapid River High School and then Lakeland College. He was a teacher and coach at South, and was well known as the public address announcer at events like basketball and volleyball.
Pitsch was with him to run the scoreboard, and they both taught math, so the way Safford could make people laugh is always going to be his favorite memory.
“It didn’t matter what was going on,” Pitsch said. “Whether you’re in a bad mood, whatever, he could always make you laugh. The stories he would tell, too. They were always exaggerated. And you’d probably hear the same story 10 times.
“But every single time, it would still make you laugh.”
Safford tributes pour in
There was plenty reaction on social media when news broke that Sim Safford passed away. Here is a sampling:
• I took care of Sim when he was in the hospital. I can say he loved his South High family. He talked about his students all the time, he talked about his family at South all the time. He choked up about how he missed y’all. He was a genuine soul. He will be greatly missed by all.
• He was an amazing teacher, helped me get my act together and become the developer I am today. God knows countless others you positively influenced as well. Rest in peace Mr. Safford, you will be missed!
• He was a lovely, great educator that made his students feel loved and accepted. We will miss you and just know you did help your students even if it wasn’t said aloud.
• He was a mentor of mine in middle school right before he got his teaching job. He used to meet me at Mead Public Library in his Orkin man suit.
• A tragic loss of a true icon and staple of so many sporting events for the community.
• It’s going on 25 years, but Mr. Safford was one of the few teachers who ‘got me,’ who made me feel respected – not just as a student – but as a real person. Whenever I thought about visiting my old stomping grounds, he was one of the few teachers I was looking forward to seeing. I was excited to show him far I went as a software engineer since he taught my first ‘official’ programming class. Thanks for everything, Mr. S!
• Mr. Safford was such a wonderful teacher. He truly cared about his students. I always struggled with math and it wasn’t my favorite subject, but I enjoyed his class because of his kindness and patience. I learned a lot from him. I always loved seeing all the autographed photos he had, and loved the fact that we both had a love for the band KISS.
• Mr. Safford went above and beyond for his students. He got certified for an AP programming class so my peers and I would be able to take it at South. He took on the coach of the distance runner group on the track team when no one else would. He had an enthusiasm that was infectious and an example for everyone. I will remember and appreciate him for as long as I live.
• He was the definition of “the man, the myth, the legend.”
• Truly an amazing teacher. Math was one of my most dreaded subjects when entering high school but he made it fun and interesting. I learned new ways of looking at things and how to change my perspective. It’s truly an honor to have known him. Rest easy.
• My son played unified Special Olympics basketball with Sim 20-some years ago, along with player and Coach Jamie Berlin, and learned a lot from these guys, especially shooting three-pointers. My son, now 48, still plays Special Olympics basketball here in Sheboygan and is still shooting those three-pointers just like they taught him. Thank you Sim & Jamie for caring about, playing, and coaching these athletes.
• One of the best and most fun human beings to walk the Earth.