Beyond his one year of Army service in Vietnam, Dusty Anchors had not lived more than 70 miles outside of Seattle until recently.
Anchors and his wife of 35 years moved to the Battle Ground area to be closer to their oldest daughter and newborn grandbaby.
Now in his second season as head softball coach for the Ridgefield High School Spudders, Anchors is carrying real life lessons onto the field every day.
Anchors, 67, was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. The first side effect showed up in the form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1985.
“I was stationed in Da Nang, helicopter crew, and we were exposed to it every day. We didn't know of course what the side effects would be,” he said.
A tumor developed near his heart. He said it was the size of a softball.
After that, he suffered a heart attack in 2006 and underwent open heart surgery 10 years ago. Then, in January of this year, he was diagnosed with stag-four heart failure. He was told he had five months to live.
“When you are a kid, you know you are going to die. It's around you but when you have someone sit across from you and say, this is your time frame, it puts a whole different perspective on everything,” Anchors said.
Anchors worried about telling his team. He also had to decide if he wanted to return to coaching.
“Softball is softball, but softball is also about life,” Anchors said. “We’re a family and your family needs to know.”
Players told FOX 12 they all shared tears after learning the news.
“It makes me appreciate time more. Doing what I am doing, right now, is important and just realizing the good things,” said Calli Martin.
Anchors didn’t have to coach this season, and his players would have understood, but he’s out to share his passion for the game and for the students.
“If I have a 10-foot wall, I am going to find a 12-foot ladder to get over it. If it's a 15-foot wall, I am going to find a 25-foot ladder to get over it. So I am out to prove my doctors wrong right now,” he said.
Ridgefield’s goal is to win state, which would be Anchors’ first WIAA championship.
“It just shows the love and the passion that he has for the game which makes us want to be better,” said Emma Jenkins.
But a trophy isn’t the ultimate prize.
“I have my up and down days now, but I keep in focus that it's not about me. It's about these young ladies right here,” he said.
One special young lady in Anchors’ life is his youngest daughter, Kelsey, who played softball at Oklahoma State. She now coaches boys baseball at North Valley in Medford.
She is getting married in July and her father plans to walk her down the aisle.
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