[caption id="attachment_1720" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Dave, Rick, Dad, Sax, John, Gene, Arn"][/caption]
I suppose at first glance it may seem a little unorthodox to include a guy in my series on the Placencias who isn't related to us at all. But I think most Placencias would agree, we wouldn't be the family we are today without Ray "Bud" Saxer. He's had a profound influence on my family, especially my Dad and all of his brothers, as he trained each and every one of them as they grew up in the Dekalb County Boxing Club.
If I have my story straight, Uncle John was the first one to take up the sport and each of his younger brothers followed suit. They all started off at a young age (I don't know exactly how old they were when they started, but they're pretty tiny in some of the pictures I've seen) and "Sax" instilled in them more than just how to hit someone and block a punch; he taught them about life, things like the importance of perseverance, working hard to achieve goals, and respect. Sax was a mentor, an advisor and in many ways, a father figure.
Naturally, Sax came to know my entire family throughout the years and I think I can speak for most Placencias when I say he has become family to us. He was always at our family reunions, he came to most of my school events, and when my family went through tough times, he and his wife Margie were always there as a rock for us to lean on.
A lot of people compare Sax to "Mickey" from the Rocky movies and I can understand that. He had white hair for as long as I knew him, he's a boxing coach, he tells it like it is...but Sax is more than that. For starters, Sax was hilarious. He loved hearing jokes, he loved telling jokes, and he taught me to eat a banana "like the monkeys do."
Sax and Dad worked together in a painting business and I worked with them for a couple of years after I was out of school. There are things I still say to this day that I picked up from Sax during that time: phrases like "Oh yes," Yesiree, Sir," and "Hey fellas." Sax was a heck of a whistler and every day at lunch we would to listen to Paul Harvey while Sax chuckled along at the anecdotes. And when someone crossed Sax, look out. His profane rants were some of the most hilarious monologues I've heard in my life and when he would finish he would catch his breath, look at me, make his lips go all crooked and wonky, and then smile.
A lot of things I learned about my family, I learned from Sax. He would tell me about the early days of the boxing club and how my Dad and uncles would train in a barn with no heat in the middle of an Indiana winter. He would tell me stories about my Grandma and Grandpa and even recollect tales of my Dad and uncles going off to (and returning from) war. Obviously he was a great boxing coach, as my Dad and his brothers all went on to become quite talented in the ring. Of course, Sax would always give the credit to the fact that "the Placencia boys always worked harder than anyone."
Sax loved our family as much as he loved his own and it became even more evident as Sax got older. In the last few years of his life, he allowed himself to become more open and vulnerable, and rarely would I see him where he wouldn't talk about our family, telling stories, and ultimately tearing up. It gave him such a joy to reminisce and pass on tales and I cherished every one of them he had to share.