Retirement hasn't been easy for Pete Pompey.
Since ending a 31-year high school coaching career in 2004 that spanned both Edmondson and Dunbar high schools, the Baltimore icon has developed severe dementia and been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can't write, doesn't remember his birthday and often forgets where he lives.
But on Saturday, the 72-year-old Pompey was reminded — at least for a moment — of the lasting impact he made on his home city.
"I did this," said Pompey, watching as more than two-dozen of his former students participated in a basketball doubleheader at Edmondson High School. "Yep, I did this."
He was right. About 200 people gathered at the West Baltimore school Saturday to honor the legendary football and basketball coach. The games, which were comprised of Pompey's former players from the 1980s and 1990s, helped raise money to cover his medical costs. The event featured an auction, concessions and an all-white after party at Poets Athletic Club.
It was a necessary occasion for a community to give back to one of its most giving members.
Pompey, who won 553 of 776 career games as a football and men's basketball coach at Edmondson and Dunbar, was hospitalized two months ago with dementia. While there, doctors said he would require 24-hour care.
But Pompey's insurance doesn't cover an in-home nurse, and his two primary caregivers — his wife, Barbara, and his youngest daughter, Rhonda McNair — don't have incomes.
So McNair reached out to one of Pompey's former Dunbar players, David Lewis, who suggested an alumni basketball doubleheader.
The responses were immediate.
Former athletes jumped at the opportunity to support their coach, to give back to a man who played a pivotal role in their development.
After all, Pompey was more than just a mentor to many of his former players. He was a father figure, someone who taught right from wrong and instilled a desire to learn.
Although he won numerous awards and championships — including leading an undefeated team to USA Today's No. 1 national ranking in 1992 — Pompey was most concerned with his players' wellbeing.
When Lewis learned his senior year his family was about to lose electricity, Pompey covered the costs to keep it on. When Bernie Vaughn — an Edmondson wide receiver in the early 1980s — failed the 10th grade, Pompey told him he could play professionally if he started focusing on his academics. And when LaTasha Lee — a Dunbar cheerleader and sprinter in the early 1990s — needed a ride to her summer job, Pompey dropped her off and picked her up.
"He took care of us," said Lee, who helped organize Saturday's fundraiser. "There are a lot of options to do the wrong thing out here for a kid, and he was always there helping steer us in the right way. He was always willing to go that extra mile."
It's a philosophy McNair hopes to continue.
After using the funds from the doubleheader and after party to help her father, she plans to establish a foundation to help families of people with dementia. She wants to raise awareness about the devastating disease, to teach others how to care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease. The basketball games would become an annual fundraiser for the non-profit organization.
But on Saturday, McNair wasn't focused on the future. She was content being surrounded by friendly faces. She was content reveling in everything her father has done.
"He was always a man who brought his work home with him," McNair said. "He cared so much about all the kids in the community that I kind of had to share him a little bit. But I didn't mind. It just made me respect him even more."
And according to Barbara Pompey, her husband hasn't stopped caring. His short-term memory may be failing, but he still remembers his life's top priority.
"Sometimes we'll be home watching a T.V. show or something," Barbara said, "and he'll just say, 'I want to help the kids.'"