A Lesson Taught Long Ago — Two Miners Connect Through the Late Ben Collins

By Mark S. McDonald Sr., fallible football follower

A Miner forever – Jesse “Pool” Webb – passed away last week, right here, within six blocks of my current residence in Midland, Texas. He was 81.

Moments like this one make me feel blind, deaf and dumb. Really dumb.

Somehow, Pool Webb and I never met.

But we should have. Webb’s obit reads like so:

“Pool was born in 1937 to James E. Webb and Faye Pool Webb. He graduated from Texas Western College with a degree in mechanical engineering and played on the football team. He married Jill Donohue in 1959. Pool served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He volunteered to serve on the El Paso Sun Bowl Host and Selection Committees during the 1970’s and early ‘80s. He owned Engineered Equipment Inc. for more than 50 years. He moved from El Paso to Midland in 1982. He was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He loved to pilot small planes, to spend time with family, play golf and follow football.”

Pool’s former teammates remember him as a reliable center and linebacker in the days when guys played both offense and defense.

“Pool was always there … playing for the team, not just himself,” said one former teammate who asked not to be named.

Pool is survived by three children — Sherle Jeanne Robins and her husband Marty; Lesley Elaine Stigall and her husband Bill, and son, J. Pool Webb, Jr. and his wife Thelma – along with four grandchildren, Christopher Stigall, Jillian Sterling, Lana Robins and Jessica Webb and two great grandchildren, Bridgette Sterling and Adalynn Sterling.

For all these joys, Pool knew tragedy in his life, too. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jill Webb, twin sons, Christopher and Russell Webb, and brothers, Jim Webb and Jackie Story.

The late Ben Collins

“Always a friend,” says John Fuhrman, a left-handed quarterback from El Paso. Those Miners were coached by the late Coach Ben Collins. His former players and students remember the little fellow with a big heart of 24-karat gold.

Long after Webb had entered the auto battery business, “Wee Ben,” as the Miners coach was affectionately known, taught me in a couple advanced phys-ed courses. Collins did not just teach safety, crowd control and facility management, he taught lessons in life. One still sticks.

“Keep notecards handy in your office desk, along with a few stamps,” Collins said, coaching up a classroom full of coaches-to-be.

“Once a week, pull one out and write a thankyou note to somebody – to anybody. Doesn’t matter. Just write one and mail it.”

Some dim bulb sitting in back raised his hand.

“But Coach Collins, what if we’re coaching a lousy team, with a bunch of low-lifes? What then?”

“Write a thank you any way – to somebody … anybody,” Collins said. “People are doing things for you, and they need to be recognized.

“Someday, it will pay off. You will be glad you did.”

That was 50 years ago. And so it comes to pass that through a fine man named Ben Collins, the late Pool Webb and I should have been connected. And yet we never were. A painful reminder to keep the circle tight, while we still can.

There’s a hole of regret, right here in my orange heart.

{McDonald is a UTEP journalism grad, two-year starter in football and broken-down sportswriter who manages Dust Devil Publishing. The team creates custom-built books for clients. He can be reached at mark@DustDevilPublishing.com.}

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