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Staff file photo / Doug Moser, who died in July, was the first coach for the softball and girls' basketball teams at Baylor. The school will hold a memorial service to celebrate Moser's life on Saturday afternoon.

Valentine's Day.

Ask Kelli Smith her favorite memories of the late Doug Moser during the time she played both basketball and softball for him at Baylor School, and Valentine's Day always comes to mind.

"He might have just put us through the hardest practice imaginable," she recalled Thursday, "but we'd go back to our lockers and he would have left a rose for each of us with a handwritten note telling us how much we meant to him. He was the most wonderful man."

They'll gather in the Baylor Chapel at 4:30 Saturday afternoon to give this wonderful husband, father, teacher and coach an emotional and proper farewell.

A member of the school's faculty from 1985 until 2011, Moser — who passed away July 23 at the age of 69 — was the Red Raiders' first varsity girls' basketball coach and softball coach when the once all-boys private school went coed. Before that, the former basketball and baseball star at City High School had coached his alma mater to the 1983 girls' basketball state championship.

"We had to develop two programs," said Austin Clark, the Baylor athletic director and boys' basketball coach at that time. "We couldn't have found a better person than Doug. He had the patience of Job. He was very analytical, very detailed. Just a special guy. A true Southern gentleman. And as much as he won (Baylor won state softball championships in 1993 and 1994 under Moser), he was probably still one of the most underrated coaches ever in Chattanooga."

Moser once assisted Sharon Fanning's University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball teams, as well as working the Lady Mocs' summer camps.

"Doug was a terrific person," said the retired coach, who is now Fanning-Otis. "He was first and foremost a family man; he adored his daughter Sara and son Adam. But he was also a gym rat, always taking notes. He loved the strategy of the game. He could always find a way to help you win."

Anne Wehunt, the assistant director of media relations at UTC, used to attend those Lady Mocs summer camps.

"He'd sit at this table and all the young campers would gather around him," she remembered. "He'd smile and laugh and make all of them feel special. He'd start every morning telling them, 'You all have fun out there today.' He was just so kind."

Added Fanning-Otis: "Doug could always make you laugh. One time on a road trip, our girls put honey in his shampoo. When he washed his hair, it all stuck together. But he didn't wash it out. He came down to breakfast the next morning at the hotel with his hair still stuck to his head. Such a good sport."

Moser may have been kind and funny, but he wasn't soft.

"We were running sprints one day, lots of down-and-backs," recalled Smith, now Baylor's ultra-successful softball coach. "He'd had enough of us. After a while we're all dragging and Amy Cunningham (a teammate) yells 'Stop!' She said she'd lost a contact (lens). In truth, she didn't even wear contacts. But we were all down on our knees, including Coach Moser, trying to find it. Obviously, we never did, but we did get a 15-minute breather."

some text Mark Wiedmer

On another occasion he was driving the team van to a game at East Ridge when Smith and her teammates popped some rap music into the tape player. Moser quickly pulled the van to the side of the road, ejected the tape and turned around to lecture his team about the questionable language it contained.

"Probably the worst he ever chewed us out about anything," she said. "We probably didn't even know what some of those lyrics meant, but he was all about life lessons and he wanted to make sure that we understood that that music wasn't appropriate."

Not that Moser didn't appreciate more refined music.

"Doug was a man of many talents and interests," Fanning-Otis said. "He could play the violin. He was an outstanding photographer. He became quite a cyclist. Everything Doug did he did the right way."

His three-wheeled Spyder bike eventually led to his marriage to Baylor faculty member Lorraine Stewart after the passing of his first wife, Susan. According to Fanning-Otis, Lorraine admired the bike when she saw it parked on the Baylor campus, asked to ride it and they soon began to date.

A few weeks ago, Fanning-Otis asked her former UTC players to share their memories of him.

"A number of them wrote back that they saw him as the good cop to my bad cop," she said. "One wrote, 'Any time you made us cry, he'd build us back up and make us believe we could do anything.'"

Could there be a finer example of a true Southern gentleman than that?

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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