Former Jordan High School coach and social worker Mary Bright was known by her coworkers as the “glue” that kept them together.
“She kind of held us together, made us laugh, you know,” said Robin Whiteside, a counselor at JHS and close friend of Bright. “She showed us great wisdom, too. Not only within mental health but just our staff in general, she was that person, that go-to person.”
Bright began at JHS in 2012, where she worked as a school social worker. She also spent six years as a Jordan Jaguars Softball coach and three years coaching Jaguars Volleyball.
In 2017, Bright was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
After a three-year fight, Bright died on Nov. 23, according to a Facebook post from Jordan Public Schools.
“Our JHS family is going to miss Mary greatly,” JHS Principal Jeff Vizenor was quoted in the post. “She was a great teammate, friend, mentor and confidant. Her compassion for others and willingness to serve was incredible.”
Jordan Activities Director Joe Perkl said Bright will be remembered for the way she coached — with passion and purpose.
“She was competitive and always wanted to win, but understood the layers of success for her players were always bigger than the scoreboard,” Perkl said.
Emma Adamek was only 14 when Bright asked her to try out for the Jaguar softball team along with the high school students.
“Honestly at that point I was really hoping that I would make JV,” said Adamek. “After tryouts she told me she wanted me to be her starting shortstop on varsity.”
From eighth grade onward, Bright was Adamek’s coach for softball, then beginning in her sophomore year, for volleyball, too.
Beyond that, Bright showed up to many of Adamek’s off-season games to cheer her on, even showing up to her college games once Adamek began playing for Concordia University in St Paul.
“I feel like I’ve known her my whole life,” Adamek said. “She’s definitely a huge impact on my life — she was always supportive of me from the very start.”
One of the most impactful parts of Bright’s legacy was the way she encouraged her team members to envision and then achieve success.
Before every playoff game the team played at home, Bright would have her softball players lay in the outfield, inviting them to visualize what a winning game would look like while she played a motivational song over the loudspeakers.
“She would literally just always try to make people visualize success and believe that they can do it,” Adamek said. “She’s a very optimistic and positive person.”
She also encouraged team members to play not just to win, but for one another.
Bright was known for sharing inspirational quotes with her team members before games and practices.
One was on a sign in the softball dugout, reading “Work hard, play hard for each other.” Before going out on the field, team members would touch the sign, a reminder they were in this together.”She just had that mentality that if you believed it you would be able to achieve and be successful,” Adamek said. “When a coach believes in you, you definitely are a lot more confident in your playing skills, and that’s something that I always will remember from her.”
The Bright family donated the scoreboard in the softball “Den” the Jordan team plays in.
“We will continue to appreciate and honor her when we see her name up on that scoreboard,” said Perkl. “Her impact on students and other coaches reached far beyond the city of Jordan. We will miss her dearly.”
Whiteside remembers Bright as someone who knew how to get through hard things.
“Her other big mantra was always ‘right foot, left foot, breathe,’ meaning, you know, take it one step at a time and take a deep breath, and you’ll get through whatever you need to get through,” Whiteside said. “We take one step at a time and we get through the hard things and we get through it together.”
Her kindness, compassion and hardworking nature will be remembered by community members for years to come.
“She was that person that you could go into her office and you could kind of vent, and then leave laughing and feeling better,” said Whiteside. “She’s going to leave a hole.”