Beyond Words

Sometimes a story I wrote went beyond the sports arena. Athletics might be a part of the story, but the narrative is much larger.


For a story I did on the Hunckler family, I have to give credit to my friend Nick Altman. Nick did some stringer work for me while he was in high school, then later came back and joined our staff. He had high school friends who were twins, Jason and Samson Hunckler. The Hunckler boys played football for Huntington North. Their parents came to every game, and the boys frequently looked into the stands to share a quick word. Now, there was no way the boys could hear what their parents were saying, but they certainly understood.

Jason and Samson’s parents were using sign language. They are both deaf, so the communication was easily understood by the boys.

Doing a story on the family was a no-brainer.


———


Football was the running theme through the story, but the larger picture was how Frank and Missy Hunckler managed to raise three children (they have an older daughter, Sunni) while being deaf. You can’t hear a baby cry. How do you teach a child to talk when you can’t hear?

I went to interview the family, and it went terrifically. The boys translated for their parents. We ran the full gamut, discussing the Huncklers' background and how they met at a high school for the deaf and both went to Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf in Washington, D.C. We talked about raising a family and the differences in the twin boys. All of the children had learned sign language simultaneous with learning to speak, so it came natural to them. Their parents think it also made them better students in school. It also made the boys into leaders among their fellow students in the classroom and among their teammates on the football field.


Sadly, Missy Hunckler died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 57. Frank relocated to Tennessee near daughter Sunni.

Jason and Samson are both in the Indianapolis area. Samson is married with three boys and is an art teacher. Jason works in finance and he and his wife have two boys.


———


I’m a notoriously long writer. My editor, Mike Perkins, always thought I would have thrived at a magazine, where I could flourish writing long-form articles.

This story was a long one, but we made it fit. I’m sure I could have edited it down, and I don’t think anyone on staff really wanted to tackle wading through my story to cut it.

Among the many things I loved about working at the Herald-Press was that Mike gave us plenty of opportunities to write extensively, explore design and push the envelope on coverage. We worked with graphics and photo cutouts long before they were easily created with Photoshop or other graphics programs. A lot of this was done before digital photography, so cutouts were actually cutouts.

This story didn’t have any fancy graphics or photo illustrations, but it was a long-form writeup, and I appreciated the opportunity to go into depth with it.