High school coach shares journey since he lost daughter to leukemia

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two years into Ben Barry’s time as a coach and teacher at Mallard Creek High School, he lost his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, to leukemia.

Elizabeth was a freshman.

“I really don't -- even four years later -- I really don't know how to talk about it,” Barry said. “I still have a lot of anger about the suffering you watch your child go through. It’s one thing to lose your child the suffering piece is what was most devastating most make you bitter.”

Barry and his wife pressed on and focused on the northeast Charlotte high school and its wrestling team.

In fact, Barry recently was named Mallard Creek’s Teacher of the Year.

“You never want to feel that I'm a better teacher -- or better coach -- or better dad -- or better anything because of that but there’s also that piece that you go on.”

Elizabeth would’ve been a senior this year and Barry wants to make sure she is not forgotten.

“When you go through something tragic, which many people have, there’s a balance between not having your daughter be forgotten and not wanting to always be known as the guy who lost his daughter,” Barry said. “That’s hard, you know?”

Some memories have faded, but that is not necessarily bad for Barry.

“If you had asked me this two or three years ago, I'd say, all my memories are of the hospital. All of them are of this time,” Barry said.

His best memories remain of the wild-haired eighth-grader who ran track for the Ridge Road Middle School Ravens.

Memories of Elizabeth as a long-distance runner who always ran a little too fast on the first lap.

Memories of Elizabeth as a boy-crazy teenager who stayed up too late on the phone.

That’s the Elizabeth who will live on in the memories of those who loved her, and that’s all Barry can ask for.

“I think I'm one of many people who have that kind of terrible story to tell that can help others in a time of when something’s terrible, or more,” Barry said. “I have found myself in a situation where, maybe, you can be there for someone who realizes it could be worse to appreciate everything -- every moment -- all of that.

Mallard Creek has ensured Elizabeth’s memory will live on. “They've named a wrestling tournament in her honor, and the female booster club’s $1,500 college scholarship is named after Elizabeth

She was a proud member of the Junior ROTC program at the school. There’s a memorial to her outside the offices at the high school.