Phyllis Pardee is beautiful. No other word will do. What else to say about a blond Texan who never stops smiling? Statisticians lost count, but veteran observers agree she set a Redskin park record for hugging and kissing yesterday. Only the lobby's wooden Indian, trapped inside a glass case, missed out on the goodies. "I'm so joyful to be back," she said. A tear sparkled.
Phyllis Pardee's husband Jack is the new Redskin coach. For two years a player here, another season an assistant coach, Pardee left the Redskins four years ago to coach in the World Football League. Surviving that, he coached the Chicago Bears the last three years, taking ruin and creating respectability.
"I have to pinch myself," Phyllis Pardee said. "I'm so delighted." She sat in the lobby at Redskin Park. Every two minutes or so, she sprang from a sofa to hug and kiss another old friend, long separated but unforgotten. "Oh, it's just like coming home," she said.
Two days ago, the Redskins put on a press conference to announce Jack Pardee's hiring. The first thing Pardee did - live on television, live on radio, in front of reporters eager to know the man - was introduce his wife Phyllis. He put his arm around her, she smiled and then he went to work, answering questions. Perhaps in a politician lusting for the woman's vote, such a piece of business might be suspect. This is a football coach who thought of his wife before he thought of Xs and Os. Nice.
A friend of 20 years says the Pardees are a team. "Jack has a strong sense of himself and he's decided he's okay," the friend said. "So he's not crusading to prove himself. He doesn't need the big car, the fancy clothes. That's not important to him. And Phyllis has helped him get there. She has her own identity - she's a beautiful person - but she's always been Jack's biggest supporter."
"We're equal partners in marriage," Phyllis Pardee said. "And we have a joyful relationship. Jack is Jack, Phyllis is Phyllis and yet we are one. He is my best friend and I am his. Its been that way for 21 years now."
She was two years ouf of Texas Christian University, an elementary education major working as a secretary, when she met Pardee on a blind date. He was a senior at Texas A & M, six months away from professional football with the Los Angeles Rams. They were married a year later. It was 1957. They now have five children from 9 to 19, and they have moved, following the bouncing football, 31 times.
"Phyllis is the emotional component of the marriage," the friend said. "It's not that Jack is a one-sided foot-ball kink. he enjoys life. You'll love his sense of humor. He doesn't take himself too seriously. But he's very low-key. He keeps a lot inside. So Phyllis provides the tears and laughter."
It was 1964 when cancer grew out of Jack pardee's body. "Little things bother Phyllis," the friend said, "but for big things, she's Rock of Gibraltar. She'd seen the mole of Jack's arm and she'd read the newspaper story about a baseball player dying from malignant melanoma. Jack wouldn't go to a doctor, so Phyllis finally said, 'if you don't go, I'll call an ambulance and have you hauled to him.'"
"Not really," Phyllis Pardee said."But, if you'll pardon the expression, I pitched a fit. I screamed at him. I got really ugly at him. I said if he didn't go to the doctor, I'd bring the doctor to the house."
A smile, sweetly. This woman knows what she's doing. Curious about life, she's taken postgraduate work in economics, geology and psychology. She's taken flying lessons (stopping only when the instructor was killed in a crash) and even while her husband coached the Bears she worked parttime, "a girl Friday," in the athletic department at Lake Forest (Ill.) College. So she screamed at her husband and he went to the doctor.
They thought of amputating Pardee's arm. Instead, doctors did an 11 1/2-hour operation and he played linebacker for the rams a year later. "Since the operation, Jack has kept things in perspective," the erst-while fit-pitcher said. "Three things are important: God, his family and football. When one requires more attention, then we adjust."
Somehow, Phyllis Pardee said, it all works out. Pardee quit the Bears without a promise of the Redskin job. "We're notorious for doing things like that," she said. "Every time we're headed down one road, the Lord seems to direct us another way."
The Lord often moves into mysterious ways. Pardee was broke in Orlando the year he coached the WFL's Blazers. For entertainment one day, Phyllis and a friend drove to what she calls "a community of clairvoyants." There the future unfolded, mysteriously.
"This so-called clairvoyant sometimes spoke in a voice with an Oriental accent," pardee said. "And she told me - now, I did this as a lark, remember, to maintain my sanity at a time when we were down and out and broke - that in my future she saw a large body of warter. And she saw snow, lots of snow.
"Another 'mystic' at the table told me, I see Indians around Jack all the time.' And I see a big skirt full of coins."
As it happened, the Pardees two months later moved into a house one block from Lake Michigan. It snows there. And now Phyllis Pardee and her man are surrounded by Redskins. "Everything's happened except the coins," she said, laughing. The Redskins reportedly are paying Pardee $125,000 a year. In paper money, obviously.