Heaven gained another beautiful soul on Wednesday, February 17, as Sylvia Vradenburg left her temporary earthly home to walk the streets of gold.
Sylvia Vradenburg was a staple of the Gallatin community, teaching in the science department at Gallatin Junior High and serving as a ‘front row lady’ during her husband, Jerry’s, coaching days at Gallatin High School.
Originally from Davidson County, Sylvia and Jerry moved to Sumner County, where Jerry took a job as the White House basketball coach.
It was there the late Dan Herron discovered Jerry and Sylvia.
“He watched Jerry’s team play one time and came home that night and said I’ve found our next basketball coach,” Sue Herron said. “Dan was convinced they were who Gallatin needed. From the time they came, we were just the closest of friends.”
Jerry and Sylvia were inseparable; wherever you went, you would see the other. Even after Jerry’s coaching days, the two enjoyed retirement together, building birdhouses in their downstairs basement.
“Jerry would build the houses, and Sylvia would put the pebbles on for him,” Herron said. “They were always attached at the hip.”
Former Lady Wave basketball coach Pat Webb reflected on his time with Jerry and Sylvia, saying the two were meant to find one another.
“Coach Vradenburg could live another 1,000 years and never find a sweeter lady than Sylvia,” Webb said. “She was such a wonderful, kind person to everyone, and he loved her very much. You will not find a closer couple.”
Webb and Vradenburg share a close bond, so close that Webb is one of the few who have spoken with Jerry since Sylvia’s passing.
“We talked quite some time, and he seems to be doing pretty good,” Webb said. “He wanted me to be a pallbearer, and I feel honored he asked. He is holding up very well — much better than I expected.”
Jerry and Sylvia raised two children together, Tip and Tina, inspiring Richard Stephenson and his wife, Elaine, to start a family of their own.
“My wife and I had been married for four years, and with my wife finishing her education, we had not started a family. Watching Sylvia with her two wonderful children, I was inspired to start thinking about my family, and our son was born in 1974. On the night before he was born (6:30 a.m.), Sylvia sat up with my wife’s mother and me at the hospital nearly all night before leaving to get ready for her teaching job at Gallatin Jr. High. From the time my wife and I came to Gallatin in 1972, Sylvia was always our biggest supporter. She was a special wife, mother, teacher, and person; we all loved her dearly.”
To know Sylvia was to love Sylvia. One of the many thoughts shared by friends regarding Sylvia was she was the greatest coach’s wife who sat in the stands.
“She was always so supportive of Jerry,” Rob Hosier said. “That first year I got to know Sylvia, sitting with her during games, and she would be so uptight during a close game, and by the game’s final horn, she would wear herself out. I used to get tickled when Jerry would hike up his pants, and you could hear Sylvia saying under her breath, ‘sit down Jerry, sit down, you’re gonna get a technical Jerry’. I don’t know a more loyal coach’s wife. Win, lose or draw, she was always there for Jerry.”
Added Calvin Short on how he will remember Sylvia Vradenburg:
“She was a great coach’s wife, very devoted to Jerry, devoted to her children, and that stands out more than anything else about her.”
Sylvia, Elaine, and Ruth Barron quickly became known as the ‘front row ladies’, a staple of the front row.
“They kept all the basketball officials straight,” Stephenson said. “One of the most famous, Melvin Black, a city councilman in Nashville and later elected to the TSSAA Hall of Fame, loved to interact with them, often cruising by and saying, “How am I doing now, ladies?”
Even up until her passing, you could always find Sylvia in the front row with Jerry cheering on the Wave basketball teams.
“After one of our last home games, I watched them walk out the door together, and I thought to myself, ‘how many times have I watched them walk through those doors together, and now I won’t see it anymore — it’s really sad.”
Sue Herron and Sylvia both taught in the science departments. Despite Sue being at the high school and Sylvia at the middle school, Sue says every student that came to the high school was always so complimentary of Sylvia’s teaching.
“She was an excellent teacher and one that always made the best impressions on her students; they were all so complimentary of her.”
Added Herron on how she will remember Sylvia and their 50 plus years of friendship:
“She was the same person today as she was the next day. She was true blue and the most trustworthy person I’ve ever known. It is devastating, just heartbreaking to lose her as a friend.”