It’s been a difficult year for the Constant family, but they haven’t gone about it alone. They’ve bonded together through faith to find the strength to carry on, they’ve embraced a welcoming community to make them feel at home, and they’ve found a passionate outlet in athletics to help carry on their father’s legacy.
Bob Constant, a Grand Haven native, passed away Oct. 5, 2016, after a long, courageous struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 55.
His wife, Traci, and five children: Carli (19), Casey (17), Camryn (15), Caydee (13) and Colton (7) moved from Florida to Grand Haven when he was originally diagnosed with cancer.
That move was difficult at the time for everyone involved, but high schoolers Casey and Cam are already happy with the decision.
“It was a lot different,” said Cam of her initial experience at Grand Haven High School. “Grand Haven is a lot bigger than the other schools we were in back in Florida.”
“It’s a lot different, but I really like it a lot more than my old school,” added Casey. “I like going to school a lot more now than I used to, and I like the area around here more, too. There weren’t really any big adjustments that we had to make as far as fitting in.”
Sports quickly helped both Casey and Camryn meet new people and establish friendships at their new school.
“We didn’t really know anybody, other than a couple of our cousins who already go to Grand Haven,” Cam said. “I met a lot of girls at volleyball practice a few days before school started, and that helped a lot. Everyone was really nice and welcoming, and I made a lot of friends pretty quickly.
“I was really worried about that at first, but sports have really helped me make a lot of friends.”
While athletics helped the two standouts make new friends, it also created a lot of pressure to live up to the legacy that their father was leaving behind at Grand Haven High School.
At Grand Haven, Bob Constant was a three-sport athlete for the Buccaneers, excelling at football, basketball and track. The highlight of his athletic career came when he won an individual state title in the 220-yard dash. His name still graces the record book at the school in various races and relays.
“The first day of basketball tryouts, Cam came up to me and said, ‘Casey, I don’t know if I should do this. Dad was such a good basketball player that I feel like everyone is going to be super disappointed in me,’” Casey reflected.
“Coach (Bob) Edison told me a lot of stories about my dad from back when he and Coach Al Schaffer were both coaching. Coach Edison has always been involved with kids, so he knew my dad really well, and it was really cool to learn about all that he accomplished at Grand Haven.”
“Everyone around here knows who he is,” added Cam. “They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Oh, are you Bobby C’s daughter.’ It’s really awesome to know that my dad left that kind of impression around here.”
Cam has already made a name for herself on the Grand Haven varsity track team as a freshman. This spring, she qualified for the Division 1 state meet in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 46.64 seconds at the regionals and she was also a member of the 1,600-meter relay team that qualified for the state finals with a time of 4 minutes, 5.59 seconds.
“I’ve always ran track, so I knew I wanted to continue doing that,” she said. “The track team was so nice, and you can tell that they all genuinely care about you and want you to do well. Track will always be my favorite sport, and this spring was probably the most fun I’ve had in a season playing a sport.
“My dad always wanted me to play basketball, so I decided to give it a shot this year. I didn’t know any of the rules or anything, but I’m really glad that I did, because I liked it. I’m planning on doing it again this year.”
Before she finishes her varsity track career at Grand Haven, Constant hopes to place her name on the record board that already dons her father’s name.
“I want to be up on the board with him by the time my track career is done, she said. “I’ve still got plenty of time to get there, but that’s one of the goals I’ve set for myself.”
As a sophomore, Casey Constant was inserted into the Grand Haven varsity basketball team’s starting lineup, acting as floor general from the point guard position. Casey inherited the love of the sport from his father, and holds a similar level of passion that he did.
“I’ve played basketball since I was 5 or 6 (years old). My dad got me into it at a young age and taught me how to play,” Casey said. “He has coached me pretty much my whole life, so it’s something I’ve always been passionate about.”
Like his younger sister, Casey does have goals for the future, ones his father told him to chase.
“I do want to play college basketball. It’s my dream to play basketball over in Europe,” Casey added. “I told my dad that I wanted to do that, and he just told me, ‘Well, then you need to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.’”
FOUNDATION OF FAITH
While faced with the most difficult and challenging times of their lives, the Constant family turned to faith to help them through the darkest of times.
“It was really difficult, because it came out of nowhere, and then all of a sudden we were moving out of state,” Casey reflected. “It was even more difficult when he passed away, and (Father's Day) was really hard, too. We visited him at the grave and that was difficult for all of us.
“At first, it was really sad. I just remember how weak he became at the beginning and how much the disease affected him, but now that he’s passed away, all I remember are the good memories we shared and all the good times we had together.”
Their parents’ religious background paved the way for the entire Constant family to find spiritual strength when they needed it most.
“He was a very religious person, and that’s something that he’s passed on to us,” Casey added. “My mom is religious, as well. Between the two of them, they’ve helped us get into church, and we’ve all become close to God because of it. That really helped us, especially when he was going through everything that he was going through, because he was able to find strength through God.
“I’m definitely closer to God now, and that has helped so much through this whole process. We know he’s watching over us in heaven, and he’s in a better place, now. So, that faith makes it easier to go through it.”
“It really helps, because we know where he is, and we know we’re going to see him again someday,” added Cam.
Through time, spirituality and prayer, the Constants, who attend Harvest Bible Chapel in West Olive, have found ways to live for their father.
“It’s definitely gotten better over time, and now, I use him as motivation,” Casey said. “Whenever I’m struggling with something or don’t feel like practicing, I just think of him. He always wanted me to do my best and work as hard as I can, so that always motivates me to go to the gym and put in the work to get better.
“The way I view life is completely because of him. I still remember all of the Friday and Saturday nights that we would all sit out on the porch and just talk about life. We’d talk about all the hard things that we’d have to go through, and he’d always tell me to never let someone else limit what I can accomplish.
“He wanted me to be make sure that I controlled my own future, and that’s how I’m going to live my life.”
Josh VanDyke is the sports editor at the Grand Haven Tribune. For more stories and local breaking news, follow him on Twitter: @JoshVanDykeGHT.