Tyler Vanderslice was only 3 when his father died of cancer at age 42. His memories of his dad are limited. Most of what he knows comes from the stories passed to him from family members.
But while making a routine service call a few months ago, the Comcast technician stumbled on a treasure chest of information about his dad.
Vanderslice, 30, was installing internet and cable in an apartment in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Gwynedd. It was an uneventful assignment.
"It was a normal install, a normal day," he said.
He and customer John Pavlick started chatting. Talk turned to the Philadelphia Eagles. Vanderslice asked Pavlick if he was a football fan.
"'I coached football for 40 years,'" Pavlick said.
Asked where he had coached, Pavlick, 83, told him it was at nearby Upper Dublin High School. Vanderslice did some quick math in his head, and then everything suddenly fell together.
"You probably coached my dad then," Vanderslice said
Pavlick asked him his name. Then the older man's eyes lit up. "We had a boy who played for us — Jack Vanderslice," he said.
That boy was Tyler Vanderslice's father.
"There's a lot of kids to remember, but some kids did stand out," said Pavlick, who also taught biology. "There's certain people that you do remember."
Like Tyler's father Jack.
"He told me, 'You know, we didn't have the best record that season, but your dad was a great player. He was a joy to coach,'" said Vanderslice, who has his dad's old football jersey.
Pavlick told him Jack Vanderslice was one his captains in 1969. He also was a really good guy.
"I've talked to other people about this when this came up," the former coach said, "and they also remembered and commented what a great kid Jack Vanderslice was."
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The serendipity of the chance meeting between the two men would have been enough if it ended there. But it didn't.
"After he left, my wife said, 'Why don't you look in your scrapbook and see if you have any pictures of his father,'" Pavlick said.
His wife, Elaine, had memories from those days, too. She was an English teacher at Upper Dublin.
Pavlick did find pictures of Jack, including the teenager in his football gear and another of him winning a civic award, accompanied by his coach, a young John Pavlick.
A couple weeks after their initial meeting, Vanderslice got a call from Pavlick to tell him he'd found some old photos and that he was welcome to have them.
"They were pictures I had never seen before or had anybody in my family, so it was really special to get them," said Vanderslice. "And there's not too many pictures of him from high school."
Meeting someone who knew his father as a teen also meant a lot to Vanderslice. The son was especially touched by Pavlick's kindness.
"It was just something pretty special to feel that connection and his generosity," the younger man said.
Vanderslice intends to keep in touch with Pavlick.
"It's a very cool connection that we made and a kind of friendship, I would call it now, which is pretty neat," Vanderslice said.
When he's working in the neighborhood, he stops by the Pavlicks to say hello. And he has assured his father's coach that if he ever has any problems with his cable service, he can skip the customer service line and call Vanderslice.
Pavlick is happy that his memories and his scrapbook were able to bring unexpected joy to the family of a boy he coached decades ago. And he's still marveling at the randomness of it all.
"You never know," Pavlick said. "You absolutely never know."