Club News

Never Short On Love … Or Inspiration, I’ll Miss You Mom

Even facing terminal cancer, my mom set out to live and achieve.

From left to right, PVB writer Chris Tobolski, his mom, Susan, and dog Clowie Bear.

From left to right, PVB writer Chris Tobolski, his mom, Susan, and dog Clowie Bear.

When I was a child, my mom would place her chin on top of my head as she hugged me.

She was 5-3.

She enjoyed it.  

She knew the day I would return the ‘favor’ wasn’t far away.

When it arrived, she forever became my ‘Shorty.’ Or any variation that came through the years … ‘Shortstack’, ‘Shorts’, ‘Too-Short’, etc., as I placed my chin on her head as I hugged her. 

On Feb. 20th, her 67th birthday, my ‘Shorty’ passed away after a seven-month fight with liver cancer.

I call her that now, even knowing I could never stand as tall as she did in her final months. Or as courageously or inspirationally as she did.

Everyone deserves to share their mom’s story, her love, her life. In having the platform to do so with, I wanted to tell of something I hope can inspire.

Not only athletically. Also in life.

It was last January when my mom initially had a tumor removed from her liver. Then, in late July – seven days before my mom was set to retire – we learned the cancer had returned, and aggressively.

By late October it was clear there was nothing left for the doctors to do.

Though the end was nearing, I wouldn’t have left home to cover the Triple Crown Sports Pre-Season Triple Crown Sports in Salt Lake City if I thought it was here. Learning of my mom’s passing was both a surprise and not a surprise.

I immediately returned home and Tuesday I was going through some of her things when I came across this in one of her notebooks:

My mom's list of goals for the month of January.

My mom’s list of goals for the month of January.

Here it is, the final weeks of her life and my mom is still setting goals for herself – and accomplishing them.

With my mom’s spirit setting the tone through these past months, we didn’t question why this was happening. We didn’t wallow in sorrow, wishing things were different. We focused on doing what there was to do, what we could do.

For my mom, it meant as her body was failing her, she was not.

As young athletes, goals are important.

Let’s finish so high in our region, earn an Open bid, finish in the Top 8 at Junior Nationals. Whatever they may be, they are set and sought after.

We hear that athletics is a vehicle to the real world. What we learn in sports can carry us in life.

My mom was not overly athletic. Played some tennis for fun. Skied on snow, on water. Mostly all of it before I came along.

Whether she picked up on these values through sports or just good-old Midwest blood and upbringing, until the end she was focused on what she could do. The cans. Not the cant’s.

Set goals.

Set out to achieve.

When I found her list, I broke down.

How many of us would do the same facing similarly dire circumstances?

My mom’s love always engulfed me, will always.

I’ll always miss my ‘Shorty.’

My true inspiration, role model, hero.

If I can be anything like you … that’s my greatest goal left to achieve.



  1. grammanutz

    March 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

    So sorry Chris, your mom sounds like an amazing woman who did a wonderful job with her children, much love to you

  2. Cameron

    March 7, 2017 at 10:04 am


    Was just wondering if you could give us any insight on specific NCAA d1 schools who still might be recruiting for up coming season in fall?

    Sounds like we are a little late for many schools for our daughter who is just finishing grade 12 with a current 92 average!

    We have some amazing recruiting videos that were done up on her by her VB coaches and we wanted to get these out to schools who are still serious on recruiting for next season!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks for your time


  3. wilhitevolleyball

    March 8, 2017 at 3:31 am

    Chris – I am so sorry to hear about your mom. The entire Wilhite family extends their sympathies and prayers to you at this time. It sounds like you and your Mom had a great relationship and I hope you are Ok with not being there at the end. As a mom, I’m sure she wanted you to be following your passion at Salt Lake. I’m sorry it happened while you were gone, but you were in her heart and now you are in our thoughts and prayers. My Dad has cancer too right now and it’s spread to his liver and other organs as well. We also just found out that my sister has breast cancer and it’s spread to her chest and possibly lungs. Your comments about the “importance” of all this volleyball, travel and recruiting, rings true for all of us right now. As Brennan and Peyton try to focus on their sport and we try to support them and their team, it’s always in the back of our minds that every weekend spent on a court is one we don’t spend with our loved ones. Life is hard, perspective is even harder sometimes. But you, like us, are blessed to be part of the volley family who will love you and support and wrap you in their arms during these difficult times. Many blessings to you dear, Chris, and thank you for your tireless commitment to covering the happenings of our volleyball community.

  4. Chris Tobolski

    March 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this. Praying for you as well.

  5. Susan Reedy

    March 8, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I cried when I read her list too. Such inspiration to never stop living and growing and pressing into whatever may come next. Praying for your heart and for your family. Her spirit will be a source of encouragement and strength for the rest of your life.
    Susan Reedy
    San Gabriel Elite mom

  6. awgriffey

    March 9, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Sorry to hear it Chris, i know how much your mom meant to you.

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