Tony Lamke: A coach’s impact 57 years later

Tony Lamke - The Ol’ Coach

It was 1964 and I was standing at the Clinton-Massie locker room door to welcome the first group of potential football players. Only two had ever played the game before and they were transfers.

But this group put together a season of 7 wins and 1 loss, not bad, I thought.

Now, 57 years later, a good number of these player have passed away. Every day for years I always checked the sports page in the local paper first thing in the morning to see if my favorite teams were winners.

Now the first thing I check is the obituaries. I take a deep breath and see if I know the people who are listed. I find a number of my former players and recently the name Larry Bilderback was there.

Larry was a 6-2, 190-pound center on that first team. He was a leader, very intelligent and a great athlete. A member of Frank Irelan’s Boy Scout troop, and I believe an Eagle Scout, and just a fine young man. I wrote a letter to Larry’s wife and tried to put into words what a fine young man Larry was when I knew him as a student-athlete. She responded with a letter that knocked the wind out of me and brought me to tears. I share her letter here.

Dear coach,

Thank you for your lovely letter, it was so kind of you. Larry always spoke fondly of his time at Clinton-Massie. He loved being a part of the team and I still have his photos and awards. He loved the coaches, the team members, the discipline, and being a part of that first team. I’m sure your influence helped him to be the success he was in his career and a great role model for his sons. I was touched that you took the time to write. I know Larry would be also.

Tony Lamke

The Ol’ Coach

Tony Lamke is a former coach. He can be reached at [email protected]

Tony Lamke is a former coach. He can be reached at [email protected]