Making A Difference: ‘Once an Arrow, always an Arrow’

NEW CARLISLE — ‘Once an Arrow, always an Arrow.” That’s what people say if they graduate from Tecumseh High School.

In February, in New Carlisle, the Tecumseh Arrows celebrated 58 years. That is how long Virgil Studebaker has been part of the boy’s high school basketball program.

While sitting at mid-court in the school’s empty gym, Virgil talked about his volunteering which started in 1966. “I enjoy every minute of it,” as his eyes focused on the rows of empty bleachers where his wife, Joyce, and her friend Sharon Leathley were sitting.

They watched News Center 7′s James Brown talk with Virgil and his good friend and teammate, Jim Leathley. The two have sat side-by-side at basketball games for more than 40 years. Jim’s the public address announcer and Virgil runs the scoreboard.

“It’s a front-row seat every Friday night,” Virgil said with a subtle smile. Brown said to him, “I don’t know too many people who have been volunteering at the same gig for 58 years.” Straight-faced, Virgil said, “probably didn’t love it as much as I do.”

But the time has come for Virgil to make a change. “I can’t imagine going to have to start paying to get into games.” Jim laughed and said, “You have the old man’s pass to get in,”

Virgil is retiring from volunteering so he can spend more time with his wife, Joyce. For decades, she has volunteered at the school’s concession stand during the games. “My husband would be at the ball game, my boys would be at the ball games, and I’d be sitting by myself at home.”

As Virgil and Jim reminisced about their volunteering, their friendship, and life in this small Clark County town, Jim said, “Today’s emotional for me because of what he means to me. He’s a very good friend and mentor to me,”

The two first met in the late 1960s when Virgil was a vocational teacher at Tecumseh and Jim was one of his students. After high school, while Jim was at Ohio State, “he told me you’re not going to quit college.” Jim went on to graduate from Ohio State University.

On Friday, February 9th, senior night, the last game of the regular season, as the band played, the players warmed up, people made their way to their seats, and so did Virgil and Jim. With a microphone in Jim’s hand, “We’d like to welcome you to the Reynold Gymnasium for tonight’s contest.”

To watch the two in their last game together, they were focused and ready. As both teams made and missed baskets, Virgil was quick to make changes to the scoreboard.

At halftime, Jim addressed the crowd, “After 58 years, Virgil Studebaker has decided to make tonight his final regular season game. He’s operated the clock more than 1,500 games.” As the crowd applauded, each player shook Virgil’s hand and thanked him.

Virgil waved to the crowd to show his appreciation and gratitude.

In sports, statistics and records are made to be broken. But when people look back at Virgil’s record of more than 1,500 games on the clock, it’s hard to think anyone will ever come close to doing that again. Once an Arrow, always an Arrow.

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