Marion Country Club will be swarming with people the first Saturday of May, some out swatting golf balls and others sitting around swapping stories, to raise money for scholarships for deserving Marion High School graduates.
It’s all because a certain Warriors football coach once had an impact on his players that has endured long beyond their playing days.
Leroy Dreier coached MHS football from the 1960s into the early 1970s. Gone from Marion for many years when he died in 2002, one of Dreier’s former gridiron standouts, Gary Melcher of El Dorado, came up with the idea to honor Dreier’s legacy with a student scholarship named after the coach.
“Gary was more or less the one who got the ball rolling on this,” Jim Darrow said.
Darrow is one of a core group of about eight former players who keep the tournament going.
“When it started out, it was going to be a memorial to Leroy Dreier,” Darrow said. “We loved the guy. There’s some people that didn’t care for him, but we loved him. He was tough, but he was a lot of fun, too.”
Melcher said there were two sides to Dreier.
“One side, outside of football, I think we felt, as much as we could at that point in time, that he was an ally,” he said. “He got along well with all the guys. On the practice field and game field, he was very demanding, and that’s probably an understatement. The toughness he demanded out of his players and teams led to a lot of success.”
When former players gathered after Dreier’s funeral at the home of John Siebert in Florence, they shared stories of how lessons from the gridiron carried over into adulthood.
“John mentioned how much of an influence he had on him as a Navy Seal,” Melcher said.
They talked about creating a scholarship for Dreier, but after Melcher returned home, the idea grew, he said.
“He’d been gone from Marion such a long time,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how many would remember.”
That caused Melcher to shift his thinking, and others bought into the idea to create multiple scholarships honoring the contributions of many other successful coaches.
Over the years, in addition to Dreier, the fund has grown to include scholarships named for football coaches Ed Frickey and Jerry Smith, track coach Rex Wilson, basketball coach Marion Ogden, and volleyball coach Jim Versch.
Melcher illustrated the elements of coaching impact exemplified by awards by relating a personal story.
A display of wooden plaques honoring MHS track records, many held by Melcher, was taken down to accommodate a newer display, and the plaques were offered to Melcher.
He declined to accept them for himself, he said, but thought his mother, Dorothy, might like to have them. When she expressed surprise that he didn’t want them, he was ready with an answer.
“Others will come along and eventually break those records,” Melcher said. “What matters is what I learned attaining them. That’s what I carry with me. I think that’s the big reason we decided to honor coaches at Marion High. Those things we carry with us for the rest of our lives are the important things.”
At 1 p.m. May 7, Melcher and Darrow plan to be among those hanging around the clubhouse sharing stories, but up to 18 teams will tee off in a four-person scramble tournament to raise money for scholarships. The entry fee is $45 per person, which includes drinks, food, and prizes, and all are welcome to participate in the post-tournament social for a $10 donation.
Registrations are due April 29. More information is available by calling Darrow at (620) 382-3326, Gale Cooper at (620) 382-3916, or Bill Darrow at (620) 382-3621.