[September 10, 2013]MOUNT PULASKI -- In spite of the
heat Saturday afternoon, a nice crowd of friends and fans turned out
at Veterans Park in Mount Pulaski for a special dedication ceremony.
Those being honored were former Mount Pulaski coaches Robert Gasaway
and the late Ed Butkovich. Gasaway was on hand for the ceremony as
were Butkovich's wife, Patricia, and daughter Julie.
The day began
with a few words from Stuart Erlenbush from the Mount Pulaski
Township Park Board. Also present for the park board were Derek
Martin, Anita White and Jody Deibert; Jeff Anderson was unable to
Erlenbush introduced the honorees, saying that several months ago
when board members were talking about people who had affected their
lives and influenced the youth of the community, the names Gasaway
and Butkovich continually came up.
The board decided to honor these men in a permanent way by naming
the baseball diamond after Gasaway and the road into the park after
Erlenbush said this day was not about the records of these coaches
in local sports, but rather who they were and what they did in the
Erlenbush said that regardless of what their relationship was
with area youth, these men offered their influence.
"They had an impact on hundreds of youth, and it didn't matter
whether they played on their sports teams, in the physical education
classes or were acquaintances," Erlenbush said. "They helped many
folks mature as young men to be fine, respectable adults."
Erlenbush recounted how the men were regarded in the community,
telling of a time after Butkovich had retired. Erlenbush witnessed a
line of people at a sporting event making their way to where the
coach was sitting and watching the game. Each one sat down with the
coach and they talked for a while. When one would leave, soon after,
another would come, including Erlenbush himself, who went to sit
with the coach for a while.
"On that night, every person who left the coach, left with a
smile on their face," Erlenbush said. "He was the type of individual
who made you feel good about yourself, and it didn't necessarily
have to be about basketball."
He said that was true of both Gasaway and Butkovich; they were
good men who made a life of being good men.
About Gasaway, Erlenbush said he spent a lot of time with the
coach over the years, and in all his years, he never heard a swear
word come out of Gasaway's mouth; Gasaway never got mad at the
teams, the other coaches or the officials. Erlenbush fondly
remembered a sign the coach had in the locker room that said: "Do
not get mad at the officials for correcting your errors."
Gasaway taught in the grade school and Butkovich at the high
"What a combination," Erlenbush remarked. "We've been very
fortunate to have two coaches of that caliber, and our record showed
it for many years."
Erlenbush then invited members of the audience to come up if they
had something they would like to share about one or both of the
Several stood up to speak, including Larry Garrison of
Springfield, who attended Mount Pulaski schools after the Cobin
School consolidated with Latham and Latham with Warrensburg.
Garrison went to school with Gasaway and was also his cousin. He
thanked the park board for recognizing Gasaway, not only for his
accomplishments but also for the fact that the Gasaway family in
general has roots in Logan County going back more than 200 years.
Garrison noted that Butkovich and Gasaway were both members of
the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame and said, "You don't go there
unless you have a lot of character."
Deron Powell kept his comments brief. His words were punctuated
with sincerity and the emotion of the day as he said he spoke on
behalf of all those who had played with the coaches. He noted that
it was hard to speak about the late Butkovich, who died in 2002.
"It's still tough," Powell said. "I wish he was here."
Powell addressed Butkovich's wife, saying he was glad she was
there, and he just wanted to say "Thank you!"
Pat Walsh spoke as a referee who had officiated games involving
many coaches. He commented that he had refereed with coaches Gary
Stoltzenburg and Jimmy Drew, then drew laughs from the audience when
he said: "Coach Gasaway, you were no Gary Stoltzenburg and Ed
Butkovich was no Jimmy Drew."
On a serious note, he told the group he was sure no one could
fully understand or appreciate how much of themselves coaches
Butkovich and Gasaway put into their careers and the youth of the
Deron Powell's mother, Caroline Pippenger, spoke next, saying
that coach Butkovich had been a big part of her son's life and had
been there for Deron at a point in his life when her son needed
someone. She said she was quite grateful that before the coach died,
she was able to personally express to him how much he had meant to
Deron and how he had provided a positive influence.
Pippenger said even when her son was in college, Butkovich was
his friend and mentor, helping him to see what direction he should
take in school and in college sports.
Jim Zimmerman moved to Springfield in seventh grade but
remembered playing baseball under coach Gasaway. He said it was
fitting that Gasaway should have the baseball field dedicated to
He remembered Butkovich as an opposing coach and recalled when
Butkovich made the trip to Riverton to welcome Zimmerman and his
team home and congratulate them after doing well in a significant
Mount Pulaski Mayor Jim Fuhrer was on hand, as were several
others, to thank the park board for their work and to congratulate
Gasaway and the Butkovich family.
As the afternoon progressed, the stories were much the same.
Folks talked about how they were treated as students of the two
coaches; parents talked about how their kids were treated. Memories
were passed around about practices, summers at the Gasaway pool and
Derek Martin shared a story from when he was a youngster. Coach
Butkovich had arranged for him to practice with the varsity team one
night, but he took a fall and was injured. Martin said he'd spent
quite a bit of time on the phone later and was surprised when the
coach came pounding on his door late that evening. Butkovich had
been trying to call and check on him but couldn't get through. So,
at a late hour, the coach got in his car and drove to the Martin
home to check on him.
At the end of the day, Erlenbush first brought up Patricia "Pat"
Pat spoke about her relationship with her husband, how they had
met, how they had started their life together and how they came to
Mount Pulaski when their daughter, Julie, was the age to attend
Pat recounted the family's decision to come to Mount Pulaski. Ed
had applied at Mount Pulaski and another place. Pat said: "He came
to Mount Pulaski and came home excited. 'I've found the place. It
has the most beautiful gym you have ever seen.' I said, 'But what is
the school like?' and he said, 'Well, they have a kindergarten
Mrs. Butkovich talked about how they loved their life in Mount
Pulaski and how they loved the community.
She recounted her husband's dedication to the sport and the team,
saying there were times when she would go to the gym and the kids
would beg her to get him to go home. She said she would tell him it
was dinnertime and the kids had homework to do, and he would spend
10 more minutes but finally let them go. Addressing the former team
members in the group, Pat said, "So, I saved your life."
Gasaway thanked the park board, team and community members and
all those who made comments for their wonderful words. He also
expressed appreciation and congratulations to the Butkovich family.
Gasaway closed by saying that this was a great honor and he
As the day came to a close, Erlenbush asked for everyone who had
known the two coaches, whether students, co-workers or people who
just knew them as friends, to come forward. The bleachers emptied as
the group gathered in front. Those few who remained seated offered
The day wrapped up with pictures, followed by refreshments at the
North Park pavilion.