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Tell City Hall of Fame loses 2 more members

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By Larry Goffinet

I was in favor of Tell City High School's starting its athletic hall of fame for several reasons long before it became a reality in 2004.

For one, it should make current Marksman athletes aware that the school has a rich athletic tradition.

But the biggest reason is it gives former superstar players and coaches a chance to reminisce with their fans and be the recipients of applause in Tell City's gym one final time.

The importance of that is felt more keenly when a member of the school's hall of fame passes away.

Two, former basketball coach Orlando "Gunner" Wyman and former three-sport star Steve Smith, both did so this month.

That brings to three the number of Tell City Hall of Famers who have died in the last eight months, as four-sport star Tom Kron succumbed to cancer Nov. 29.

Just 19 people have been elected to the Tell City Athletic Hall of Fame in its five-year existence.

Three, Bryan Taylor, Robert "Bud" George and Art Wagner, were deceased before their election. Thus there are only 13 living members of the Hall.

Kron spoke at two of the Tell City Hall of Fame induction banquets. He was one of the first five inductees in 2004 and returned in 2005 for the induction of Wyman, his high school basketball coach.

Wyman was 79 when he was inducted in January 2005 but still looked to be in pretty good shape and still had his sharp wit.

He joked that after he came to Tell City in 1958 and met several local residents he told his wife, "This is going to be an easy job. I'm going to have lots of help - everyone here in town thinks he's a basketball coach."

That was his last public appearance in front of Tell City fans, though a few of them said they talked to him at a Harrison basketball game in Evansville last winter (he was there with his son, Will, who coached at Harrison for about 20 years).

Several members of Tell City's 1961 state final four basketball team used to have a reunion fish fry with Wyman at his home on Kentucky Lake each summer.

About a year ago Wyman, in declining health, moved to Evansville to live with Will's family.

So four members of Tell City's 1961 team attended this year's fish fry with Wyman at Will's home just a week before their former coach died.

Smith was unable to attend his Tell City Hall of Fame induction in January 2006 because he lived in Texas and had already made a commitment to attend his daughter's collegiate track meet at the University of Houston that weekend.

But his election gave him a chance to reminisce about his career by telephone with me and with banquet master of ceremonies Dr. Gene Ress, who relayed most of his remarks to the audience at the banquet.

Smith is undoubtedly Tell City's best track athlete ever, having won three events in the 1975 Columbus regional (the first time in 21 years an athlete from any school had done that). He placed fourth in the state in the 180-yard low hurdles that year.

He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1975 Indiana North-South football all-star game, quarterbacking the South team to victory.

He played wide receiver for the University of Evansville and was being scouted by some NFL teams before a knee injury his junior season ended his career.