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The Perry Reese story |

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A Black, Catholic man went to a predominately white, Mennonite and Amish space to vary the area for the higher.

BERLIN, Ohio — It might sometime be a Hollywood film, and a documentary is at the moment within the works from native filmmaker Zosimo Maximo. It is the story a few legend of a person and the legacy he’s left behind in a rural Ohio space.

“He introduced some new issues to a group that perhaps they hadn’t seen earlier than,” David Schlabach, the ladies basketball coach at Hiland Excessive College for 30 years, stated

In Holmes County, all it’s important to do is say the title Perry Reese Jr., and almost everybody has one thing to say.

“He might make you’re feeling like crucial individual on the planet,” Shelly Miller, native store employee and pal of Reese, defined.

“It was laborious to not like him,” Peg Model, former Hiland secretary, added. “It was very laborious to not like him.”

“I wished to be a instructor and coach due to him,” former participant below Reese and present boys basketball coach Mark Schabach stated. “It is simply that straightforward. I wished to be like him.”

Reese, a Black, Catholic man from Canton, got here to the predominately white, Amish and Mennonite space within the early 1980s as an assistant basketball coach. Upon his arrival, the city that was, to say the least, uncertain of his presence.

“In these occasions, folks weren’t used to totally different cultures,” Reese’s youthful sister Audrey Hardy defined. “Here is a Black, Catholic with Mennonites, and if you recognize something about that, that wasn’t going to be good.”

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“A number of the large boosters weren’t pleased with hiring him,” Bob Van Kaenel, Reese’s pal, and the pinnacle basketball coach at Dover, remembered.

“After I was a younger child, I knew that there was rigidity,” Mark Schlabach admitted.

“Individuals would drive by his home and yell slurs,” Miller stated.

Reese by no means gave in, and fought to make use of compassion to interrupt down the boundaries saved up by hate and misunderstanding.

“Individuals weren’t form and these things was taking place,” Model stated, “however he simply by no means dwelled on any of that.”

“He stated, ‘Generally you simply should eat the crow,'” Hardy recalled. “‘Generally the issues which might be taking place to you, you don’t enable it to takeover.'”

“It was nearly like he was exhibiting us that they don’t know higher,” Miller stated. “‘Let me train you by my actions.'”

Reese turned the pinnacle boys basketball coach in 1985, and because the Hawks began successful video games on the court docket, he began successful the group over proper together with it.

“As they continued to win and win, that modifications folks’s thought course of immediately,” Von Kaenel stated

“It was sellout crowds solely, folks sneaking within the again door and ready in line simply to get a ticket,” David Schlabach recalled.

Coach Reese and the Hiland boys basketball staff gained 49 of their first 53 video games, together with a visit to the state semifinals. In his 16 years on the faculty, the Hawks made 5 journeys to the ultimate 4 and gained the Division IV state championship in 1992. Nevertheless, no matter all of the accolades and all the things achieved on the court docket, it was Reese’s influence outdoors the gymnasium that’s nonetheless being felt in Holmes County.

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“Perry made it a lot simpler for us opening up our group’s imaginative and prescient to ‘It is about folks,'” Miller stated. “It’s not about your pores and skin coloration.”

He was a coach to the fortunate few, a historical past instructor to extra, a father determine to many and pal to everybody he met. Perry Reese modified the college and city a lot that now, even 20 years after a mind tumor stole him away, the larger-than-life man has left a folklore-like legend within the space.

“One in all his gamers has his tattoo on his arm,” Hardy stated.

“There’s been a number of households which have adopted African American youngsters in our group,” Mark Schlabach added.

“My son is called Brady Reese,” David Schlabach proudly declared.

All of this within the space that was so uncertain of his arrival.

“He modified our group for the higher,” Miller stated. “That doesn’t occur however as soon as in a lifetime.”

In accordance with Model and plenty of others, “There’ll by no means be one other Perry.”

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