Thurnes created lasting memories for many people
As we age, we are able to look back on our lives to remember places and people and episodes in our past that had such an influence on what we have been and what we have become.
To some, it was the day they got married or when that first child was born. To others, it maybe a special family trip or notable vacation. And to others, it may be someone who had such an impact on their early lives that it carried them through and, unknowingly, played such a major part in their development as a person.
Today, there are so many that are looking back on the influence that just a few years of football or time spent in the classroom helped to carve out the life that they live.
It is those times and people that have such an impact on us all, not because of what we learned, but that they will forever be etched in our hearts and minds. They will all remember a moment, a story, maybe just an hour.
Richard “Dick” Thurnes was one of those people who created lasting memories in so many people. He was one those people that was and will always be remembered by one name that is not the name he was given at birth.
He has always been referred to as “Coach” and despite his passing on Monday at 91, he will always and forever referred to as “Coach”.
Coach Thurnes was an incredible coach during his days on the sidelines in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In the classroom, he was a incredible teacher with the ability to capture his American History students like no other teacher could. And when he walked into a room at any time during his life and any place that he may have showed up that room would light up as if someone had just switched on the lights.
Yes, Coach Thurnes was exactly that kind of man.
He graduated in 1946 from old Union High school in which became part of John Marshall. From high school he went on to play football at West Liberty State College starting at center in both the Pythion Bowl and Smokey Mountain Bowls He played for the late Joe Bartell and played on two unbeaten teams for the Hilltoppers.
Serving in the U.S Army during the Korean War he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan and once back in the states at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania as part of the Military Police.
It was on the football field, not as a player, but as a coach that he became a true Ohio Valley legend. Stories of his coaching exploits and his teams continued to be told long after he left coaching to no one’s surprise. Where ever he coached and where ever he taught, his players and students admired and loved him.
His coaching career started at Cameron High School in 1955. A three-year stint there would include a 7-0-1 record team in 1956 and a #2 small school ranking an 18-6-1 during that time.
Coach would then move across the river and took over at Warren Consolidated in Tiltonsville. It was there that he became one of the most well-known and popular coaches in the Ohio Valley. His teams in Tiltonsville were some of the best in the state. He amassed a78-26-6 mark at old WCHS including unbeaten teams 1961, ’62, ’64 and ’67, all four years capturing the EOAL title and three times winning OVAC titles. During that span, his teams produced some of the state’s best players including Parade All-American Randy Donahue.
Leaving the sidelines after the ’69 season, Coach would return to take over the reins of the first two Buckeye South teams which finished 16-3-1 in the two years he coached there. In all, he put together a 112-36-7 career record.
He also coached basketball, baseball and golf and pretty successful in those sports as well. It was in the classroom as a teacher and as a powerful motivator that Coach Thurnes quite possibly excelled the most.
Students would always look forward to the days that he would be in his class primarily when the class would be covering the Civil War. He not only knew a great deal about the subject, but had an uncanny knack for having students at the peak of their attention with his delivery and knowledge.
As a motivator, he had some very peculiar methods, but they all works. His pre-game talks and his speeches during pep assemblies will never be equaled. And if his teams were down at halftime, let’s just say there are still locker room doors that haven’t been the same since his fired-up teams left there and went back on the field.
On a personal note, as a youngster waiting on a bus for school, it was pretty cool when Coach Thurnes was driving the bus. As a football player in high school, it was an episode of my life that I will never forget.
In September of 1969, as just a teenager, I would cover first game in my career as a sports writer. That game was in Dillonvale and the Night Riders were hosting Warren Consolidated and Coach Thurnes was my first interview. Some events in your life, you just don’t forget.
Myself and so many of his former players were on hand the night that Coach was inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame. It was a proud moment for Coach Thurnes that night and equally as proud as moment for all of his former football players.
Looking back at Coach’s life and career, I can’t imagine just how many lives he has touched. He was a great coach, teacher ad motivator, but most of all he was a great friend.
Right about now, somewhere in Heaven, Coach Thurnes is reunited with a few of his past players and is standing in that locker room in the clouds giving another of his fiery pep talks. And I assure you, he will be a winner there.