BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Former students and players of Roy “Pops” Warner can still hear his whistle and shared their fondest memories when they found out he passed away last Thursday, Jan. 12, at the age of 72.
Warner had been fighting cancer for five years when he fell ill with pneumonia.
“He didn’t recover from it,” shared his daughter, Wendy Hoeft.
“He was a wonderful man,” she said. “He was a really nice man, a giving man. Whatever anybody needed. He loved all his kids. He took on the kids who needed extra love. He was one of those teachers.”
Warner taught for Clarkston Community Schools from September 1969 to June 2004 as a physical education teacher and was also a baseball and football coach.
“He was a very good friend and I am going to miss him,” said Kurt Richardson, current head coach for the Clarkston Varsity Football team. He was on the varsity team when Warner began at Clarkston and later was an assistant coach.
Richardson came back to his hometown after graduation and coached for him and with him later on. He also taught physical education with him.
“He always made you laugh,” he said. “He was always upbeat and laughing. You could always sit down, have a conversation with him and walk away feeling good.”
Richardson added Warner made an impact on him as a player, a student and a coach.
“I always enjoyed him,” he said. “He was one of those guys as a player you could relate to. He was fun and he was fun to work with. As a coach, he was a very technique orientated guy – that’s something that made an impression on me as a young coach. Then, as a teacher he was easy going and enjoyed every day. He was fun to be around. He never complained.”
Phil Price, head coach for Clarkston Varsity Baseball, added “Pops” was a mentor to him. Price coached the JV team in 1992 and was his assistant coach.
“He taught me a lot about baseball. He taught me a lot about living,” he said. “He gave me my start in baseball. He set a great foundation for the baseball program.
“Pops was always someone who loved to look good,” Price added. “His uniforms were always outstanding – the way the hats were designed and everything. We always looked good. He was a great guy, a great friend, a great mentor, a great peer. I am lucky to have known him.”
Chris Combs also had Warner as a coach when he was a catcher for the Wolves and a teacher.
“He was a energetic, fun man,” he reflected. “He was a coach who coached in a positive way. He always had a way of turning the negatives into a positive. He was kind-hearted. He was a wonderful person to the community. He was a great role model.”
He added it was great to see Warner once in a while at the Roy Warner tournament Price began.
“He came back several times to present the championship award,” he said.
Combs said Warner made an impact on his life from him playing college baseball to how he raises his girls.
John Drallos, a teacher at Clarkston High School, also played for him.
“He was a ton of fun to play for because he always knew how to keep things light and enjoyable,” Drallos said.
He had a lot of fond memories including Warner with his fungo bat, the bat coaches use during warm up before the game.
“He was an absolute sniper with his fungo bat,” Drallos said. “In his manner and his voice he would point out a location or put bucket in the outfield, say watch this and hit a ball – and he would hit it.
He added when he talks with previous players who were coached by Warner they always start laughing or smiling when they talk about Pops.
“It’s just the kind of guy he was. Every time you talked about Pops you had a smile on your face.”
Drallos added the impact Warner had on him was no matter what the situation or how intense there is always time to relax.
“Embrace the moment by having some fun,” he said. “As I do that in my professional life that’s a lot of influence from how Pops carried on his business.”
Dan Fife had already graduated when Warner began coaching and teaching in Clarkston, but got to know him when Fife returned to coach and later became the athletic director.
“Every day was a good day with Pops,” Fife shared. “He always had a smile. The glass was always full. It was never empty with Pops. It was hard not to smile without him around.”
Among all the memories many recalled Warner’s trademark – his whistle.
“Yes,” Richardson laughed. “His whistle and he had nicknames for everyone.”
“He always had a smile and every time I went through the gym and saw him he would always whistle,” Fife said. “Whistling kept you knowing Pops is here. I don’t walk through the gym very often throughout the day now, but when I am there isn’t a time I don’t think about Pops whistling.”
“He would whistle,” Price laughed. “He would whistle commands. You would know what to do just by the whistle.”
“He would whistle a ton,” Combs shared. “It was his way to get people’s attention. One of his famous slogans was ‘shut her down at the blue.’ No matter where we were, you are running to get past that line. Don’t stop until you get past the blue. It was his philosophy. I still hear it at the high school now saying it.”
“To know Pops, you knew his whistling,” Drallos said. “There was one time I recall him giving the entire starting line up with just points and whistles. He didn’t say a word. He would just point at you and whistle, point to a position and whistle again. It was just the funniest thing.”
Warner was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association in 1999. He coached sports for 29 years with 20 of the years as a varsity coach. He compiled a 477-236 record. He led his teams to won four district championships and four league championships.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon; daughters Wendy (David) Hoeft and Vicki Wilson.
He was proud grandfather of Megan and Jonathan Clem. He was proud Megan will attend Michigan State University this fall as he was a Spartan. He also enjoyed watching Jonathan play baseball and gave him tips to improve his game.
Wendy shared a memorial service will be held at Calvary Lutheran Church this June. The final details were being worked out at time of publication.
She added everyone throughout the community has been so kind.
BY WENDI REARDON PRICE