Stow -- Bill Ganoe recalled a moment during his senior year in high school when a fellow student jokingly claimed he could best James "Coach" Tyree in a climb up a rock wall during a physical education class.
"Coach looked at him, harnessed up and went up the wall like I'd never seen," said Ganoe, a 1981 graduate of Stow High School. "Needless to say, the guy was pretty quiet after that. Coach not only could talk the talk," he emphasized, "but could always walk the walk."
Ganoe said Coach had a reputation in the school district as a humble and caring mentor that transcended his role as a teacher and coach. That's why Ganoe encouraged the School Board to consider dedicating the Stow-Munroe Falls High School's main gymnasium to Mr. Tyree's memory.
Mr. Tyree -- a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a graduate of Ellet High School in Akron and a Stow resident since 1960 who spent 33 years in the Stow school district as a teacher and coach -- died Feb. 12, 2011. He was 79.
At a ceremony prior to the Stow vs Cuyahoga Falls boys varsity basketball game Dec. 14, the SMFHS gym was named the James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
Athletic Director Cyle Feldman said he was impressed by the turnout for the ceremony, which took place just prior to the game.
"It was the biggest gathering we've had in a long time," said Feldman. "It was just a very positive evening, a memorable event, and a tribute that Coach is very deserving of."
"Naming the gym after Coach just seemed natural -- it just seemed right," he said. "For years and years, the gym was a place for all students of every ability to gather in one way or another. Coach embraced that. He seemed to thrive on accomplishments of kids, great or small.
"[The gym] should be remembered as a place where countless lives were touched by a teacher who gave so much," he added.
Remembering Coach Tyree
A projector displayed various photos of Mr. Tyree, a former high school physical education teacher, which looped throughout the dedication. Feldman said those photos evoked memories from an array of Coach's former students, athletes, friends and acquaintances.
"He's still known by Coach today around alumni," he said. "When you say 'Coach,' they know you're talking about Coach Tyree."
Mr. Tyree was known for his athletic prowess that eventually secured his inductions in various athletic halls of fame including the Stow High School Athletic Hall of Fame, both the Summit County Athletic and Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Halls of Fame, the Ellet Football Hall of Fame and the Baldwin Wallace University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Feldman said Mr. Tyree was also known for his reputation as a genuinely caring person with a humble-yet-direct personality who carried himself in the same manner he expected others to behave.
Ganoe, 49, remembers how Mr. Tyree once helped him ice his ankle after taking a nasty spill during a basketball game in the gym with friends. Mr. Tyree stayed with Ganoe until his parents arrived and later visited him at the hospital.
"He did this not because he was obligated to, but because he wanted to," said Ganoe. "The reason I knew he was truly concerned was that he took the time a couple days after to check on me at home. I was floored by that. This was a man who cared."
Feldman, 45, a 1985 Stow High School grad, said Mr. Tyree was known for maintaining friendships with alumni and fellow faculty well beyond their time in the school.
He noted how Mr. Tyree would open the old high school gym on Sunday nights just for alumni for 25 years, which was his way to "stay connected" with everyone.
Mr. Tyree would often organize games of basketball and "speedball" during those sessions, which Feldman describes as a combination of soccer and handball.
"Other than my father, Coach was the most important person in my life, and that's pretty powerful," said Feldman.
He said the word that best describes Tyree is "greatness."
"And what I mean by that with a term that's used so often, is that in all aspects of a coach, in all aspects of life, from an athlete to a teacher to a coach to a father to a friend -- Coach was great," he said.
A 'Great' Father, Coach and Mentor
Mr. Tyree's son, Jay, who was among a group of family members who attended the Dec. 14 ceremony, said the dedication of the gym in his father's memory was an "honor."
"It's kind of humbling," he said. "When you're thinking about that [dedication], there's a lot of people who might deserve that honor. We are very grateful that Stow would do that."
He added that he was touched by the respect shown by all those who attended the Dec. 14 rivalry game.
"It just shows a lot of class," Jay said.
Jay, 55, a 1975 Stow High School graduate, is a Tallmadge resident, a former Hudson High School principal and a former SMFHS teacher and athletic director. He said his father was a "great influence" in his life and part of the reason he became involved in the schools.
He noted how Mr. Tyree had a similar impact on virtually everyone he came to know, fostering a reputation as a person who always "walked the walk," which garnered respect from students and athletes alike.
"The things he believed in and talked about, he lived out," he said. "People respect that when you don't just say things, but you do it, too."
"Over the years, he's just been known for taking care of people," Jay added. "He was always around when there were people who have needs. It was the relationships he had with people. He would even take people to nursing homes, doctor's appointments -- that's just the kind of person he was."
Jay said Mr. Tyree's legacy will live on not only through the dedication of the SMFHS gym, but also in the hearts and minds of the people he impacted and influenced throughout his life.
"The relationships that he built with students and how he followed through with those relationships even as kids graduated had a major impact on so many people," Jay said. "He had high standards and he expected the same thing from his students. People like him don't come along every day."
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