‘Mr. Laker’ touched many in local athletic community



1951 — 2014

It would be difficult to find someone who loved his school as much as Tony Salyers.

Salyers, a 1972 graduate of Indian Lake, was a dedicated team manager for several sports teams while in school. He continued to stay around the Lakers’ sports teams after graduation, helping out in any way he could.

Known as ‘Mr. Laker’ by friends and those in the Indian Lake community, Salyers died Jan. 11 at the age of 62.

Although he will no longer be around to talk about his favorite players and favorite teams, Salyers will long be remembered by those he touched.

“I still remember when I met Tony,” wrote friend and Indian Lake classmate Rick Cooper in an e-mail. “It was in the mid-1960s at the old Tinsley’s IGA on Waterbury Road. Even as kids, he made me feel like I was his best friend. I soon learned that he made almost everyone feel that way.”

Salyers refused to let life’s obstacles hold him back from pursuing his passion for sports. As a team manager, he developed close relationships with players and coaches.

“The thing that stands out about Tony was how much he cared about Indian Lake’s student-athletes,” said Indian Lake football coach Dave Coburn. “Tony didn’t care who you were, what sport you played or where you came from, he just loved being around our student-athletes. His passion for Indian Lake was as deep as any player, coach or fan.”  

Salyers took overwhelming joy in every Laker win, and struggled to cope with defeat.

“If you played sports for Indian Lake, you had an especially close bond with Tony,” continued Cooper. “I don’t recall Tony ever missing a practice, and he would do whatever needed to be done, always in the most positive, helpful way. And once your playing days were over, Tony never, ever, forgot your jersey number. Whenever I ran into Tony, even several decades after my last game for ILHS, his first words were “32 in football, 30 home and 31 away in basketball.”

A whiz with numbers, Salyers had an uncanny knack for remembering statistics. He could recall details about games played decades earlier, some moments that even those who played in the games had forgotten.

He was well-known for greeting friends by announcing their license plate numbers. If you changed license plate numbers, he would know the new one instantly.

“I actually met Tony before I got to Indian Lake,” said Chuck Ellerbrock of Lima, a longtime coach for the Lakers. “He was hitchhiking and he needed a ride to Indian Lake. I told him I could get him to Waynesfield, and he said that was fine. When I came to (coach and teach at) Indian Lake a few years later, he remembered everything about that ride. He knew my name, he knew the kind of car I was driving and what my license plate number was.”

Salyers filled a variety of roles for the sports teams at Indian Lake over the years. Whether it was getting water for officials or fetching the basketball when it bounced onto the stage at the old Indian Lake gym, Salyers was willing to help in any way asked.

“Tony would fight whoever he had to for the ball,” said Ellerbrock with a laugh.

In a lesson we all could learn from, Tony always stayed true to himself. What you saw was what you got with him.

“In my senior year of high school, Tony and I were sitting around talking, which we did often,” recalled Cooper. “Our conversations were usually about sports because Tony’s world revolved around sports. But this conversation was different, and he became very solemn. For the only time since I’ve known him, Tony talked to me about being different.

“He wondered why he didn’t fit in, and he asked me why he couldn’t be like everyone else. Of course, I immediately pointed out that he was popular, had lots of friends, and that he was like everyone else. The years since then have taught me otherwise. Tony wasn’t like everyone else. The world would be a much better place if we all had his innocence, honesty, concern for others and unwavering loyalty to friends.”

Salyers’ passing has triggered a drive to raise money for a sign in his honor at the entrance to Indian Lake’s stadium.

Those wishing to donate to the sign fund for Salyers can do so at the Huntington Bank branch in Russells Point. In addition, checks made out to the Tony Salyers Memorial Fund can be sent to Kathy Brown, 21487 Meranda Rd., Maplewood, OH 45340.

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