By KRYSTAL SHETLER
MITCHELL — Coaches and players, young and old, will come together Saturday to lead the Persimmon Festival Parade through downtown Mitchell.
When 2013 General Chairwoman Lori Quebbeman chose the theme, “Mitchell Athletics — Past, Present and Future,” her goal was to honor the community’s athletic traditions.
To follow that theme, Quebbeman — a coach and athlete herself — chose a varied group of individuals to represent the past, present and future of Bluejacket athletics as the grand marshals for the Persimmon Festival Parade.
“I picked this theme because I love sports, and I have been involved in sports since elementary school, and I continue to be involved now as a coach,” Quebbeman said for a previous story. “I believe that being involved in sports, even the lesser-known sports, in school, helps to teach values, helps motivate, discipline and inspire the student.
“Sports are something that you can enjoy your whole life, play and/or being a spectator. … Mitchell sports have helped me become the person I am today, and I think they need to be recognized.”
Leading the charge will be Paul Stroud and the family of the late Terry Cole. Stroud said he was once told by the late Don Caudell Sr. that he and Cole were the only two athletes to come out of Mitchell who were “paid to play” after high school.
“It’s very nice to be honored,” Stroud said. “I’m just sorry Terry isn’t alive to see this. He would’ve loved it.”
Cole led the Bluejackets to its only undefeated season 50 years ago and went on to play for Indiana University and three professional football teams. He was a member of the Miami Dolphins when the team went undefeated on the season and won the Super Bowl championship. He died in November 2005. He will be represented in the parade by his son, Ben, and two grandchildren.
Stroud, a celebrated basketball player who still holds a few MHS records, was recruited heavily during high school. He chose to play for the Indiana State University Sycamores so he could pursue a career as a teacher and coach. After four years on the hardwood in Terre Haute, he tried out for the two traveling teams that played the Harlem Globetrotters and was chosen. He played for both the Washington Generals and New York Nationals, spending three years traveling around the United States and world playing basketball. Later, he would become a junior college coach for Northwood and Oakland City University before returning to his roots in Mitchell. He coached, taught and served as athletic director for Mitchell before taking administration and coaching positions at West Washington. He retired in 2010.
“I traveled with the Washington Generals and New York Nationals for three years, and it was a great opportunity,” said Stroud, who still lives in Mitchell. “The pay was pretty good. We got to play basketball, and we traveled everywhere. It was a great way to make money and have fun. It was a fun thing to do, and something not a lot of people get to do. It was educational, and I tried to take back what I learned and share it with the students I taught and coached throughout the rest of my career.”
A float, made by the MHS Art Club, will carry the grand marshals. Gary Seitzinger, who coached in Mitchell Community Schools for 43 years — 34 as head baseball coach, will be among those honored as grand marshal. He’ll be joined by his grandson, 8-year-old Ben Seitzinger, who will represent the future Mitchell athletes.
The elder Seitzinger is not a Mitchell native, but grew up in Vincennes. He attended Indiana State University. Just before graduation with a double major in math and physical education, he applied for three jobs, one of which was in Mitchell.
“I didn’t even know where Mitchell was,” Seitzinger said. “I had to look it up on a map. When I realized it was on the way to Bedford, and I knew where Bedford was because we had played Bedford in high school, I figured out its general location. I came down, interviewed and toured the school. I was offered a job that same day, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Seitzinger’s Persimmon Festival involvement has centered around the Phi Beta Psi food tent, as his wife Marcia is a member of the sorority. His “behind-the-scenes” role has never lent itself to being a part of the annual parade.
“I think I drove a tractor pulling a float once, but other than that, I’ve never been in a parade,” Seitzinger said. “It’s a special situation for me, especially with Ben on there, too. He was very excited about it.”
MHS athletes Taylor Mann, Alex Speer and Trevin Grissom will represent current athletes on the grand marshal float Saturday.
Mann, a Lady Jacket, plays basketball and softball for MHS. She’s grown up watching the parade and is now excited to lead it.
“I felt honored,” 16-year-old Mann said of being asked to serve as a grand marshal. “Especially, being a girl, and being able to represent our role in the athletic programs. It felt like it was an honor to represent my fellow student athletes and my friends.
“With my family, the parade is what we do on Saturday. Being a part of that is exciting.”