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Longtime coach Karl Zellers shares a special history with Reilly Stadium

October 12, 2012
Morning Journal News

SALEM - Long retired as head track coach at Salem High School, Karl Zellers still has the coaching bug in him.

While at Reilly Stadium recently regarding the Hail Mary Banquet to benefit the Reilly wall project, he gave some words of encouragement to the lone person running/walking laps on the all-weather oval.

"Keep those knees up," he said with a grin.

Article Photos

Former Salem High School head track coach Karl Zellers, who also served as assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach, stands on the track at Reilly Stadium where he spent a lot of his time encouraging Salem athletes. He’s the guest of honor for the Hail Mary Banquet, an event Nov. 10 to raise money for the Salem Preservation Society’s Reilly Wall project. Zellers coached with Earle Bruce, the former SHS head football coach and former coach of The Ohio State University football team, who will be the featured speaker. The cost of the banquet at the Salem Golf Club is $75 per person, kicking off with a social hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and the program at 8 p.m. For reservations, call 330-337-6926. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

There's no doubt he probably said those same words to his Quaker track athletes in the '50s and '60s, only then the track was cinders and a lot less forgiving to the knees, especially after a fall.

The 89-year-old former teacher and coach who said he swims laps three days a week at the Salem Community Center and does deep knee bends while cooking his dinner will serve as guest of honor at the Hail Mary Banquet on Nov. 10 at the Salem Golf Club.

Former Salem High School head football coach Earle Bruce, who Zellers coached alongside as assistant football coach, will serve as the featured guest speaker for the banquet. Bruce amassed a 28-9 record while coaching the Quakers from 1956 to 1959 and a record of 81-26-1 while head coach of The Ohio State University football team from 1979 to 1987. He led four different college teams to postseason bowl games.

According to a press release issued for the Hail Mary fundraiser, Bruce "has fond memories of Salem and Salem High School and will recollect his Salem and Ohio State highlights in an inspirational program to assist the Reilly Wall project."

Zellers grew up as an athlete in track, football and basketball for the Columbiana Clippers, going on to Mount Union College where he also excelled in sports and earned his teaching degree. He then earned a master's degree in physical education from Kent State University in 1950 and started his coaching/teaching career at Berlin Center High School. In his second year, he became head track coach in Louisville and by 1953, he was lured away to Salem after a call from Salem Athletic Director F.E. Cope, who wanted him as the Quakers head track coach.

While at Salem, Zellers also served as an assistant basketball coach from 1953 to 1967 and started the cross country track program, teaching economics, geography, psychology and history.

He and his wife, Lois Ann Dewalt Zellers, who passed away in 2011, had four children, Deborah, Bruce, Chesney and Kirk, who were regular attendees at Salem athletic events while growing up. Zellers has 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His wife also taught at Salem at Prospect School.

Reilly Stadium and Zellers share some history on the track and on the football field,

but he also recalls some historic moments at the stadium. Some of those moments include when Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens ran on the track in 1941, when the first night football game in Ohio occurred on the field on Oct. 11, 1929 and shaking then future President John F. Kennedy's hand during an appearance there in 1960.

The Hail Mary Banquet will culminate two years worth of fundraising for the Reilly wall project, a joint venture of the Salem Preservation Society and the Salem city school board. The school board agreed earlier this year to go forward with a modified plan to replace the entire north wall with a 6-foot 4-inch wall composed of a knee-high wall of bricks with brick columns and wrought iron-like ornamental fencing in between at an estimated cost of $140,000. The project will include installation of a replica of the original wrought iron gate and the rebuilding of two sections of brick wall on the east side of the stadium behind the band shell.

The Salem Preservation Society's part of the stadium project covers the west side, to include a replica of the old north wall, a replica of the original ticket booth and a Dedication Park which will include trees, benches and pavers to serve as tributes or memorials to Salem High School graduates, classes, residents, organizations or businesses. Money raised at the Hail Mary Banquet will supplement money already raised for the project, which is estimated to cost $200,000.

The cost of the Hail Mary event, which includes a prime rib buffet, is $75 per person, with MVP tables of eight available for $2,000 (includes a private meet and greet at 5 p.m.) Attendees who want to meet Coach Bruce or Zellers can pay an additional $200 per person.

The kickoff social hour begins at 6 p.m. at the Salem Golf Club ballroom, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the program at 8 p.m., with business attire requested. Anyone with fond memories of Bruce or Zellers can send them to so they can be included in the program.

Limited seating will be available. For reservations or information, contact JeanAlice Fehr at 330-337-6926.



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