Repost: Jack Inman did more for the kids in Lilly than start the Lilly Tournament.
Despite an accident that prevented him from playing football, he started the Lilly Raiders football and basketball teams, providing opportunities for thousands of young people in the process.
Jack Inman, founder of Lilly Raiders and co-dounder Lilly Tournament
Photo courtesy of his daughter, Diane Campagna
Coach Inman gave some small-town kids the opportunity to compete. I will always treasure those days. Mr. Jack Inman had a great influence on my life and the lives of many Lilly kids. God bless Jack Inman!
George Klayko, June 8, 2020
… Lilly Raiders started playing sports in 1961
Sometimes, out of personal adversity comes tremendous satisfaction.
In 1961, Jack Inman of Lilly, Pa. had a dream. He thought that the young boys in Lilly should have a football team like other communities in central Cambria County. The boys in Lilly could not play football until they were in high school, and he set about rectifying that situation.
Jack approached the pastor of St. Brigid’s Church, which had a school, to see if he would be willing to support a grade school football team. Father Philip Curran was an old-school Irishman who said that the only goal of a Catholic school should be education, not sports.
At first, Jack was devastated, but that did not prevent him from pursuing that elusive dream. The reality is that the decision by the priest turned into something positive and brought together a community in a special way since the town of about 1,500 people decided that it would support the team. That team included the students at St. Brigid’s and from the public school, Lilly-Washington.
Chasing the dream
The dream was somewhat challenging since football is so expensive. The team had no helmets, no should pads, no uniforms, no footballs — and most important, no money.
However, Jack approached a group of parents who bought into the idea, and they formed what eventually was known as the Lilly Youth Organization that started raising money through sub-sales and other fundraisers so that football could become a reality. Businesses in the community also helped lay the financial foundation for the teams.
Started in 1961
One of those players on the first football team in 1961 was George Klayko, who later became a teacher and a coach at many levels from grade school through college. He reflected on what that experience with the Lilly Raiders and the leadership of Jack Inman meant to him,
When it was a reality that Lilly would have a grade school football team in 1961, I was pumped. We would still have our pick-up games in the field behind St. Brigid Church, but now Lilly youth could play organized football competing with other towns / schools in the area. I will always treasure the experience.
Jack Inman was the driving force behind the formation of Raider grade school football. I remember Coach Inman was so excited about leading our team. You could feel it in his voice when he talked to us as a team or in individual conversations. Jack was 110% involved in shaping us into a quality youth football team.
George Klayko, e-mail interview, June 8, 2020
Wanted to provide an opportunity that he never had
What made the contribution of Jack to the children in Lilly even more impressive is that he suffered what for many would have been a debilitating injury when he was young.
It never diminished his spirit.
I never understood the story about that until Jack told me about it in 2008. Jack was at a Penn Cambria High School football game and was in the press box where I was broadcasting a game of the week with my friend, Pat Farabaugh.
At halftime, he asked about my brother, Father Jim, whose foot had been amputated because of cancer. He asked if my brother was using a prosthesis to help him walk. Jim was just starting that process, and Jack asked if he could come out to his rectory and give him some support and motivation since Jack had been using one for years.
That was so kind of him, to help support someone who was hurting, but that was the kind of man he was.
Jack did that, and after talking with my brother, he told me about what had happened to him as a youth. In an accident, Jack had lost his foot, but he was able to use a prosthesis to walk for the rest of his life. He also worked for decades at SKF in Altoona, so that accident did not hold him back in life as a worker, a human being, a leader, and a father.
And that is what motivated Jack to start the grade school program.
Starting the football team
Since Jack had not played the sport, he had to become a student of the game. George Klayko explained how he was able to accomplish that, and how he was able to motivate the young people,
Jack did all he could to gather football knowledge to help him with his coaching. I remember him telling me that he obtained Willie Campagna's (a former star player for Lilly-Washington High School in the 1940s and high school football coach in North Carolina in 1961) playbook to provide him with ideas in setting up his playbook. Jack was just as pumped as his players. He was all in!
Jack happened to be my next door neighbor. I remember having some preseason practice sessions in his back yard with some of us Hunky Hill youth running some of the plays he had in his playbook. Jack loved to talk. His communication skills were very on target. He kept your attention. There was something about his voice, the enthusiasm was evident.
George Klayko, e-mail interview, June 8, 2020
That started a 40+ year odyssey.
The football team started in the fall of 1961, a Raiders’ basketball team was then started by Jack, and a cheerleading squad to support the teams was quickly added. The Raiders lasted into the 21st Century when numbers required that they join with other communities to field teams.
The shock of Coach Emil Salony, which he repaid
Emil Salony was the long-time football and basketball coach and a teacher at Lilly, later renamed Lilly-Washington, High School. He met Jack as a student in the 1940s, but from a story told to me by my mother, who was also a teacher there, he was shocked — and actually devastated — by something that happened involving Jack.
According to my mother’s recollection, Coach Salony was attempting to have some physical education classes in the Lilly High School, which did not have a gymnasium. He was showing the students some exercises and calisthenics and other ways of keeping in condition.
Jack was in one of the classes, and Coach attempted to show them how to pivot. However, because of his prosthesis, Jack could accomplish that task.
Coach Salony was known to raise his voice when students and players did not follow his directions, and when Jack could not pivot, Coach grew frustrated and went down to his knees and grabbed his foot. At that point, Coach realized that Jack was wearing a prosthesis, which he did not know, and that was the reason for his problem.
According to my mother, her classroom was across the hall from where this occurred. She said that when Mr. Salony entered her room, he was white as a ghost and was shaking. She had never seen him in such a state. She could not understand what had transpired.
He explained the situation to her after sitting down at a desk. She said that Coach was devastated that he could have ever treated a child like that. He was apologetic, but it still had a tremendous effect on him.
So, when Jack decided to start the football team close to 20 years later, guess who he turned to for advice and help? Coach Salony, who probably looked at this as an opportunity to right a wrong that he had inflicted on a young boy decades ago, was instrumental in helping with that effort.
George Klayko still remembers those games the first year despite the passage of almost 60 years,
Jack and assistant Casimir Zajdel led the Raiders competing in the Cambria County Grade School League. I believe we lost to Colver in our first game but was then awarded a win when it was later made known that Colver had 9th graders playing for them. Two games that come to mind were a victory over Carrolltown where a toss sweep was the big play in the game. I believe Lilly won 7 to 0. The other was a bitter loss to Holy Name (who ended up winning the league) when a score by the Raiders was called back due to a penalty (clipping). Should have won that game.
George Klayko, e-mail interview, June 8, 2020
Jack spent many of his later years doing another kind of teaching, another of his loves: Fly-fishing. I found this tribute on a fishing website after he passed away in 2010,
“John R. ‘Jack’ Inman , 79, of Lilly died Friday in Latrobe after an extended illness.”
“Jack was an avid fly-fisherman for 55 years and was showcased on the YouTube feature Secret Stream. In 1988, he was featured in an article ‘Purism’ in the Pennsylvania Sportsmen Magazine. He was a fishing guide for the Feathered Hook, Coburn, [Pa.], and thoroughly enjoyed teaching the art of fly-fishing to many people from different states for the past 10 years.”
Jack and his wife, Lee Ann “Tootsie,” were the parents of four children: Diane Campagna, John, Joe, and Cindy Shaffer. There are ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Inman is now 87 and lives in Latrobe with her daughter, Cindy.
So, a man who suffered a devastating accident years ago never allowed that to prevent him from accomplishing some outstanding things in life.
That is a great story about someone whose dream came to fruition and influenced generations of young people. It is something that all of us should remember today.