EDITOR’S NOTE: Popular columnist Butch Dale has offered to share some stories about Montgomery County sports. This is the fifth of those stories.

There have certainly been many great basketball coaches in Montgomery County, but very few can match the record of Harold "Jack" Hester, who coached at New Market and Ladoga a total of 20 years. Jack graduated from New Market in 1934, having played his senior year under Coach Russell Bower . . . his team finishing with a 16-4 record. Then it was on to Wabash College, where Jack lettered in both basketball and baseball for three years. During his senior year, he was elected team captain for the roundball squad, coached by Pete Vaughn.
Jack returned to New Market as their head coach in the fall of 1938 and immediately started a winning tradition, with the Purple Flyers becoming the first team to win the Montgomery County tourney three years in a row in 1939, '40, and '41. That first championship game was very exciting, as New Market made the winning free throw after time had run out, to beat Ladoga 29-28.
But on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war. Jack joined the Navy and served his country, like most of the men of his generation. After the war when his full tour of duty was over, Jack returned to his teaching and coaching career . . . this time at Ladoga, where he stayed for the next 10 years--from 1947 to 1957. During that time, his Canner teams never had a losing season until his last year there, and in 1949, his team captured their second County Tourney title.
Jack then made the decision to retire from coaching. He remained as a teacher at Ladoga and then at Darlington until his inner desire caused him to return to the hardwood in the fall of 1963 as head coach back at New Market.
His Purple Flyers finished with a 7-14 record during his first year back, but Jack kept stressing fundamentals, and the next year the team upped their record to 11-8. Finally, during the 1965-66 season, New Market ended up 14-7 and won their seventh County Tourney championship, with players like Dale Conrad and Jim Slavens leading the way. Jack then retired a second time, with a coaching record second to none, as he collected 263 wins to only 157 losses--while winning an unprecedented six County Tourney championships . . . three more than his closest competitor, Cliff Davis of Waveland fame.
The boys who played for Jack had great respect for his coaching abilities, as well as for the man himself. He maintained discipline and stressed fundamentals. When Jack spoke, you listened . . . and learned. I never had the pleasure of having Mr. Hester as my coach, but I was lucky enough to have him as my algebra teacher at Darlington in 1962-63. His friendly attitude, helpfulness and discipline carried over into the classroom. He made sure you understood the basic math concepts and exceled. When I started Purdue, I was so proficient in algebra that I tested out of the college level course!
Jack finished his teaching career at Southmont and then retired for good to continue working on his farm and as a member of the South school board. Jack was sincerely interested in you as a person, and that is why he was not only a great coach, but also a great teacher. He was elected to the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, and passed away in 2009 at the age of 93, but his legacy lives on . . .
Thanks, Jack, for being a true public servant and "a man among men."

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.