Here is another fellow who was one of Waynetown's most popular athletes . . . yes, it's Dave Yerkes, who graduated in 1968 and played on the varsity baseball, basketball and track teams all four years of high school. I played against Dave, who was two years younger than me, and I remember how enthusiastic and competitive he was, but what I recall most about Dave was his attitude. He always gave 110 percent, win or lose, and he just really enjoyed sports. Even if his team lost, Dave was always talkative and friendly and had a big smile.
Dave played at the forward position for the Gladiator basketball team for Coach Fred Johnson. Dave led the team in scoring his senior year and was voted Most Valuable Player. He was very tenacious and was the type of player who dove for a loose ball and wanted to be in the middle of the action. In baseball, Dave played the most difficult position . . . catcher. Yes, that's the guy behind the plate who sweats underneath all of that protective equipment, eats dust and occasionally gets hit by an errant pitch. But Dave loved it! According to Pat Fay, Dave was the catcher during the 17-inning game between Waynetown and Darlington, in which pitchers Steve Snelling and John Groves went the distance. And on the track team, Dave participated on the relay teams, long jumped, and pole vaulted. According to Fred Johnson, Dave was the first person at Waynetown to use a fiberglass pole. Fred remembered the time that Dave came running toward the pole vault pit and vaulted into the air, when suddenly the fiberglass pole snapped in two! Dave was thrown across the pit and landed on his back. As the coach and fellow teammates hurried over to check on him, Dave got his bearings, stood up, brushed himself off and went over and grabbed the old metal vaulting pole . . . and tried again. He was determined to clear that bar!
After his school days, Dave played in the men's softball league, and still showed that competitive spirit. In the 1980s, I was coaching a Darlington Little League baseball team in which one of my boys, Clark, was the pitcher. We played against the Waynetown team one evening, and Dave was the coach of their team . . . and one of his sons, Aaron, was the pitcher on that team. Well, it was a pitcher's duel, as both of our boys struck out batters right and left. In the last inning, my team scored a run on an error and subsequently won the game. Dave came over and congratulated me, and shook the hands of all of my players, and I did the same. We both realized that yes, winning is nice, but the most important thing is to try your best and be a good sport.
Several years later, my wife and I were at the Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette, and as we were headed to Kohls, someone yelled, "Hey, Butch!" I looked over in that direction and saw a fellow sitting on the bench by the entrance. I didn't recognize the man, who appeared to be in his late 80s or early 90s. He had no hair, and appeared very pale. As I started to sit down beside him to talk, I suddenly realized it was Dave Yerkes. I asked him if he had been undergoing some type of cancer treatment, and he told me that, yes, he had been diagnosed with leukemia and had been going through chemotherapy, and would get through it OK. We then talked about the "old days" when we had played against each other and all of the fun times. He said that he played golf almost every day, and he still loved competing against others. And despite his illness, Dave was still upbeat and had that big smile on his face. We had a long talk. That was the last time I saw Dave. Sadly, he passed away in 2014 at the age of 64.
As Fred Johnson recalled, "Dave was a great kid to coach, and he had the best attitude, worked his tail off, and enjoyed all sports." Thanks, Dave . . . I'm glad I got to know you and compete against you . . . and I will never forget you.

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.