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Butler County coach lauded for influence on students, staff, community

Talawanda Schools recently paid tribute to the contributions of Marvin Wilhelm by naming the high school’s athletic complex in his honor. The ceremony included the unveiling of the sign near the entrance to the football field.

Talawanda Principal Tom York said the tribute was the result several speakers coming to the board of education some months ago and asking that Wilhelm be recognized.

One of those speakers was Bill Bowers, a retired Talawanda teacher who also spoke at the dedication Sept. 28 prior to the football game against Harrison. Bowers grew up in Oxford and is a Talawanda graduate.

“Marvin was my basketball coach my first year here,” Bowers said. “I tried to estimate how many young people he has had an influence on. Just using the senior classes, I estimate it is over 10,000. Can you imagine that? Marvin really loved young people and still does. He’s never partial to anyone.”

He continued by saying Wilhelm always mentored others — as a teacher, a principal and as a coach — always relating to students and putting their needs first.

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“Some of us work at it, Marvin had that gift,” Bowers said.

Another speaker at the dedication had a similar perspective, having been a student, teacher, administrator and coach with Wilhelm. Joe Pyfrin was also a student who later worked with Wilhelm.

“I first met Mr. Wilhelm in September 1959 when I walked in as a student. He was my teacher. He was my coach, but later when he hired me, he was my boss,” Pyfrin said, adding he also later was an administrator with him.

Pyfrin said the two of them traveled together to every home and away Talawanda game from 1975 through last year continuing that bond that started so many years earlier. He drew a laugh from the crowd when he talked about those trips.

“One of my brightest memories is getting lost with this man every game. We were known as the Scenic Route Guys,” Pyfrin said, then continued in a serious vein. “He is the man I want to be like. He touched my life almost all of my life. Marvin Wilhelm made Talawanda a better place. Marvin Wilhelm made Oxford a better place.”

He closed his comments by referring back to what Bowers had said about the thousands of young people influenced by Wilhelm. He turned toward the honoree.

“Many thousands of boys and girls are better people. This is a better world because of you,” Pyfrin said. “Thank you, Marvin.”

John Wilhelm, now principal at Hamilton High School, said growing up he and his siblings understood the importance of an education as well as passing that on to others.

“The influence and power of learning were always strong in our house,” John Wilhelm said. “Talawanda meant everything to my dad. My siblings and I knew if he was not with us, he was at Talawanda High School. Years after leaving, my siblings and I met people influenced by our father.”

He said his father was “most comfortable in the halls and fields of Talawanda.”

He added his father was happy to coach any sport and that was echoed by York in his closing comments when he told of needing a junior high coach while he was an administrator in the Edgewood district.

He said he called Wilhelm, who promptly agreed to coach that junior high team.

“Coach Wilhelm and Coach Bowers taught that there is much more to sports than just winning games,” York said, turning to where Wilhelm was sitting in front of the sign bearing his name and added, “Thank you so much. You’re one of the greatest influences in my life.”

Following the ceremony, Wilhelm was greeted by many in attendance and had pictures taken with many of them.

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