It doesn’t seem that long ago when we Lawrence Junior High kids were jamming into the Congregational Church “recreation area” for those church-sponsored Friday night dances. You “old-timers” remember when Pastor Dale Turner in the 1950s opened his heart and church to us Lawrence “Happy Days,” barely teenage, boys and girls. Times change, people grow, and our wonderful Lawrence community continues to thrive. Many people through the years have contributed immensely to local progress. Today I remember a fellow Jayhawk, Bill Mayer.
My association with Bill through the years has been unique, friendly and meaningful. I was one for those junior high teens worrying about getting a part-time job to cover my purchases at the neighborhood grocery store, or trying to please those tough demands from Coach Nanny Duver. However, trusting the advice from my mom and dad, I met those seemingly unattainable teenage challenges. I remember my parents saying that we were lucky to have a man like Bill Mayer to report the facts, and offer good common sense commentary. In their eyes, Bill was a straightforward man with high integrity and moral fiber, with unquestioned character. My parents went to the same church as Bill and they pretty much agreed with his religious values, his conservative lifestyle attitude, and his “do the right thing” philosophy.
As I grew and branched out as a Lawrence Lion, a Kansas University Jayhawk, and later a KU coach, I depended more and more on the wisdom of Bill Mayer. I coached several “then called minor” sports at KU, and Bill seemed to understand the struggles that existed within the infancy of those athletic programs. Bill was a journalistic leader who treated me, my sports and athletes with respect and unique recognition. Gymnastics was never an easy sport to understand and, certainly in those days, difficult to editorialize. He never tried to offer coaching advice, but his demeanor always was evident in my guidance approach to young athletes.
I’m sure since I have retired that I have become more like my parents, where common sense and the “Golden Rule” prevail. It is my time to pay tribute to a Journal-World legend, a valued Lawrence citizen, and a fellow Jayhawk. Bill Mayer was, to his last day, a source of information, a sensational wit and above all “my respected friend.” Thank you Bill for all the stories, memories, and friendship.