Merle Venable 1934 - 2012
Merle Venable, age 77, died Thursday, May 31, 2012 at the V.A. Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. He is survived by his wife, Janet, of the home; two sons, Shane, Baldwin City, Scott and his wife, Jill, Baldwin City; daughter, Susan Veber and her husband, Mato, Chicago, Illinois; sister, Joyce Anderson, Hooker, Oklahoma; two grandsons, Cory Venable and Max Venable; three granddaughters, Carissa Gripka and her husband, Mike, Overland Park, Meghan and Jade Venable; one great-granddaughter, Ava Kay Gripka and many special nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; two sisters, Robbie Venable and Coetta Mae Turner, and son, Steve Venable.
Merle was born September 2, 1934 to Edgar Bonson and Cora (Sandy) Venable in Beaver, Oklahoma during the dust bowl years. His family resided in Turpin, Oklahoma, but moved to Hooker, Oklahoma in January of 1939. He suffered from dust pneumonia when he was a baby, and his mother fought to save his life by making a tent of sheets and filling it with steam. He had a happy and carefree childhood with fond memories of the times he and his friends met the troop trains during World War II that stopped at Hooker to take on water, playing baseball from morning to night, hunting pigeons in the grain elevators, swimming in “China Town” (a ditch), and running around the town at will. He was known as “Sonny to his mother, sisters, and nieces and nephews, “Steve” to his dad, and “Bounce” or “Bix” to his friends.
Merle graduated from Hooker High School with the class of 1952 and tried playing college football at Northwestern College at Alva, Oklahoma, but he always had a soldier’s heart and left to enlist in the United States Army. He took his basic training as a Combat Engineer at Camp Polk, La. And soon “won a trip to Korea” (his words), where he served thirteen months, twenty-one days and then finished his military career at Fort Lewis, WA. As a Private First Class. He often wished he had taken the military more seriously and made it a career.
He moved to Amarillo, Texas and sold pots and pans for a while, then broke out in the oil filed as a roughneck. He bought a 1956 red and black Mercury Monclair, the first car he ever owned. He met some Garden City (KS) Junior College Boosters at a cafe in Elkhart, Ks. Who convinced him to play football at Garden City Junior College. After he lost his snazzy car, he met Janet Solze and they were married in November of 1957. From there he attended a semester at Panhandle A&M college at Goodwill, Oklahoma, and then to Emporia State Teacher’s College at Emporia, Kansas, where he played football and earned a degree in Education in 1960.
His first teaching job was in Independence, Kansas where he taught in the high school and was assistant coach at the Junior College. He longed to be a Head Coach, and found a job at Carbondale, Kansas where he “cut his teeth” on 14 or 15 boys playing 11-man football. He had many fun and fond memories of those years and built the Vikings into a force to be reckoned with.
The next move was to Chickasha, Oklahoma to be near a deaf son who attended Jane Brooks School. After only one year, he came back to Kansas to coach Baldwin City High School, and his son, Steve attended Kansas School for the Deaf.
Merle and Janet where blessed with four children , Steve, Shane, Susan, and Scott, who adjusted easily to the nomad life they were born into, but finally settled in Baldwin City as “home”, where Merle coached from 1966 to 1985. Merle enjoyed those years coaching wonderful young athletes, and teaching wonderful young students. During his time in Baldwin City, with the help of his great assistants, his team, the Baldwin High Bulldogs, were State Runner Up two times (1972 and 1978) and Won the 1981 Kansas Class 4-A Football State Championship. He was also at one time the “most winning coach in Kansas.” He was honored to be chosen Kansas Coach of the year in 1981. Their track teams were also State Outdoor Runner-up in 1972 and 1980 and two-time runner-up in indoor track.
After leaving Baldwin City he taught and coached one year at Yates Center, one year at Ottawa, and one year at B & B High School in Baileyville, before coaching at Turner High School for six years, improving a losing program into Regional Runner-ups.
Merle was very patriotic. He loved his family, his Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals Baseball, reading, bird watching, and he loved people. He was always concerned for other people’s well-being. He was generous to a fault. He had a great love for his many football and track boys that he coached in all the above mentioned schools, along with the boys and girls who were his students, and his long-time coaching friends and childhood friends. He will be sorely missed.
Funeral services will be held 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at First United Methodist Church, Baldwin, Kansas. Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery, in Baldwin City.
Coach Venable will lay in-state at the Lamb-Roberts Funeral Home, Baldwin City from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday. The family will receive friends following the burial on Tuesday afternoon at the Lodge in Baldwin City.
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to First United Methodist Church, Baldwin City or Merle Venable Scholarship Fund through Baldwin Education Foundation, c/o Lamb-Roberts Funeral Home, 712 Ninth Street, Baldwin City, Kansas 66006. Condolences may be sent to the family through www.lamb-roberts.com.