The school building will be razed at the end of the academic year.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Perhaps no man alive has seen more changes at Woodrow Wilson High School than Dick Franko.
When Franko enters the Redmen's gym tonight for the final Wilson home league boys basketball game against Chaney, he might be overwhelmed by both the size of the crowd and the outpouring of Redmen pride.
The school building will be razed at the end of the academic year but a movement is afoot to preserve the memories of the basketball team.
During his quarter century coaching basketball at Wilson (eight years as head coach), Franko had a young Mark Cherol as a player.
Cherol, who graduated in 1973, is the current coach and is coordinating the ceremonies tonight when both Wilson alumni and friends will have a last chance to cheer for their team.
Franko graduated from Wilson in 1952, his wife a year later, and he taught and coached basketball there for 25 years. During that time their five children became Wilson graduates.
"It was a great school with great faculty and great students. We had all nationalities," Franko said.
He said that many of the same lessons he was taught in the Wilson classrooms he later shared with his students and ballplayers.
"What I learned I transferred to my students. I relayed it to them. That's what I think Mark [Cherol] is now doing."
Tonight the gym might be "pretty packed" Cherol said and the evening might be just as crowded with activities.
There will be a hospitality room where alumni can mingle. In unison the alumni will be introduced before the game so they can be saluted.
Former players will be allowed to shoot free throws after the game. Cherol said the pep club is also preparing a banner welcoming the alumni.
There's a post-game party scheduled at Nancy's Restaurant on Shady Run Road and a commemorative T-shirt will be on sale.
The school building opened 1928 and the gym now shows its age. But, between the memories of Franko and Cherol, it would be easy to fill the structure with the several fine players who called it home.
And, don't get them talking about the great games they saw there unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Cherol plans on many of his former teammates to be in the crowd, including some from out of town.
"It's been a long time, but I remember that Mark was a very competitive person," Franko said of Coach Cherol.
"He learned to do his very best, to the best of his ability."
Was he surprised that Cherol became a successful coach?
"No, I expected him to be a success. He had all the right qualities. He had all the qualities of being a good coach and a good teacher."
Franko, who retired in 1993, added "It's a shame they are closing the school."
But the veteran teacher knows that even if the bricks and mortar are carried away, the great memories will live on.