Wolf Point Herald

Nashua’s Coach O’Connor Remembered

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Coach O’Connor
Coach Larry O’Connor when he was younger in an undated picture.
(Photos courtesy of Colleen O’Connor Johnson)

The 1950 state championship team.

Larry And Helen O’Connor
Larry and Helen O’Connor are pictured in an undated photo, possibly taken during the 1970s.

Loren John O’Connor was born in New York City on Feb. 12, 1911. He was later nick-named Larry and was known by that name most of his life. His parents were John and Kathleen O’Connor who had recently immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Records indicate that Larry was baptized as “John Francis O’Connor” on Feb. 13, 1911, at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan, New York.
He was orphaned at a very early age as his mother died shortly after childbirth and his father passed away a month or two later. Other than that, Larry had no information on his mother or father.
When he was four years old he was sent west on what was commonly known at the time as an “Orphan Train” or a “Baby Train.” It is likely that the New York Foundling Hospital established by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity was the organization that arranged the train trip for young O’Connor. Larry was fortunate that a hard working Catholic family of German descent, Frank and Christine Henkemeyer, saw him at a train stop in Minnesota, took him home as a foster child where he was renamed “Loren John Henkemeyer” and loved him as their own. Larry grew up in Clear Lake, Minn., and later St. Cloud, Minn., where he attended and graduated high school in 1929.
He had siblings from his foster family, that being Andrew “Andy” Henkemeyer and the two remained close through their lifetimes. His foster parents were both successful; Frank was a businessman [owning a grocery store] and Christine was a school principal.
Larry was encouraged by his foster parents to continue his education and he enrolled at the St. Cloud State Teachers College the fall of 1929 where he studied for two years.  He then spent time working at his foster father’s grocery store.
In 1932, when he turned 21, Larry decided to begin using his given surname “O’Connor.”
In 1933 he went back to college, this time at St. John’s University, a small Catholic liberal arts school located in the tiny community of Collegeville, Minnesota which was near St. Cloud.
Larry played baseball in his youth and continued this sport in college, playing for the St. John’s “Johnnies.”  He was talented enough that the Detroit Tigers scouted him in high school and later signed him to play in their organization. However, while in college, his health failed and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis which ended his baseball career.  Larry was searching for a career and after his St. John’s University experience he enrolled in law at the St. Paul College of Law in St. Paul, Minn.  He did find employment at a bank in St. Paul to help with expenses.
With continuing health problems caused by the tuberculosis, Larry decided to go west to a drier climate.  There were some cousins, George and Agnes Wickens, living in Great Falls, so Larry made the move in hopes of regaining his health.  After arriving in Big Sky Country, Larry decided to get his teaching degree and registered at the Great Falls Normal School and also did some coaching at Franklin Elementary, which was nearby the Wickens home where he resided.
Larry also worked with the city’s summer recreation program and there were several Larson boys involved who had an attractive older sister. With a little persuasion Larry received a telephone number and asked Helen Larson for a date. They were married in Fort Benton on Nov. 15, 1940.
Helen Margaret Larson was born Oct. 21, 1919, in Great Falls. She was the oldest child of Katherine Mary Guttenberg Larson and Harry Edward Larson. Her family included a sister and two brothers.  Her father worked for the Great Northern Railroad, starting his career when he was 16 years of age.
Larry graduated from the Great Falls Normal School the spring of 1941 and began his first teaching job that fall in Hingham, a small community along the Hi-Line west of Havre. The next year Larry and Helen moved to the Shields Valley where Larry taught junior high at Wilsall. In 1943 he began teaching and coaching at Nashua, and remained there for the rest of his life.  He furthered his education attending summer school for five sessions at Montana State University in Missoula.
Larry was a very colorful coach, quite superstitious and developed a reputation for his frequent changes of neckties during ballgames.  In the late 40’s, Montana sports prognosticator Nick Mariana wrote about Coach O’Connor’s frequent tie changes during a basketball game, always looking for a garish color that would lead his boys to victory.  Larry coached football, basketball and track at Nashua and his basketball teams were very competitive.  He became good friends with a fellow coach at Wolf Point, Bob Lowry, and they always had an affable rivalry.  It was early in his career [1945] when his Nashua boys pulled off a mammoth upset at tournament time when they upended the talented and heavily favored state contenders, the Wolf Point Wolves.  Led by the Porcupines big center, Dean Seiler, Nashua shocked the Wolves 44 to 29.
Larry took his boys to State a number of times, winning the Class C Crown in 1950. [This was the first year there was a designated Class C].  Despite his colorful habit of constantly changing gaudy neck ties, Lady Luck was not with the Nashua basketball team in 1954; competing in Class B, the Porcupines had a marvelous season and ended up in the state championship game against the Fairfield Eagles.  Unfortunately, one of Nashua’s key players, an outstanding athlete named Wes Schick, became sick and was not on the floor. Nashua lost 56 to 53.
Nashua turned into home for Larry and Helen and they raised five children in the small community. The oldest was Kathleen, born May 22, 1941, followed by Pat on Nov. 20, 1943, Mike on July 30, 1946, Colleen on March 8, 1954 and last was Danny on June 27, 1958.
Larry was involved in his community, serving on the church council for the Queen of Angels Catholic Church, was a member of the Nashua Lions Club and competed in numerous bowling leagues.  He was a caring teacher always ready to help any student through a tough time. At the high school he taught history, government and driver’s education plus his coaching duties. Everyone in the school and the town called him “Coach.” It was quite a while after his son Mike married local girl Mary Ann Burns that Larry told her she should call him “Larry” rather than “Coach.” The name “Coach O’Connor” was known and respected throughout the state and Larry became good friends with many of those he competed against.
Larry was further honored when he was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 1983.  He continued coaching through 1968 and then retired from teaching on January 31, 1975.
After retirement Larry kept busy, serving on the school board, was involved with senior citizens and eventually was elected mayor of Nashua.  He was personable and developed many strong friendships over the years.
In May of 1980 tragedy struck when his youngest son, Danny, was killed in a car accident.  Then on Dec. 4, 1980, Larry lost a battle to cancer and died in the Columbus Hospital in Great Falls.  He was buried in the Nashua Cemetery.  His family, adopted community, and many friends in Montana, had lost a truly remarkable and gifted human being.
Editor’s note: Helen Margaret Larson O’Connor is now 95 years old and living in Great Falls.

 

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Human Stampede

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The Human Stampede run and walk, an annual Stampede event sponsored by Fort Peck Community College, kicked off the Saturday events with the race starting at First Avenue South and Anaconda Street to Marvin Brookman Stadium and back.  (Photo by John Plestina)

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Fort Peck Team Wins Governor’s Cup

A total of $89,940 was paid out in cash while another $10,000 was given in prizes for the 2015 Montana Governor’s Cup Walleye Tourney, held on Fort Peck Lake Friday and Saturday, July 10-11.
The overall winners were Sam Lawson and Clay Kittleson, both of Fort Peck, who had 14.02 pounds on day one and 20.5 pounds on day two for the total of 34.52 pounds. The day two total was the top weight for the day.
The top adult/child team was Brandon Babb and son Brady of Wolf Point with 17.26 pounds of walleye for the two days of fishing and a 48th-place overall finish.
Chad Formanek of Wheatland, Wyo., and Nick Reid of Colstrip caught the big walleye on day two with a 14.37 pound fish.
The second- through fifth-place finishers were: second, Luke Sundby and Eli Williams, both of Williston, N.D., 32.66 pounds; third, Kevin Lynch of Huntley and Mike Block of Lovell, Wyo., 31.24 pounds; fourth, Martin Reichert and Danny Reichert, both of Billings, 28.3 pounds; fifth, Fuzz Carnahan of Malta and Jay Boardman of Frannie, Wyo., 27.77 pounds.

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Golfers “Take A Swing” At Fundraising For NEMHS Foundation

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Golfers taking a chance at the Pool in the Pond chipping contest at the NEMHS Charitable Foundation’s benefit golf tournament June 27.
(Photo by Deanna Buckles)

Golfers hit the links at the Wolf Point Airport Golf Club on Saturday, June 27, at the annual
NEMHS Charitable Foundation Benefit Golf Tournament. By all accounts, the golf tournament was an overwhelming success. With the weather ideal for a day of golf, competitors joined together to have fun and raise money for the Foundation.
Nineteen, four-person teams participated in the daylong golfing event. The familiar Pool in the Pond game was once again held during the day, with golfers paying for a chance to chip their ball into a floating raft in the pond. Fifteen lucky participants landed their ball into the pool during the day, qualifying them to be in the putting contest for five major prizes.   
The Foundation credits the success of the fundraiser to the support of individuals and businesses in the community, as well as many dedicated volunteers. Although the totals are not final, tournament organizers expect to exceed previous years with profits. “We cannot thank the community enough for coming out and supporting the NEMHS Charitable Foundation and our goal of raising money to help improve the healthcare of our local communities,” said Brad Moran, Chair of the NEMHS Charitable Foundation Golf Committee.
Overall winners of the tournament were:
1st Place, score: 45.08; payout of $600: Jake Goodbear, Janet Goodbear, Judy Ogle and Arnie Bighorn.
2nd Place, score: 45.82; payout of $500: Tim Dees, Trent Holstein, Torey Rasmusan, and Calvin Kemmis, Glasgow.
3rd. Place, score: 47.32; payout of $400: Clint Linthicum, Jason Baker, Brad Moran and Brianne Moran.
4th Place, score: 48.44; payout of $300: Lee Loendorf, Erin Fosland, Rodney Paulson and Nicole Paulson.
Wild Card, payout of $200: Morgan Norgaard, Micha Norgaard, Howard Azure and Deb Azure.
This year, the Foundation has pledged to buy medical equipment for various departments. One such purchase will be new colposcopes for the emergency rooms. The scopes will be used within domestic and violent assaults along with important cancer screening biopsies. Each scope will cost around $12,500, and will be fitted with a digital camera that will be able to take high resolution images. With stronger magnification and overhead articulating arms, the scopes will allow medical personal to maneuver and observe conditions with high-quality validation along with improved comfort for the patient.
“Having a successful tournament such as this really helps us towards our yearly goal, “said Rodney Paulson, Chairman of the Foundation. “ I am grateful to the golfers, sponsors and volunteers that come together to assist us raise money.”
The history of the fundraising golf tournament started in 1999 with NEMHS hospitals organizing the tournament to raise funds for the hospital, and did so, for the first 7 years.  Once the Foundation was established in the spring of 2006, they then became the responsible department for the execution of the fundraiser.  Now in 2015, the Foundation along with the hospitals, are proud that they have had a total of seventeen years maintaining the charity event, in which the community has supported immensely each and every year.

NEMHS Charitable Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) corporation with a mission statement of “Bridging Healthcare and Community”. Their focus is on assisting the hospitals with new and improved medical equipment and services for the communities it serves. You can read more at their website: www.nemhscharitablefoundation.org.

Beth Pickthorn

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Lions Donate To Youth Baseball

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The Wolf Point Lions Club recently donated $500 to the Wolf Point Recreation Department’s summer youth baseball program for the purchase of equipment. Hi-Line Sports also donated equipment. Pictured are (from left to right) Jacob Boysun, recreation director Tommy Olsen and Jaronn Boysun.
(Photo by John Plestina)

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