The Cordova Wolverines recently lost their most faithful fan.
Not to worry. From up yonder in bleachers much higher than the top row at CHS Court, Stan Makarka will still be rooting for his beloved Blue and White.
Cheering came naturally for Stan. He was born with a smile on his face and wore it all his life.
From his favorite spot overlooking the Wolverine bench, he and Father Tom delighted in CHS success and moaned at their failures, always with hopes for a better outcome on the next trip down the court.
Stan played for the Wolverines on the seven-man 1952-53 squad, and what a crew that was. All of them wore double-digit numbers. Stan was #44 and admitted that he didn’t see much playing time unless any of the taller players found themselves in foul trouble.
That team included Bobby Maxwell and Frank Siemion, a pair of wild cards, indeed.
I remember Stan telling me that teammate Jerry Olsen was one of the best players CHS ever had, but Frank and Bobby seemed to have trouble keeping their focus on events unfolding on the court.
Those guys, he would say, shaking his head. Perhaps that is why he wears a grin in the team photo, standing between that duo. The talented Olsen, also in the back row, displayed a more serious demeanor.
Ah, the years came and went, as did Wolverine success, but Stan’s love affair with the game and Cordova’s teams endured.
Along the way, perhaps not surprisingly, Stan gained some fans of his own, including the referees.
Anyone who follows small-town Alaska hoops know how passionate the crowds can be. As well they should. Rivalries date back through generations, and memories of triumph and defeat are long.
More than a few hotly contested battles in steamy CHS Court were true tests of referees’ character and grit. It is no surprise that recruiting locals to join the ranks has always been a challenge.
Jerry Bendzak and I began officiating together back in 1972, and it was fans like Stan that kept us at it.
Stan knew the game. He loved good basketball, regardless of the color of the uniforms. He delighted in seeing teams from all over the State come to Cordova for the Tipoff.
More than once he would scratch his head at mistakes by officials and confer with his back-row buddies.
Somewhere along the line it became a habit for Jerry and me to talk hoops with Stan before the game, or when we ran into him around town.
We would tease him about getting so excited; he would ask us just what the heck happened on certain plays.
Stan always worried about missing home games. He would call me and, without any preliminaries, say, “Hey, when are the next home games?”
Stan was a big advocate of well-balanced competition, and strongly supported CHS moving from 3A to 2A after watching lopsided mismatches. I’ll never forget his comment from his favorite seat by the coffee pot down at Anchor Auto: “Hey? When are we going to stop playing all those big schools?”
Stan, an Eyak Elder, enjoyed dining on all sorts of fish and game. My contribution was ducks, which I brought him every fall, with the joking condition that he couldn’t boo us in the next set of games.
Which was not necessary.
I don’t think Stan uttered a serious boo in all his life.
He is on my Starting Five of the Nicest People I Have Ever Known.
You made it fun.
We will think of you before every opening tip.
Because you were a fan for the ages.