Archived Story

Legends set the stage for Hall of Fame [UPDATED]

Published 8:44am Monday, June 25, 2012 Updated 1:45pm Monday, June 25, 2012

At age 91, Jack Townley, Jr., was the oldest charter member inducted into the 1986 Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame. Twenty-six years later, four more members will enter the hall, bringing the total to 64 inductees.

Townley, were he alive today, would no doubt welcome the new inductees with open arms.

In my opinion, he’ll be in spirit at the American Legion at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 30, when Jon Pontius, Carleen Rose, Len Kretchman and Mike Hilley will be inducted during a ceremony open to the general public.

A star athlete at Fergus Falls High School, Townley graduated a century ago, in 1912. The nickname Otters didn’t come into play until the 1920s.

Serving his country overseas during World War I, Townley was with the 90th Division.

He was in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives in France, later serving in the Army of Occupation.

The former FFHS star athlete played as a member of the University of Minnesota football team in 1913, 1914 and 1916, taking a year away from the playing field in 1915. He was a big man for his day and age, at 6’2” and 205 pounds, playing tackle. He would be considered small for that position, today.

Townley later played pro football with Knute Rockne who later became the legendary football coach at Notre Dame. Townley and Rockne were teammates on the Massillion Tigers team in Ohio.

That squad played against Jim Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs. He also played a game with Johnny McGovern’s All-Stars versus the Minneapolis Marines, a semi-pro team.

He married Madeline Guttersen on June 14, 1919. Townley was appointed Fergus Falls City Attorney in 1923 and was elected County Attorney in 1926.

He was appointed Fergus Falls postmaster in 1935 and retired in 1964 to Laguna Hills, Calif.

Their son, John Townley III, was a tackle on the U of M football 1941 national title squad. Their other child was a daughter, Doris.

Another charter member in 1986 was Oats LeGrand who, at age 95, lives near his son, Steve, in Valley City, N.D. Oats wore four hats in Fergus Falls, as radio sports announcer, coach, physical education teacher and summer recreation director.

LeGrand coached the 1960 Fergus Falls VFW baseball team to the state title. Six of his ninth grade football teams were undefeated. He coached outstanding senior high track teams, also heading varsity wrestling, ninth grade basketball, and community college baseball and track.

Literally thousands of kids came to know Oats through his work in the city recreation department and as a physical education teacher at the junior high level. Many also came to know his famous “Board of Education.”

LeGrand directed five state tournaments in Fergus Falls: the Governor’s Track Meet, VFW state baseball tourney, community college state wrestling tourney, and two community college state women’s basketball tournaments.

Highlights for kids each year was the annual citywide picnic associated with various tournaments. Oats personally handed out hundreds of hot dogs.

Other honors for LeGrand include induction into the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame (1974), Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year (1978), and Region 13 College Track Coach of the Year (1982).

His wife, Eunice, is five years younger than Oats. Their son, Steve, looks back with many special memories of the family’s time spent in Fergus Falls.

Establishment of the Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame is one of them.


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