Posted 6/02/15 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
Gerald Copes has recently announced his retirement from his position as a member of the “chain gang” at Tioga High School football games.
The news was noteworthy because Copes, 85, had been a consistent face on the visitors’ sidelines for nearly 40 years.
“I figure 85 years old is time to quit,” he said.
Copes is a Louisiana native whose first involvement with the Tioga football team came in the mid-1970s when he helped pour the concrete base for the stadium’s first scoreboard.
The next season, he volunteered to begin holding the down marker during games, and he said he’s only missed a handful of contests ever since.
“It worked out because I was always available,” he said.
He said he still remembers one interesting tidbit from the Pirates’ first season with a scoreboard.
“Every game they played here, they shut out every opponent,” Copes said. “The visitors’ score never had anything but a zero!”
Copes said an ailing leg led him to call it quits last season, though he noted that the injury did not come from a collision with any football players.
“I was always agile enough to get out of the way -- I was fragile but agile,” he joked.
Activities director Ryan Eraas invited Copes to the school on Monday to present him with a plaque in recognition of his service.
“It doesn’t feel like enough of a thank-you, but I don’t know if we can thank you enough,” Eraas told him.
Copes has not decided where he’ll watch the games from now on but said he might head back to the visitors’ sidelines out of habit.
High School Principal Brodie Odegaard told Copes the team will miss having such a reliable helper.
“If you ever want to work the sidelines again, you’re more than welcome to,” Odegaard said.
“Maybe if I can get my leg under me,” Copes replied.