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Published: Friday, 6/6/2003

Acclaimed coach led Ayersville to 2 titles

DELPHOS, Ohio - B. Lee Himmeger, a teacher who coached Ayersville High School basketball teams to state championships in 1957 and in 1961, died of colon cancer Tuesday in St. Rita's Medical Center, Lima. He was 69.

Mr. Himmeger was a teacher for 34 years, beginning in 1956 at Ayersville, where he would coach basketball and other sports for 24 years. For 12 of those years, he also was principal of the high school.

“His first priority was teaching,” Brad Himmeger, his son, said. “He loved working with kids.”

Typically, Mr. Himmeger taught American history and social studies.

“It wasn't a lot about tests,” his son said. “It was talking about issues. Teaching was his first love, that was for sure.”

In his first year coaching basketball, he took the Ayersville Pilots to the state championship to win what was then the Class B crown.

At the time, some fans asserted the young coach simply inherited good players.

But Mr. Himmeger quieted critics in 1961 by repeating what became the Class A basketball title.

“He thrived on pressure,” said his son, who was coached later by his father at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, during the early 1980s. “Whatever the situation, he always wanted to play in the big games.”

For many years, he coached small, scrappy teams whose players rarely exceeded 6 feet in height.

In the twilight of his coaching basketball at Zanesville High School, he would lead a team against big city schools.

“Even in Zanesville, he took a team to the regional finals and got beat by Jim Jackson's team,” the former Macomber High School in Toledo, his son said.

Mr. Himmeger was named Ohio's Class A coach of the year in 1962.

Surviving are his wife, Billie Joe; sons, Bernie and Brad; daughters, Jody Gorman and Julie Thompson; brother, Earl; sisters, Evelyn Weideman and Helen Mullenhour, and six grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Trinity United Methodist Church.

The body will be in the Harter & Sons Funeral Home after 2 p.m. today and an hour before services at the church.

The family requests tributes to the church.

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