Sports

Clem Wiser Monument to be unveiled at Palo Alto High

 
Clem Wiser influenced generations of young people in his 35 years at Palo Alto High.

The favorite recollections of many of his former players came as Clem Wiser's life drew to a close.

During coach Wiser's last years and months, Kent Hinckley, Bob Strohecker, Craig Carpenter, Lynn Bennion, Norm Eliason and other past players used to see him often. Most of them were on his first great Paly team of 1961, and they had stayed in touch.

Sometimes they would take him to lunch at Dinah’s, where he could use a walker to get in and out. Naturally, they would talk about the old players, and coach never forgot a player or a student-manager.

I was fortunate to be invited to two of his last get togethers at his Palo Alto home, just before he died. This experience is where our memorial tribute came from over a year ago, and this is where the recently completed monument to our old coach came from.

When the guys got together with coach Wiser, naturally there would be stories and recollections of certain guys and certain special teams.

Coach Wiser’s own favorite stories were about his old players and managers -- their names, the colleges they attended or the military service they went into, then their careers.

He followed these things and he remembered the details. It wasn’t just the great ones, though he proudly remembered guys like Rich Hunt, Kent Hinckley, Jim Harbaugh, Ron Wyden, John Pastenieks, David Vaile. In his 35 years, there were so many great players and championship teams.

He also remembered marginal players like me and Mike McClellan and George French. He remembered our competitiveness and our hustle, and our roles on the teams. Those were coach’s favorite stories.

Players each had different stories, and as we told them to each other, an underlying theme emerged, and it is one that happens with great people in you life: He was like our dad.

More accurately, he was the dad most of us never had. He was like a great dad, who set the guidelines, helped us to learn, and encouraged us. No anger. No guilt. He believed in us.

Later on, as he reached his nineties, he was still that dad, but now the elderly one who would soon pass from our lives. As you would imagine, it was quite powerful.

So for me, the most important Clem Wiser story is this underlying love for his players and team managers, and for his family, opposing coaches, and teaching colleagues. He was a positive man who influenced the lives of many people, as teachers should.

What better friendship and contribution can there be? If I were an educator, a professional teacher at Paly, I would be really proud of what Clem Wiser accomplished for his profession, at this one school all those years.

I would be proud to see his team’s accomplishments recognized, over 400 victories. I would be proud of a colleague whose players loved him, and paid tribute to their old friend in a tangible way.

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