MORGANTOWN — Word has been received here of the death of Ira Errett Rodgers, Jr.
The 83-year-old Morgantown native was a son of the late Ira Errett Rodgers (Sr.), who most old-timers — living and dead — regarded him as the greatest all-around athlete in West Virginia University’s history.
Ira Errett Rodgers Jr. died on April 4 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He had been having heart problems, according to wife Lois. They resided in Rocky River, Ohio, but had been spending the winters in Florida since he retired.
The couple has three children and four grandchildren. Both of Rodgers’ parents are deceased.
Funeral services for the younger Rodgers were held in Florida. A memorial service will be held next Saturday in Rocky River.
Unfortunately, Ira Errett Jr. was unable to follow in his father’s athletic footsteps. Physical limitations prevented him from participating in competitive contact sports at either the high school or college level.
The senior Rodgers, a native of Bethany, starred in football, basketball and baseball as a Mountaineer great. He became the school’s first consensus All-America player as a fullback in 1919.
He set numerous records, some of which still stand.
“Rodg,” as his many admirers called him, is the only WVU athlete to serve as a team captain in three sports - and in the same year. He was an outstanding student, too, and graduated with honors in chemistry.
Making his competitive career all the more remarkable, he took up golf in 1928 and went down to White Sulphur Springs the following year and won the State Amateur tournament. He never entered that event again.
While I never saw him play, I got to know Ira Errett Rodgers well as a coach. He devoted an adult lifetime in service to the university, serving stints as head coach in football, baseball and golf.
He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame, the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He died in 1962.
Son Ira Errett also was a fine man. I was in his graduating class at MHS.
I was saddened to learn of the death of another longtime friend, George P. Beljan., who died at 83 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
While a Pittsburgh native, he spent much of his life in West Virginia as a popular golf pro and course superintendent.
Beljan was golf pro/superintendent at the Preston Country Club near Kingwood from 1971-81, then moved to Buckhannon for the same dual-role at the Buckhannon Country Club. He served there until he retired in 2000 at the age of 75.
He was a member of several professional and golf course superintendent associations in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In 1997, Beljan was presented the West Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Lifetime Achievement Award.
Survivors include six children, seven grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
He also had a lot of friends at every turn in his golf-loving life.