By TED RADICK
Bruce Basil enjoyed helping people.
“He was a people person. He loved giving hugs,” said his widow, Sharon Basil. “He was someone who wanted to make a difference, he wanted to help.
“He didn’t want accolades, he just wanted to help.”
To that end, Basil cultivated several passions. One, in particular, was working with youth, and another was working with adults.
Before he died Nov. 10, 2013, at age 66, he was a familiar sight at the scorer’s table at Blanchard Valley Conference basketball games. For more than 25 years, he was the scorekeeper and statistician for Van Buren’s boys basketball team.
He started, though, with the girls team when his daughters, Amy Petersburg and Tracy Leliaert, were playing on the Van Buren team. Eventually, he moved over to the boys squad and kept at it through several coaching regimes.
“One of the reasons he liked doing the stats was being there for the young people,” Sharon Basil said.
“The stat girls who would help him really liked him. One set of parents came to the visitation because their daughter, who was a former stat girl, goes to Central Michigan and couldn’t come. She was very upset about that and asked her parents to stand in for her and attend the visitation.”
Basketball was a shared love for the Basils. Sharon recently attended the boys state tournament for the 30th consecutive year, and for the first time without her husband.
Both graduated from Convoy Crestview High School, which brought home the 2014 Division IV state title with a 29-0 record.
“I did go, and my sister and nephew came down and we had a good time. I missed him there, but it’s something we had just looked forward to. He and I graduated from Convoy Crestview, and my sister and her son still live in Convoy.
“I think that kind of helped me this year, too, from the standpoint that he wasn’t here to go there with me, but that I kind of had a diversion with Crestview being there,” Sharon said.
Bruce Basil wrote his own program for statistics and, when he took over in the late 1980s, took it upon himself to contact former coaches and former players’ parents to fill in some gaps in Van Buren’s record keeping.
“Guys like him are hard to come by nowadays,” boys coach Marc Bishop said. “The reason I say that is, doing the book like he did is a thankless job. Those guys don’t get paid, and it takes a lot of time.
“He took his job to heart and he did a great job. He was a good Van Buren supporter and liked watching basketball. He loved the kids,” Bishop said.
Sharon Basil laughed as she recalled her husband trying his best to help the Black Knights in any way possible.
“He always loved, and got a big kick out of, catching an error in the other team’s book so they’d get a technical foul and get us some extra points,” she said. “He was very observant, and that was the electrical engineer coming out in him. His mind was always going.”
Bruce Basil worked in the automotive industry for more than 40 years, the first 30 at Autolite in Fostoria and then at Bridgestone in Findlay.
His second passion was his membership in Masonic organizations, where he held numerous leadership roles throughout northwestern Ohio. He was an honorary 33rd-degree Mason, but his first love was his role as leader of the Ivanhoe Commandery No. 54 Knights Templar and Findlay Commandery No. 49 Knights Templar.
Those are Masonic drill teams, something Basil learned when he joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps as a college student. The love of precision marching stayed with him for life.
“I always said, if he had to give up me or drill, it would probably be me,” Sharon Basil said with a smile.
Bruce’s squads won several state and national competitions, and he helped set up drill teams for Masonic temples in New York and Massachusetts, and was chairman of competitive drill for the Grand Encampment Knights Templar of the U.S.A.
“I’ve always said he became the person he was because he was a Mason and what it stood for, helping others,” Sharon said.
“It was a very important part of his life. The Masons give more than $1 million a day to charity. They do very good work. You make very good friends, too.”
Bishop recalled Basil’s friendship as well, and said the Van Buren basketball team felt his loss.
“Beyond basketball, getting to know Bruce and Sharon, they are really good people,” he said. “Bruce and the guys who help with the program are part of the team and part of who we are.”
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