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CORSICANA - It was a night of old friends reminiscing, familiar faces reunited, and thanks for over a century of service.
The Corsicana YMCA — now known as “The Y” — celebrated its 125th anniversary Saturday with a banquet at the Corsicana Country Club. Leaders of the organization, both past presidents and directors, filled the dining room at the Country Club as they joined to commemorate decade upon decade of service to the youth of Navarro County.
Chartered in 1886, the Corsicana YMCA actually started in 1884, the first such organization of its kind in Texas. Dallas, however, holds the distinction of being recognized as “first” due to the fact it received its charter before Corsicana did.
E. Wiley Johnson was the first president of the Corsicana YMCA in 1884, and his great granddaughter, Seley Fuller, was present at Saturday’s gathering. She was presented a gift bag and a commemorative book outlining the history of both the local and national organization, as were family members and past presidents in attendance themselves.
Other family members representing the past history of “The Y” were Mary Love Sanders, daughter of Ted Ferguson, president in 1935; Hugh Stroube, son of Renaud Stroube Jr., who was president in 1959; C.L. “Buster” Brown III, himself a past president from 1977 and 1994, accepted the honor for his late father, C.L. Brown II, who was president in 1960.
Also recognized were Janie Clark, wife of the late June Clark, president in 1968, along with their son Matt; Bruce Robinson, president in 1990, also accepted a gift on behalf of his father, William Bruce Robinson, president in 1970. And, B. Lynn Sanders III, president in 1987, was represented by Mary Love Sanders.
Other past presidents who were in attendance for the banquet and their years of service: David Brown, 1967; Glenn Langford, 1979; Walter Holmes, 1980; David Owen, 1982; Dr. James Price, 1983 and 2000; Terry Means, 1984; Jim Wood, 1985 and 2003; Peggy Campbell, 1986 (the first woman board member and president of the Corsicana Y); Dr. Happy Settle, 1988; Randy Dill, 1989; Larry Morrison, 1991 and 2007; Dr. John Smith, 1992, 2001 and 2008; Bill Maupin, 1993; Alan Bristol, 1999; Larry Turner, 2006; Rusty Hitt, 2010; and current president, Fred Biltz.
Also honored at Saturday’s event were three men who have served as executive director for the Y, with their service between them spanning the last 48 years.
Gene Bullard served from 1963 to 1975 when the position was known as “general secretary.” He was followed by Ed Jezek, who was executive director from 1975 until 1992. Terry Seth, current executive director of the Y, took over in 1992.
“It’s been an unbelievable two days we’ve had,” said Seth following the banquet. “All these past presidents who came back to celebrate with us ... it’s great to see old friends and supporters of our YMCA.”
A Friday golf tournament and a Saturday open house highlighted the anniversary celebration, all well attended, he said.
Seth said the involvement of community leaders, some very prominent through the years, all played a role in helping the YMCA thrive and survive through the years.
Larry Morrison pointed out the longevity of the Y’s leadership as a key to success.
“Gene Bullard, Ed Jezek, and Terry Seth - that’s three people that have led this YMCA for nearly the last 50 years. That says a lot for the organization and what it’s done,” he said. “We’re lucky to have them. You have to go a long way to find a better ‘Y’.”
Former Corsicana Mayor C.L. “Buster” Brown III said the organization has played a vital role in the community.
“The YMCA is something that Corsicana is proud of,” he said. “Any recruitment that is done, it’s the first place they show them. It is a center for not only health activities and sports activities, but something we’re proud of ... it’s a wonderful organization.”
Bruce Robinson, one of three family members to have served as president along with his father and sister, Beth Chapman, echoed the sentiments of most in recalling the “Y” and its history.
“It’s an incredible organization,” he said. “It’s a great ‘melting pot’ for the community between the kids playing basketball, the men’s health club and the cardio room ... it’s a great place to be.”
Seth also recognized the members of the anniversary committee who had been planning Saturday’s event for the past two years, with special recognition for Vicki Winningham and the work she did on the commemorative history book put together for the occasion.
“It started out as a scrapbook, and then every time I turned around, she said ‘I have to put this in,’” he said. “It really turned out good and she did a great job with that.”
It was leadership, Seth said, that is responsible for the organization’s success.
“Our YMCA is alive and strong because of the leadership of all the past presidents, board members, and directors ... with the community support we have, and of course, the donors that always give generously to our YMCA.”
The Saturday banquet was underwritten by the J. Tom Eady Trust at Community National Bank and Trust of Texas. Eady was president of the organization from 1944 to 1946.
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