Remembering a local mentor, teacher, coach and true gentleman: Blaine Gamble

Blaine and Doris Gamble. (Photo provided)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Blaine Gamble, who died April 17, 2017, was a teacher, coach and sports correspondent — and so much more. After his employment years he continued to mentor athletes and individuals of all ages, whether it was at a track meet or in a newsroom. A gentle man, he still knew when to turn on the burners. As former Civic adult-league basketball player Pat Zoll noted, “Blaine coached the Herald-Argus basketball team on many occasions. He would go all ‘Bobby Knight’ on you if you messed up. We loved it.” But in the next moment Gamble might share a gentle word with a youngster or a vintage story with a fellow teacher or journalist. Ken Peterson of New Carlisle is just one of many who looked up to Blaine. WNLP asked Ken, a freelance writer who also calls New Prairie football games on www.broadcastsport.net, to share his memories of Blaine Gamble.

By Ken Peterson

It was just another Saturday night in 1991 when my friend Eric Swope and I were heading down to Culver Military Academy to see New Prairie’s boys basketball team take on the host Eagles.

There was nothing special about that night. Just another night of watching high school basketball.

As we were watching the JV game, an older gentleman writing for the LaPorte Herald-Argus walked down the baseline with clipboard in hand. He climbed up the bleachers and sat next to me.

“You’re going to be my statistician tonight,” he said, unbeknownst to me.

“OK,” I responded, not knowing what to make of what he said.

Little did I know that what this man asked me to do would change my life.

That man was Blaine Gamble.

Ken Peterson

Blaine passed away April 17 at his home in Martin, Tennessee, where he and his wife Doris had lived for almost five years to be near their daughter and her family. Before that they were longtime New Carlisle residents.

Prior to that night in Culver, Blaine and I did not have a relationship. Relatives of mine, however, had known Blaine long before I did.

A majority of my family is originally from the unincorporated areas of Crumstown and Lydick in St. Joseph County’s Warren Township. When Blaine came to New Carlisle in 1956, my parents had cousins and siblings from Warren Township who attended New Carlisle High School in the days before school consolidation and had Blaine as a teacher. My father ran track for him at New Carlisle and was a member of the 1965 Goshen Relays championship team.

My parents moved to New Carlisle in 1978 and Doris (whom we all called Mrs. Gamble in school) was my principal at Olive Elementary School for five years.

That evening at Culver Military was a significant one for me, because Blaine asked me if I would be interested in taking over for him at the H-A when he retired from covering New Prairie sports. The following Monday, I agreed to join him — and man, did we have a heck of a ride.

For 26 years, Blaine was my best friend. My mentor. More importantly, the single most dominant influence in my life.

And no one has even come close.

We had a lot of things in common long before we became friends. Both of us shared a love for harness racing at the LaPorte County Fair. And we both loved Notre Dame football and New Prairie sports. Those were always major topics of conversation every time we met at Miller’s Home Café in New Carlisle. Whether it was Saturday morning breakfast or lunch (chicken supreme sandwiches) with former Herald-Argus photographer Bob Wellinski, a meal with Blaine centered at some point on one or both topics.

Even after he retired, Blaine always wanted to know how the New Prairie teams were going to fare during a particular season. He was a major supporter of all programs, in particular cross country and track.

He would talk about the girls and boys basketball programs and every year asked if the boys team was finally going to win the Bi-County Tournament.

New Prairie hadn’t won the Bi-County since 1973, and each year I hoped they would win one more in his life.

This January, the Cougars did it.

Naturally, I called Blaine the day after the championship game.

“Blaine, we won the Bi-County,” I said. “The Streak is over!”

There was this awkward pause. Then it dawned on him.

“Send me the articles, the program,” Blaine responded with great happiness. “I want to read it!”

I obliged.

Blaine loved New Carlisle and New Prairie and he loved his students. The feeling among his students was mutual. The kids meant everything to him and he made every one of them feel important.

But he was more than a teacher in the classroom.

Blaine was a coach for many sports in his time at New Carlisle and New Prairie. He started the then-New Carlisle Cross Country Invitational in 1964 as a six-team event (won by New Carlisle). It has evolved into the New Prairie Invitational, one of the biggest regular-season cross country events in Indiana.

Blaine was the leader of the Tigerettes, a marching band color guard. Being a member of the Tigerettes at New Carlisle High School was a prestigious honor.

An accomplished drum major as a student at Mishawaka High School, Blaine took marching and the importance of being in a top marching band as seriously as any sport he coached.

As much as students meant to him, it was family that was the center of his life.

The best decision Blaine ever made was marrying Doris. This August would have been their 66th wedding anniversary. He loved Doris very much, and his daughter Shirley Jean, son-in-law Milo Borden and grandson Matthew were the apples of his eye.

Doris, also a longtime teacher and administrator, cared about kids as much as Blaine did. Together, they formed a special connection with parents in the New Prairie community and always put the best interests of kids ahead of themselves.

I am very thankful and appreciative of Doris for letting me be a part of Blaine’s life. No matter how many times Blaine and I watched a sports tape or talked sports, I think Doris knew those visits meant a lot to him.

My friendship with Blaine was a two-way street of loyalty. No matter what, the loyalty was there and it was strong. When there were those out there who didn’t believe in me or my abilities, a kind word or encouragement from Blaine kept my spirits up.

After I received the news of his death, I traveled to Martin to attend his funeral at First United Methodist Church. Rev. Randy Cooper officiated a beautiful service. He read a glowing eulogy from former Herald-Argus Sports Editor Dave Krider, one of Blaine’s closest friends. As the service ended, one of Blaine’s favorite songs played: the Notre Dame Victory March.

So fitting for Blaine. Fitting for a true champion. A man who will forever be remembered.

Rest in peace, Coach.

12 Responses to “Remembering a local mentor, teacher, coach and true gentleman: Blaine Gamble”

  1. Kathy Rose

    Apr 27. 2017

    Great tribute for an even greater man! Good job, Ken!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Kathy T

    Apr 27. 2017

    I didn’t know Blaine personally but loved reading about him through this story. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Mike Kellems

    Apr 27. 2017

    What a well written and fitting tribute, Ken. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and memories!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Debbie

    Apr 27. 2017

    Very touching tribute. Rest in peace Mr. Gamble. Sympathy to his family and friends.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Bill Gangwer

    Apr 27. 2017

    Well said my friend…Blaine would be proud!!!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Paul Lindeman

    Apr 27. 2017

    Nice tribute Ken!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Rana Henry

    Apr 27. 2017

    Very well said. I remember how nice he was. He was always smiling. New Prairie will not forget such a great man.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Frances Estep

    Apr 27. 2017

    I was blessed to have “Mr. Gamble” as my history teacher at New Carlisle High School, MYF leader, and tigerette coach—He left a wonderful, lasting impression/influence. What a well-lived life—never will forget him.

    Reply to this comment
  9. pat zoll

    Apr 27. 2017

    Great job Ken!!!!!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Cathie

    Apr 28. 2017

    What a fantastic tribute KP… He loved you as his own son.. Proud to be a former student of such a great man ( and one of your friends)

    Reply to this comment
  11. Jim Hale

    Apr 30. 2017

    I just heard…..soo soooo many Friday sports nights with Blaine and Ken.

    RIP Mr Blaine…I remember when your dog died, Duff…same week mine did..we both shared some tears.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Joseph Badger

    May 04. 2017

    Ken, that was a well written, inspirational article. You were very fortunate to have had Blaine in your life, and he obviously felt the same way about you! How cool is that? 🙂

    Reply to this comment

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