Aug. 19, 1920 – May 13, 2018
When H. David Myers began teaching in 1948 at Sidway Elementary School, he was the Grand Island School District’s first physical education instructor and its first male faculty member.
Before he retired 35 years later, he had developed athletic programs for all of the Grand Island schools, given the Grand Island teams their name – the Vikings – and oversaw construction of all the district’s indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. He was Grand Island’s first athletic director and physical education coordinator.
Mr. Myers, who become known as the “Father of Viking Athletics,” died Sunday in his home in the Town of Tonawanda five years after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He was 97.
“I had the best job in the world for 35 years,” he told an interviewer from the Island Dispatch in 2016. “I couldn’t wait to get here in the morning. I was here at 6 o’clock every morning for 35 years, and after we got a high school, I was here every night for 25 years.”
In 2014, the district named its new Grand Island High School athletic complex after Mr. Myers.
Born in Hornell, Horace David Myers Jr. grew up in Eden, playing sports, hunting and working odd jobs. He was a 1938 graduate of Eden High School, where his father was principal.
Because he excelled in soccer and gymnastics, he enrolled in Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., a leading school for training physical education teachers. After a year there, he had to return home due to a family health emergency.
He then went to Cortland State Teachers College, where he played varsity soccer and spent his practice teaching year as a primary physical education instructor in Auburn.
Drafted prior to his senior year, he was turned down for military service due to residual lung scarring from childhood tuberculosis. Instead, he worked at the General Motors Engine Plant in the Town of Tonawanda, which helped produce engines for warplanes. In charge of inventory, his co-workers nicknamed him “Heavy Duty” because of his initials and his compact strength.
“He was 5-foot-7 and never weighed more than 150 pounds, but he was a pretty tough character,” his son, Douglas, said.
In 1943, he married his childhood sweetheart, Alice Jean Baldauf, a music teacher, and they lived in Lockport. He worked at Harrison Radiator briefly, won tennis championships and played with badminton great Bea Masterson. Then he returned to Cortland and completed his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
He continued to play hockey and soccer into his 60s and in later years was an avid bowler. At Grand Island, he spent lunch hours hitting tennis balls with future pro Jimmy Arias.
He also was the Town of Grand Island’s first recreation director.
His wife, who became a music teacher in Grand Island’s Huth Road Elementary School, died in 1994.
Mr. Myers was remarried in 1998 to Julia Hill Laing, whom he had known in Eden. They traveled, bowled and maintained a winter home in Deland, Fla., until her death in 2013.
Survivors include another son, Dr. David E.; a daughter, Dr. Deborah L. Myers Meilun; three step-sons, David Laing, William Laing and Harry Laing; five grandchildren, seven step-grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and five step-great-grandchildren.
Services will be private.