George H. Gernand

The longtime Dulaney athletic director led the school's lacrosse team to a regional championship

March 12, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,

George H. Gernand, longtime Dulaney High School athletic director who led the Lions to a regional lacrosse championship in 1976, died Sunday of prostate cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 82.

Mr. Gernand was born and raised in Union Bridge. After graduating in 1944 from the old Elmer A. Wolfe High School, he enlisted in the Navy.

"He enlisted on his 17th birthday," said a daughter, Leslie Baldacci of Chicago.

Mr. Gernand served in the Pacific as a gunner's mate aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown during the last year of the war.

After being discharged, he enrolled at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1953 under the GI Bill of Rights. He earned a master's degree in education from the University of Maryland, College Park during the 1960s.

"He spent his college summers working as a cowboy on cattle ranches in Nebraska and South Dakota. It was a defining life experience," Ms. Baldacci said.

In 1953, Mr. Gernand moved to Essex, where he worked summers in the mills at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant, and began teaching and coaching at Sparrows Point High School.

He had worked as a cowboy, electrician and construction worker, which helped when he decided to become an educator and coach.

"It helped me understand my fellow man," he told The Evening Sun in 1976 when he was named the newspaper's lacrosse Coach of the Year. "A lot of people in teaching have never been exposed; they're strictly academicians.

"But there's nothing wrong with the working man - I'm proud to be one."

In 1960, he joined the faculty of Ridgely-Dulaney Junior-Senior High School, and when Dulaney High School opened in 1964, Mr. Gernand became the school's first athletic director.

In addition to teaching physical education and driver's training, he coached basketball, football, soccer and lacrosse, which was his specialty, family members said.

"Empathy, that's the big thing," Mr. Gernand said in the 1976 interview, when he reflected on coaching students.

"You've got to empathize with the kids; you need a tremendous insight into them. They're more complex than they used to be. And you've got to try and head off the prima donna complex, that carry-over from the pros," he said.

"Not that we're shrinks practicing without a license; you just have to know a kid's personality and adjust your thinking. Too many coaches think all you do is step out onto a field with a clipboard and a whistle. That's a minor part of coaching, as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Gernand said.

Rob Herb, a member of the Class of 1974 at Dulaney, played football and baseball for Mr. Gernand.

"He was intelligent, bright and witty, and always had a beaming smile. He never seemed to have a bad day," said Mr. Herb, now president and chairman of Terminal Shipping Co., a Baltimore import-export firm.

"He was a gym rat-philosopher who was known for what we called 'George's Pearls of Wisdom.' Every day, he posted on the bulletin board an inspirational quote from Sophocles, Plato, Churchill or FDR, for instance," he said.

Mr. Herb said he was also known for what his athletes called "George-isms."

"He had a million of them, such as, 'No boots in the barn,' which meant take your cleats off before coming into the gym; or 'Boys, it's time for an Easter egg hunt,' which meant we were to search the fields for errant lacrosse balls," he said.

He added: "George wasn't there just for the star athletes, he was there for everybody."

In 1976, Mr. Gernard coached his lacrosse team to a 10-2 record, and in the process beat arch-rival Towson for the first time. He then took Dulaney to its first county and regional championships.

With the passing of the years, Mr. Gernand remained connected to his former students.

"He came to reunions and weddings, and played golf with us," Mr. Herb said.

"He rarely ventured out without someone - a former colleague, player, student or parent - greeting him [with], 'Hey, Coach,' " Ms. Baldacci said.

Even though he retired in 1992, he continued working for a few more years as a volunteer coach.

Mr. Gernand, who lived in Hunt Valley for many years before moving to Timonium in 2004, was an avid waterfowl hunter. He also enjoyed game dinners and trout fishing.

"He continued to hunt and fish with his lifelong friend, Herb 'Speedy' Kennedy, even as one required a walker and the other was undergoing chemotherapy," Ms. Baldacci said.

He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. March 21 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 11856 Mays Chapel Road.

Also surviving are his wife of 55 years, the former Rita Balise; two sons, David P. Gernand of Los Angeles and Jeffrey L. Gernand of Melbourne, Fla.; another daughter, Bethany Mezzadra of Cub Hill; two brothers, Jay E. Gernand of Tampa, Fla., and Charles Gernand of Lancaster, Pa.; and six grandchildren.

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