Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Monday, August 27, 2007
Coach and mentor to thousands
Pete Liapis was athletic director of Fullerton Boys Club for 22 years
The Orange County Register

Brigg Owens was only 11 years old when Pete Liapis caught him stealing bikes from in front of the Fullerton Boys Club more than 40 years ago.
Pete, then the club's athletic director, took the youngster home and told him, in front of his mother, that Brigg had two choices: He could go to Juvenile Hall or he could become active in the Boys Club.
Owens chose the Boys Club, got involved in football and ultimately played in a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins as part of a long, successful pro career -- one of the many athletes who got their start under Pete's stern, but loving, supervision.
Pete was 83 when he died July 29.
While coaching everything from baseball to boxing, basketball, track, wrestling, tumbling and judo from 1954 to 1976, Pete also built self-esteem and instilled honesty and honor in thousands of young boys. And he organized and ran one of the largest youth basketball intramural programs in the country.
Pete grew up in Price, Utah, joined the Marines just before graduating from high school and was a member of the Carlson Raiders Battalion in the Pacific Islands.
After his discharge in 1945, he returned to Price, enrolled in junior college, and met his future wife, Alberta Leo, who was dating one of Pete's best friends.
"I'm going to marry you," Pete said when he first met her at a dance. When she said she was dating his friend, Pete vowed to wait for her. They were married in 1948.
In 1954, they moved to California.
They were driving through Fullerton one day and passed a building under construction. Pete stopped to see if they needed an extra hand. He was hired and ended up helping construct the Fullerton Boys Club for which he became athletic director.
Pete could not believe his good fortune. "Are they really gonna pay me to teach kids to play sports?" he asked Bert.
A former boxer who once won the National Golden Gloves and International Heavyweight Amateur Athletic Union championship, Pete also scored one of the fastest knockouts - 32 seconds in the first round - in AAU history. But it wasn't just boxing -- he loved all sports. And more than sports, he loved good sportsmanship.
"He taught us the importance of teamwork and fair play, along with the fundamentals of the game," Owens said.
Pete also made the kids clean the gym and the locker room at the end of practice. He was, Owens said, "very much the disciplinarian."
One thing he hated was kids bouncing the basketball while he was trying to talk to the team. "Don't bounce the ball in the gym!" he'd holler. Pete yelled quite a bit.
But the discipline came with equal amounts of love and guidance and Pete is credited with mentoring thousands of children and nudging them to success.
Among them was baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who played for the Expos, Mets, Giants and Dodgers. His mother died when he was 9 and Bert and Pete were like his second parents.
"Pete was stern and had a stern voice," Carter said, "but he was very caring and diligent in his work. He poured his heart into the Boys Club."
The kids loved to play for Pete and his baskeball teams were known throughout the state as the ones to try to beat.
Pete treated everyone as he wanted to be treated - with gentleness and respect. And he taught the youngsters confidence.
"If you want something hard enough and believe it, you can do it," he said. "Don't let anyone tell you you can't. And don't be intimidated.
He could, however, be a little intimidating. In fact, his family likes to think he's in heaven now, yelling, "Don't bounce the basketball on the floor!"
Also interviewed for this story: Wife, Bert; friend, Kevin McCarthy.
Contact the writer: 714-796-6082 or email
Mohave Daily News
Liapis turned boys into men: BHC resident, who mentored future pro athletes in Fullerton, passes away at 83
By DANIEL McKILLOPTuesday, August 7, 2007 11:35 PM PDT

The Daily NewsBULLHEAD CITY - One of the few people who lived the life of the fictional character George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie “It's a Wonderful Life” was Pete Liapis, 83, who passed away peacefully in Bullhead City on July 29.
Bailey, for those who do not know, enriched the lives of just about everyone he came in contact with during the 1947 classic.
Liapis' son and family spokesman, Rock Liapis, said his father changed several lives for the better while he was counselor and coach at the Fullerton, Calif., Boys Club for 23 years before moving to Bullhead City in 1985.
“He touched several youngsters during the crossroads of their lives,” Rock Liapis said, “and set them on the right path from their childhood into adolescence through adulthood.”
Prior to mentoring youngsters, Peter Liapis earned a Purple Heart while serving with the Carleson Raider Battalion after he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II, the spokesman said. He was wounded at Guam and the Mariana Islands after serving three years in the Pacific theater.
Brigman Owens, who played with the Dallas Cowboys in 1965 and with the Washington Redskins from 1966-78, said Peter Liapis saved a lot of lives. “He turned kids around,” Owens said. “He introduced us to organized sports.”
The former captain of the Redskins said Pete Liapis' intervention saved him when he was 11-years-old. “He caught me stealing bikes in front of the Boys Club,” Owens said. “I used to sell them.“ He took me home to mom and told me I had two choices: He would take me to juvenile hall or I can join the Boys Club. ”Owens said he was one of 13 children and his family could not afford the Boys Club, so Pete Liapis paid his Boys Club dues for him.
Owens said Pete Liapis also instilled teamwork and fair play to those under his tutelage. “If you played dirty, you were out of the game,” he said. “He also made you stick around and clean up the gym.”
Mentor and protégé stayed in touch for approximately 50 years after Owens left the Boys Club to go on to bigger and better things, which included playing for legendary NFL coaches like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and George Allen.MLB Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who played with the Montreal Expos and the New York Mets, left a voice mail at the Daily News soon after hearing about Pete Liapis' passing.“I'm saddened to hear that my coach and mentor has passed away,” he said. “I can't tell you how much it hurts because he was a great guy for me.“He was a second father for me and a great coach.” Carter said he joined the Boys Club in first grade, and Pete Liapis “allowed him on the basketball team” when he was in the third grade.
Former National League Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones of the San Diego Padres, former Texas Ranger and Chicago Cub Steve Buechelle, 12-year NFL veteran and former New Orleans Saint Hoby Brenner, 15-year NFL veteran and former Chicago Bear Keith Van Horn, and 12-year NFL veteran and former Dallas Cowboy Blaine Nye are among several youngsters who played for Pete Liapis that went on to play professional sports, the spokesman said. In addition to those who went on to pro sports careers, there were countless who excelled in other endeavors as well.
Pete Liapis is survived by his wife Alberta of Bullhead City; two sons, Rock of Bullhead City, and Pete Jr., of Los Angeles; daughter Faye Schumaker of Redding, Calif.; sisters Sylvia (John) Platis of Salt Lake City, Dorothy Kay of Palm Spring, Calif., and Helen Maxfield of Salt Lake City; four grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren.
Rock Liapis added: “Pop, we love you3 (times three).”


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