BORN: MAY 18, 1921, MUSKEGON, MI
DIED: FEBRUARY 6, 2011, LOS ANGELES, CA
Chuck Pavlich was not only one of the best
football linemen to ever come out of the area but was one of West Michigan’s
toughest individuals. The son of immigrant parents who settled in Egelston
Township, Pavlich was a burly 195-pound lineman at Muskegon High School in
1938 and 1939. He proved his toughness by winning the West Michigan Golden
Gloves boxing championship in 1941. Later that year, with World War II
raging in Europe, Pavlich joined the Marines. He went on to become one of
the area’s most decorated war heroes, serving in both WWII and the Korean
In between serving his country, Pavlich continued to make his mark in sports. In fact, en route to battle in the South Pacific aboard the USS North Carolina, Pavlich won the ship’s heavyweight boxing championship. Pavlich played guard for the St. Mary’s pre-flight team out of Santa Clara, Calif., between his war duties, and in 1945 became the only non-college player ever to be invited to play for the College All-Stars in the annual game against the professional football champions in Chicago.
His talents caught the eye of the San Francisco 49ers, a team in the newly-formed All-American Football League, where he started at guard before his football career was cut short by a ruptured disc in his back. Recalled to active duty by the Marines in 1952, Pavlich flew more than 100 missions over Korea as a Corsair pilot with the “Devilcats.” He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Walter “Pete” Petroskey
BORN: DECEMBER 14, 1908, BOSTON, MA
DIED: DECEMBER 29, 1982, MUSKEGON, MI
Walter “Pete” Petroskey was a fearsome hitter for the semi-pro Muskegon Reds baseball team
back in the 1930s, but baseball is not where he would make his mark.
Petroskey is known as a boxer and boxing manager who turned professional at
16 while in the U.S. Army. Petroskey would devote the next 54 years of his
life to the sport. A welterweight, Petroskey was known for his powerful
right hand, which he used to compile a 180-37 record as a pro boxer in 16
years of sanctioned fights.
In his younger days, Petroskey was controversial and colorful. A street kid, he devoted most of his adult life to kids like himself. He was known for his ability to take tough kids and use their natural aggressiveness and instincts, mix in a large dose of discipline and knowledge, and produce champions at his makeshift Catholic Youth Organization gym in downtown Muskegon.
The most storied boxer in Muskegon history, Kenny Lane, said he owes a great deal of his success to Petroskey, who served as Lane’s manager for many years. Petroskey worked with national champions Phil Baldwin and Oscar German, along with Doug Lang, Melvin Burns, Solomon Fox and Roy Fox, among others He also brought in many boxing and wrestling matches to the Muskegon Armory, featuring big names like Jack Dempsey, Jack Sharkey and Primo Carnea. Petroskey died in 1982 at the age of 74.
BORN: JANUARY 26, 1941, NORTH MUSKEGON, MI
Dave Taylor was a middle linebacker through and through. Taylor played
that crucial defensive position with a passion at North Muskegon High School, Ferris State
College (now Ferris State University) and then the professional Grand Rapids Blazers. He was a one-man
gang for North Muskegon in 1959 at middle linebacker, offensive tackle and
punter. He went on to be a two-time most valuable player at Ferris and the
ringleader of the Blazers’ defense.
Taylor brought the same tenacious mentality to the sidelines as a coach. He earned his reputation as one of the great defensive minds in area football coaching history during his 16 years as a head coach at Muskegon High School. He started his coaching career at Mona Shores before going to Muskegon as Larry Harp’s defensive coordinator in 1971, a job he held for nine years.
After a couple of seasons away from coaching, Taylor was named head coach of the Big Reds in 1983. He led Muskegon to eight playoff appearances and Class A state championships in 1986 and 1989. He retired after the 1999 season with a 112-50-1 record, which ranks second in career wins in Muskegon High’s storied football history behind Leo Redmond. Taylor is remembered for his insistence on the two D’s while at Muskegon – discipline and defense – which kept the Big Reds among the state’s elite programs.
BORN: APRIL 20, 1946, SHELBY, MI
Rich Tompkins raised the bar for all of the area’s track and
cross country runners and coaches. A three-sport star at Hart High School
in the 1960s, Tompkins went on to run at Michigan State University. Shortly
after graduating from MSU, Tompkins went to Fremont High School and started
to make history.
During his tenure as coach, Fremont’s boys cross country teams had a 250-29-1 dual meet record, won 21 conference titles (including 18 in a row from 1978 to 1995), 13 regional titles and six state championships. From 1977 to 1988, his Packers boys teams won 116 duals in a row. His girls' cross country teams at Fremont were nearly as good, posting a 111-22 dual record with 11 conference titles and six regional championships.
He also coached the Fremont boys' track team to a 169-56 dual meet record, 13 conference titles three regional titles and four Top 10 finishes at the state finals. Tompkins coached standout individuals like quarter-miler Alvin McNair, who went on to place in several Big Ten Championship meets and ex-Bowling Green standout JoAnn Lanciaux. Much of Tompkins’ success can be traced to his businesslike, no-nonsense approach and his ability to motivate young runners to keep running year-round. He started Fremont’s famed 500-mile summer workout club in 1970.