Leading by Example

Paul H. Luhrsen ’54 recently had a story submitted to us from his son Dane on behalf of fellow Illini ΑΤΩ John Wingert, aka “Captain Tootsie.” The story recounts a young John’s admiration for Paul and his teammates as star athletes growing up. Paul’s son Dane Luhrsen is the currently working as the Director of Alumni Relations for the ΑΤΩ Gamma Zeta Chapter at Illinois. Thanks Dane!

My name is Dane Luhrsen. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1977 and am a member of the ΑΤΩ Fraternity.  I’m currently the director of alumni relations for the ΑΤΩ Gamma Zeta Chapter from the University of Illinois. My father, Paul, however, was a Sigma Chi at Illinois who graduated in 1954. In doing some networking with some of my ΑΤΩ brothers, I came across the story in the attached email that was written by an ΑΤΩ, John Wingert, who graduated in about 1960, but it’s really about my dad, Paul. It also mentions another Sigma Chi, Bud DeMoss, who would have graduated in about 1955. I thought this was a story that might be appropriate for your Sigma Chi Kappa Kappa newsletter. I know that my dad would enjoy seeing it there:

Paul Luhrsen (50) and Bud DeMoss (41).

Little Johnny Wingert, age 10, was the unofficial mascot of the York Dukes football and basketball teams in 1949 and 1950. He biked from Villa Park to York for every practice and game, regardless of weather. Paul might remember me by my nickname, bestowed on me by the team: “Captain Tootsie.” I spent a nickel every day on a big tootsie roll (a big deal for cheap me on an allowance of one dollar a week), and after each practice or game, I would select the two standouts on the team that day and, with my grubby little fingers, twist off one segment for each of them, saving the last three for me. Needless to say, Paul scoffed down a lot of grimy chocolate in the fall of ’49, being the standout for the team. He was pretty darn big too and perhaps got several chunks more than entitled to by intimidation. I idolized the top stars and set a goal because of them. Paul was voted the Athlete of the Year for the graduating class of 1950, based on his stardom on the gridiron, a grunt, and excelling around the boards on the basketball court (and I think on the track team as well).

Sig Illini Football Players, ’51–’52 (left to right): Stan Wallace (40), Rich Kohlhagen (74), Dean Willman (85), Rich Zimmerman (Football Manager), Dale Foster (24), Herb Neathery (45), and Paul Luhrsen (50).

This award was the most prestigious one given annually. Then in 1951, Paul was on the U. of I. football team that went to the Rose Bowl. I get chills just thinking about it: that grand young man, with all he had on his plate on such a trip, still had the depth of character to send an 11-year-old little shit back in Villa Park a post card of the stadium in Pasadena with a most kind personal note. To say the least, he more than made my day; I was in awe for the longest time. I never saw Paul again or had any communication with him, so I have never thanked him for that grand gesture on his part. My idolization of Paul and the guy who won Paul’s trophy the next year (Bud DeMoss, who had the longest run from scrimmage for Illinois in that same Rose Bowl) made me want to get my name with theirs on that same trophy when I would graduate from York in 1957. I worked very hard at it, and I did—I know in great part because of Paul’s influence.  I’m sure he doesn’t know that, and I hope that you or Dane could pass along this little story to a fine athlete and a grand human being.

John Wingert and Paul Luhrsen (48); York high-school team pic. John is the little guy at the bottom of the picture.


Photos Courtesy of Paul’s son:
Dane Luhrsen
ΑΤΩ Gamma Zeta ’77
Director of Alumni Relations
Editor of the Gamma Zeta News