April 18, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Sports Hall of Fame: Cooper Hudnutt’s generosity remembered

ELYRIA — The Chronicle-Telegram in general and the Hudnutt family in particular were always integral parts of the success of the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame.
That’s the first line of the description of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award and it’s telling. But late publisher Cooper Hudnutt’s generosity — especially to the local sports community — reached much further.
“I’m just learning about the extent of what he did for our community,” said Bill Hudnutt, Cooper’s son and the Chronicle’s general manager. “I think he’d have been embarrassed to accept this. He wasn’t big on letting people know how much he was helping people out.”
Bill Hudnutt learned how bighearted his father was two years ago after Cooper’s death, when local organizations began approaching the family to offer condolences and give the details of his generosity.
Much of it went to the sports world, as Cooper was a diehard fan of the Browns, Indians, Cavaliers and Ohio State Buckeyes, as well as the area’s teams and leagues.
“We would go to Indians games and Cavs games, but mostly I enjoyed going to the local stuff like the Elyria High football games and Little League East games,” Bill said. “I played (for East) from tee ball through seniors — starting back when the fields were at the Lexington facility, then we moved to Eastern Heights and then to Vic Janowicz Memorial Field.
“I don’t think a lot of people know how instrumental he was in securing the land for (Vic Janowicz Field). He helped push that through and was a big part of getting that built.”
Little League East responded by holding a dedication ceremony in May of 2011, promising to name the soon-to-be-built field house after Cooper.
Cooper follows his late father, Art, into the Hall. Art Hudnutt, who served as the Chronicle’s publisher before Cooper, served as the Hall of Fame’s master of ceremonies for years and was inducted for his golfing accomplishments in 1974.
“I know (Cooper) felt it was really cool that his dad was a Hall of Famer, and I can share those sentiments tonight,” Bill said during his acceptance speech.
Bill said his father wasn’t just a sports fan, he was also a bit of an athlete … well, almost.
“I like to say that he was, ‘dad athletic,’” Bill said. “We didn’t play HORSE, we played CAVS, but he could make some amazing shots. He’d make the ‘Mailman shot’ which was out by the mailbox and over 30 feet away. I’ve tried for years and still can’t make that shot. He also made the ‘Kiss the ghost shot.’ We had a Halloween decoration — a hanging ghost — that stayed up year round. He’d throw the ball on the roof, kiss the ghost and after the ball rolled back down and bounced twice, you’d have to take a jump shot from wherever the ball landed.”
Cooper also participated in many of the more average athletic activities, but even went above and beyond while doing those.
“He had the ability to play catch all night long,” Bill said. “I kept him in the front yard for hours and his arm never got tired.”
Cooper kept the Chronicle’s connection with the Hall of Fame strong after his father’s death, making sure the newspaper helped print the banquet programs annually, offering the group plenty of free promotion and helping fund the annual athletic scholarships for many years.
Cooper also was co-founder of the Elyria chapter of Browns Backers, and the group presented the Hall of Fame with a $1,000 check in his honor Saturday night.
“We’re really honored that he’s being honored tonight,” Bill said. “It’s great that the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame has always been entwined with the Chronicle-Telegram and the Hudnutt family.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137
or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.