Area coaches were in unison when asked about the life of Hiland High boys' basketball coach Perry Reese Jr.
"Perry was a great coach, but he was an even greater person," summed up veteran Dover boys' basketball coach Bob Von Kaenel about the Hiland mentor, who succumbed to brain cancer Wednesday morning.
"I knew Perry for about 25 years and he was probably the most humble person I've ever known. That's why he was so well-liked in the community. He touched a lot of lives outside of basketball."
Von Kaenel had visited Reese a number of times since the Hiland coach found out he had an inoperable brain tumor this past summer.
"He told me, 'You don't need to keep coming out here. Just call me on the telephone." He didn't want to be a burden to anyone. That's the way he was. He put others before himself and as I get older I find out there aren't too many heroes left, but I consider Perry a hero."
Even those who battled with Reese's teams on a regular basis held him in high regard.
One of those battles was with the rival Garaway Pirates.
"The thing that stands out with Perry is that he was a disciplined man and that discipline carried over into his teams," said Garaway coach Scott Bardall. "I told Jason Mishler (a player on last year's Hiland team which advanced to the state tournament) how much I admired the relatonship he had with Perry."
Bardall, a graduate of Lakeland High who played against Reese when the latter coached at Guernsey Catholic, recalled his first meeting with the Hiland mentor as coach.
"Garaway had dunked on Hiland late in the game the year before I got the Garaway job," said Bardall. "I told him I had nothing to do with that and he just smiled at me. He was a good man and a great coach."
"He was all class," said fellow Inter-Valley Conference coach Troy McClellan of Strasburg. "His kids played hard, but they always played clean. You never had to worry about any extra-curricular stuff and you knew that you were going to have to go out and play hard every night."
McClellan has been at Strasburg for five years His team saw the Hawks twice each season and played three more times in tournament action.
McClellan said he always admired the approach that Reese's teams took during the meetings.
"Any time you can get kids believing in what you want to do, it's a good thing and his kids always knew what to expect," the Tiger coach said. "From 7th-graders to seniors, they always knew exactly what would be expected of them.
"He's going to be missed by not only the league, but by basketball people in the entire state."
"He was a disicplined man and he coached discipline," said Von Kaenel. "Many people will remember the times he would yell at his players, but at the same time he would put his arm around them. His players were special to him."
As were his friends.
"I considerd him a pretty good friend," said McClellan, who coached with Reese at a tournament in Las Vegas. "He was always a friendly guy and a lot of fun to be around."
Bardall said Reese left his earthly life the way he coached.
"He lived his life with dignity and class," said Bardall. "He passed with dignity and class."
New Philadelphia mentor Phil Tidrick rememberd how Reese helped him the first year he became head coach of the Quakers.
"My first year he was one of the people I called to ask advice and he always would lend me a hand," said Tidrick.
"This is a real loss for everybody. We've lost a great coach and a great person. Perry will be sadly missed," Tidrick added.
Von Kaenel found it ironic that Reese passed away at this time of year.
"A lot of his former players are on Thanksgiving break and were back in the area," said Von Kaenel. "It's just a really tough day because of the closure."