Vernon E. Seibert, a former athletic director and coach at Glenelg High School who had been an outstanding football player during the 1940s at College Park, died Saturday of cancer at Union Hospital in Elkton.
The longtime Columbia resident was 88.
"You could write a book about Vernon Seibert. What a character. The stories about him are legend," said Dennis P. Cole, who was head football coach at Glenelg in the 1980s and retired five years ago.
"He was always held in high esteem but was not the kind of buddy-buddy type of football coach when it came to the kids," he said. "He was a little more relaxed with the physical education kids and would clown around with them."
David A. Bruzga was a teacher at Glenelg and later assistant principal during Mr. Seibert's tenure there.
"Vern was always very dedicated to young people. He coached varsity sports and taught driver's education and was a great athlete himself. He was just an incredible person," said Mr. Bruzga, who is now administrative director of Howard County's secondary public schools.
"He was always a lot of fun to be around and had a great sense of humor. He worked hard and played hard," said Mr. Bruzga.
The son of a boilermaker and a homemaker, Vernon Elliott Seibert was born in Baltimore and raised on Erdman Avenue.
Mr. Seibert began working when he was 12, delivering newspapers and later Western Union telegrams. He loaded freight cars for the Pennsylvania Railroad during summers in high school.
After graduating in 1942 from Patterson Park High School, where he had been a football star, Mr. Seibert enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was trained as a B-25 pilot.
He served with the 38th Bomb Group, 405th Bomb Squadron and flew missions in the South Pacific until 1946 when he was discharged.
Mr. Seibert enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, and at 149 pounds, played both offense and defense for legendary football coach James M. "Big Jim" Tatum. He earned a reputation as a standout halfback.
A Baltimore Sun sportswriter in a 1946 article described Mr. Seibert as the "fleetest back on the squad." He played in the 1948 Gator Bowl, which was Maryland's first postseason game. The team tied the University of Georgia, 20-20.
After graduating from Maryland in 1949, Mr. Seibert coached football and lacrosse for a year at what was then Baltimore Junior College, and then returned to College Park as a defensive coach under Mr. Tatum.
The Terps won the Atlantic Coast Conference co-championship, which they shared with Duke in 1953, and were honored as national champions as the only undefeated and untied team in the country that year.
"He recently donated football films to Maryland that dated to the 1940s. They were thrilled because they are the oldest films that they have," said a daughter, Tori Leech of Westminster.
Mr. Seibert left coaching and worked from 1955 to 1963 in public relations and as merchandiser for the Wholesale Bakers of Baltimore.
He returned to coaching in 1964 when he was named athletic director and physical education teacher at Glenelg High School, where his varsity coaching responsibilities eventually included football, basketball, baseball, wrestling and golf.
"Teachers in those days were expected to do a lot, and back then, coaches weren't paid for coaching," said Mr. Cole.
"Back then, Glenelg was just a farm school, and I remember Vernon in the old gym standing under the basketball hoop, coaching wrestling and basketball at the same time," said Mr. Cole. "He'd turn this way and say something to the wrestling team, and then turn the other way, and coach the basketball team."
Mr. Cole said that Mr. Seibert was an "old-school coach."
"He was very stern with the players, and that was the era when you expected the kids to learn from the older kids," said Mr. Cole.
Frank E. Rhodes Sr. is a retired Atholton and Lake Wilde high school coach who coached the basketball and track and field teams. "We coached against each other, and he was a real competitor. After all, this was a guy who was a bomber pilot when he was 20 during the war," said Mr. Rhodes, who retired in 1985.
"Vernon was a throwback to the old days as a coach. He could scout out a high school team in two days and get them ready in a day, whereas it took the rest of us a whole week," he said with a laugh. "Vernon was a competitor from the word 'go.'"
He retired in 1986.
In addition to his work at Glenelg, Mr. Seibert founded the Howard County summer recreation program in 1965.
Mr. Seibert played softball and coached a team during the summer months. He was inducted in 1977 as the 39th member into the Maryland Fast Pitch Softball Hall of Fame.
He was an active member of the Ellicott City Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, where he played on its softball team, and the Old Timers Basketball Association. He was also a member of the First Lutheran Church of Ellicott City.
The longtime Columbia resident was married in 1950 to the former Barbara Mullins, who died in 2003.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Harry H. Witzke Funeral Home, 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Seibert is survived by two sons, Chris Seibert of Lake Wylie, S.C., and Kurt Seibert of Columbia, S.C.; two other daughters, Elise Devlin of Sadsburyville, Pa., and Jamie Hoffman of Onacock, Va.; companion Mary Johnson of Elkton; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.