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VOTE MAY RESULT IN MEMORIAL TO PANTHER COACH

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's been just over two years since former Annapolis coach Al Laramore died, and a long-deserved memorial of some sort in his honor appears to be in the offing.

A movement led by several coaches and headed by former Laramore football assistant, Billy Phebus, is pushing toname the Panthers' football field after Laramore. The Richard G. Ensor Panther Stadium moniker would be retained with the addition of a hyphen and Al Laramore Field.

Something that should convince the decision makers to do just that is the approval of the late Ensor's wife, Veronica Ensor King. I spoke to her Friday, and she told me, "Our family would not object to adding Mr. Laramore's name to the field because he was very important to the school and community."

Laramore coached football for 23 years at Annapolis High and also coached basketball, lacrosse and other sports. He is the only man in the history of Maryland sports to win state championships in three sports -- football, basketball and lacrosse.

In addition, he was athletic director for a few years, but most importantly he made young men out of young boys and had a positive impact on the lives of many with his ability to motivate.

It was during the racial strife of the '60s that Laramore contributed immensely to keeping a community from tearing itself apart. There were few men of his character during those times that both blacks and whites trusted.

The respect he commanded from everyone was overwhelming as evidenced by the number of black former players and community leaderswho showed up to pay their respects following his fatal heart attackJan. 10, 1989.

His name and what he stood for should be perpetuated on the football field where he made his mark roaming the sidelinesin football and lacrosse. Phebus and a committee he formed, Friends of Al Laramore, are committed to seeing that it happens.

The dual names for stadium and field has been done at various colleges, universities and high schools around the nation. It's not uncommon at all, although in Anne Arundel County it's never been done. But at the sametime there haven't been too many others like Al Laramore, if any.

On Wednesday, April 3, the Annapolis Sports Boosters Club will have its monthly meeting with the school's faculty. A decision on what to do in honor of Laramore is expected.

"Yes, we hope to make a decision that night," said Annapolis principal Laura Webb, who charged theBoosters and faculty council to study the matter, make proposals andcome up with the appropriate idea.

"I don't have the right to override their decision, and my own personal feelings don't matter as much as what the faculty and parents (and boosters) feel is appropriate. My initial proposal was to name either the field or gym after CoachLaramore, but there was strong opposition to that from the Boosters and Citizens Advisory Council."

Some other proposals are being voted on by faculty members, but it amazes me that anyone could be opposed to naming the football field after Laramore. But the approval of Richard Ensor's wife and family brings hope that there will be a change of heart.

Ensor died several years ago after suffering injuries in an automobile accident in the Round Bay section of Severna Park. He was well-respected by his peers, parents and students at Annapolis High and was an avid supporter of the athletic program.

He played a prominent role in the building of the track and stadium at Annapolis High after the high school was moved from the old Bates High site to its current home on Riva Road. That stadium was named in his honor and deservedly so.

"It was a great honor when they decided to nameit after Dick," said Ensor's widow. "He was devoted to the educational field and dedicated to its kids. Dick really gave of himself to the community."

In that regard, Ensor and Laramore, who differed from time to time philosophically, were very much alike. There is no question that each genuinely cared, beyond the call of the duty, for thekids.

That caring was obvious by the students and former studentswho turned out in droves for the funerals of these two great men. They were different yet alike, dedicated to a common bond: the kids of Annapolis.

The community truly showed that love and respect.

"Having our children (they attended Severna Park) get to play there in the stadium named after their dad has provided our family with warmthand comfort," Ensor King said. "We have been fortunate to experiencethe love and support of the community.

"But Mr. Laramore meant a lot to the community and naming the field after him would in no way detract from Richard G. Ensor Panther Stadium. I know it would be welcomed and appreciated by his family."

She would, of course, be opposed to removing Ensor's name and putting it anywhere else. She truststhat the Annapolis parents, boosters and faculty members will make the right decision because, she says, "the people there have a grip onthings."

I agree and they can prove they have a grip by naming the field after Laramore, but they do have other options, one of which is rather interesting. Let's explore the other proposals being kickedaround by the committees and on the ballot.

First, Webb says the Citizens Advisory Committee intends to lobby the County Council to name the new Bates-area park "Al Laramore Park."

The new park will go near Bates Junior High, which at one time housed the original Annapolis High and where the legend of Laramore began. The city of Annapolis and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, who is an Annapolis High grad and onewho profoundly admired Laramore, would run the park.

It's not a bad idea and certainly much better than some of the others, but the park would not be where the students Laramore loved would be every day.Annapolis High is on Riva Road, and that's where most remember him.

To be the symbol of character and importance of respecting authority that he was for the students of the future, his name needs to be perpetuated on that Panther football field.

Other proposals are to put benches and trees outside the gym and call it Al Laramore Park orconvert the front lobby leading into the gym into a showcase memorial with photos and trophies won by his teams.

Such ideas would not be enough, and the chance that something like that could happen is the reason that Phebus and the Friends of Al Laramore have been taking pledges from former players, coaches, parents and community members.

They want to ensure that the memorial will be representative of what he meant to the school and community, and they are prepared to help pay for whatever is done.

Laramore's widow, Dorothy, and their two sons, Dan and Dave, have waited patiently for more than two years.

Webb should be commended for finally getting the ball rolling. The one thing that would wipe out the anxiety Dorothy, Dan and Dave have gone through waiting and wondering if Al's dedication went for nil would be to name the football field after him.

To me, the fact that Ensor King and her family would accept it without reservation is all that it should take. What more of an endorsement does anyone need?

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