By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Ravenna’s football program has some of the most recognizable and memorable names in Portage County history.
Coaches like Joe Leigh and Jim Lunardi.
Players like Don Nottingham and Marcus Sanders.
None may be as accomplished as Harry Gilcrest, though.
Many may be familiar with Gilcrest’s name, as it sits on the south end of the school’s football stadium — an honor that has stood since a dedication in 1971 at the team’s former field on North Walnut Street as part of the legacy of the influential coach and teacher.
What many probably don’t know, though, is that Gilcrest’s great coaching career may not even rank in his top-three accomplishments, which is saying a lot considering he ranks third in school history (and 15th in Portage County history) with his 77 career wins.
He led Ravenna football to back-to-back league championships in the old Metro League in 1964 and 1965, with the ’64 Ravens going undefeated.
Here is a little peek into Gilcrest’s amazing life of accomplishments:
• He was born in 1911 in Kent. He was raised on his family’s celery farm.
• He graduated from Kent Roosevelt High School in 1930.
• He graduated from Kent State University in 1936.
• He was voted “The Most Popular Man” by his peers in the Kent State University publication “The Chestnut Burr.”
• Innovatively installed the single-wing offense during a time when no other teams had anything like it in their playbook.
• He was an Olympic-level archer and was captain of Team USA. He taught archery at the Ravenna Archery Club.
• He was a first-class musician and played the trumpet in the jazz band he formed, which was called “Gil Crest and The Orchestra.” He turned down a recording contract from RCA, because he didn’t want to leave his family for long periods of time for touring. Gilcrest’s recording contract that he turned down was eventually signed by Duke Ellington, who went on to win 15 Grammys.
• He invented the “Gilcrest Bandage Cutter,” as a safer way to remove athletic tape during the postgame.
• He was a master builder and was an industrial arts teacher at Ravenna. He designed and built the “Ravens Roost” press box at the team’s old stadium on North Walnut. He also built his house, which overlooked the Cuyahoga River.
• He coached for five years at Aurora before coming to Ravenna.
• It was once noted that in his 35 years as a teacher, he never missed a day of work.
• He died in 1997 at the age of 86.