Ed Gotwals: Scotland School legacy loses best friend
Scotland School for Veterans Children has been gone now for about seven years, but many of the men and women who made that school what it was are still part of the local community.
On Sunday, however, one of those former Scotland faculty members passed away.
And it's a huge loss.
Ken Katusin was mostly known for having coached the Cadet football team for 25 years and for leading them to a PIAA Class A state championship in 1992.
But he was so much more.
He also coached wrestling and track at Scotland, in addition to being a successful guidance counselor. But that still doesn't give the full measure of what he did for the school.
Katusin just seemed to be there when anybody needed anything, even after he "retired" from coaching.
"He was the most dedicated person I've ever met," said Gerry Wilson, who also coached basketball and track at Scotland. "His heart was for Scotland School, and the kids and the school came first."
Randy Taylor, a Cadet basketball coach, said, "Ken was just there ALL the time. He was an inspiration to me, and he was the kind of guy who made that school such a special place. He could still relate to the kids, even in his last year, because he had a gift for communicating."
Katusin, if you only set eyes on him, might give you an incorrect first impression. He was tall and his gray/white crew cut made him look like an ex-Marine.
But instead of being no-nonsense and a disciplinarian all the time (a role he could play just fine), he was the guy who would slip in a funny dig or tell a joke that kept everybody laughing.
"He always had a joke," said John Chontos, a coach and teacher at SSVC who was also a regular golf partner with Katusin. "He'd use those one-liners and really surprise people - they never saw it coming."
Ralph Dusman, a Scotland athletic director and coach, said, "We lost a great friend and a golf partner. He seemed to always have a joke or a good story to tell, and that just made the golf fun."
Chontos said, "We'd get the golf group (Katusin, Chontos, Dusman and Ed Harr) together and as soon as we'd get in the car, the BS would start flying. Ken would always be giving us the business about who was getting strokes that day. And as soon as we started back home, he'd be talking about the next round. He kept it light-hearted."
One quirk: During football season, Katusin always wore shorts, even for that state final in December. But in the middle of summer, he always played golf in long pants - and usually with a red "Scotland" shirt on.
In fact, his wife Shirley has asked that people coming to the viewing and funeral Aug. 5 are encouraged to wear red.
Dusman tells a story about the foursome playing at The Bridges, with the usual pairing of Harr and Chontos needing to win the 18th hole to take the match.
"Ken stood on the tee and said, 'Do you think that tree will come into play?' And right away, Ed hit the tree and it bounced down into a creek. Then John hit his ball so far away from the tree he ended up in another fairway. And we won the hole. After that, we'd always ask them, 'Do you think that tree will come into play?'"
But Katusin was not just a jokester. In football, he compiled a record (according to the P.O. files) of 141-111-2, a winning percentage of .559. Yes, he had a lot of great athletes, but his teams almost always played much bigger schools.
Some other achievements under "The Kat": The Cadets won three Mid Penn IV titles from 1993-95, which were the first league championships for the school in its 106-year football history; he coached 16 consecutive years with non-losing seasons; he was the P.O. Coach of the Year in 1991, '92, '98 and 2002; the Cadets won District 3-A titles in 1992 and '98; and he was named to the South Central Pa. Hall of Fame and the Pa. Scholastic Football Coaches Assoc. Hall of Fame.
And then there was 1992, when Scotland rolled to a 13-1 record, defeated Smethport 24-7 to capture a PIAA championship and earned Katusin the Pa. Class A Coach of the Year award.
"Ken was my defensive coordinator when I was coaching, and he took over for me in 1976," said Frank Frame, who went on to be the school's superintendent. "He was an excellent coach and a fine man. His life was the school."
Unfortunately for all who knew him, that life has been extinguished. But it will not be forgotten.
Ed Gotwals is sports editor for Public Opinion and Lebanon Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @EdGotwalsPO.