Payson’s youth, the town and the school district lost a sincere friend and supporter with the death of Glenn Hale on Aug. 24.
Newcomers to the Rim Country probably do not know Glenn, mostly because he spent the past several years behind the scenes battling chronic leukemia, which eventually claimed his life at 71 years of age.
But those who have been in the community for decades fondly remember Glenn as the man who devoted countless hours to volunteer coaching and doing whatever he could to improve the stock of young people.
In the mid-1980s, the word among frustrated Payson High School coaches who desperately wanted facility improvements but were irritated by a lack of action and money was “If it needs to be done, go to Glenn — he will somehow find a way.”
Former Payson High School wrestling coach Dennis Pirch, now retired, recalls many coaches approaching Glenn to jump start projects and muster up the volunteer labor and monetary donations needed to see them through to completion.
His daughter, Niki (Price), a PHS student in those days, also remembers Glenn taking on countless projects.
“If something needed to be done, he did it and he always wanted it done right,” she said. “He wanted things to last.”
Among the most ambitious of his projects was to improve and relocate the PHS baseball field to where it now stands.
Niki remembers what prompted her father to take on the daunting challenge.
“I was watching a high school baseball game with him and seeing the outfielders get burned by some really bad bounces because the field was hard and full of dips,” she said. “He thought that the home fields should be something Payson could be proud of.”
So Glenn, a talented craftsman, project manager and construction superintendent, scoured the town in search of journeymen and laborers who would volunteer their time to build a new and better field at a site about 200 yards west of where the old one was located.
He also pounded on doors pleading for money to help purchase backstops, fences, dugouts and grass seed.
“He did everything and went where he could to get what he needed to build that field,” said Pirch.
Some speculated that Glenn was able to wrangle some funds from the tight grips of the district administration — a feat that few were able to do in those cash-strapped years.
It took a Herculean effort from Glenn and the help of throngs of volunteers, but finally the field was completed and the baseball team had a facility they could be proud of.
While the field deteriorated in recent years due to negligence and overuse, only a few months ago a group of parent volunteers stepped up — just as Glenn did 23 years ago — to revamp the facility and render it once again a field of dreams.
Another of Glenn’s projects that turned into a source of school pride among students involved the acquisition of a state-of-the-art travel bus for all extracurricular activities.
Somehow — few remember the details including PUSD Associate Superintendent Bobette Tomerlin who was a PHS student in those days — Glenn was able to convince tight-fisted district bigwigs to purchase a used Greyhound bus. It was a double-decker complete with a bathroom and comfortable reclining seats with plenty of legroom.
The bus was a huge and comfortable improvement over the old yellow busses on which athletes and coaches were accustomed to making long, tiring trips. Those busses were
were designed for short trips for elementary-sized students.
But Glenn wasn’t about to settle on a simple travel bus, he wanted it to be a source of school and town pride.
Once again, he miraculously came up with the funds and labor to have the bus painted school colors, purple and gold, which also include a huge Longhorn logo on both sides.
It was a magnificent looking bus and a comfy one on which to spend hours and hours traveling.
When students traveled, onlookers and gawkers in neighboring towns stared and pointed as if to say, “There go those Longhorns.”
As Glenn had hoped, the bus was a burning source of pride for student athletes.
In 1986, Hale whole-heartedly backed a school district bond vote to build a new auditorium on the PHS campus.
Taxpayers were obviously dubious about voting for the bond, but in the final hours it passed.
Following the passage, then superintendent Sharkey Baker sent a letter of thanks to Glenn and other supporters that read, “The benefits that Payson students will receive from the bond package that you and others put together cannot be over emphasized.”
Glenn appeared Dec. 8, 1986 at a school board meeting where he was officially thanked for helping a once skeptical public vote for the bond.
As a project manager for Sun General Construction in 1985 and 1986, Glenn supervised a $2.4-million PUSD project that included building school additions such as classrooms, library, kitchens, cafeterias and science labs.
There are many other school and community projects that Glenn helped spur including building the PHS softball field, the PHS activities fields and track, Rumsey Park scoreboard, Little League snack bar, school district water systems and improvements on elementary school playgrounds.
The first year Payson High fielded a softball team, the Lady Longhorns were forced to play their games at Rumsey Park.
That was less than an ideal situation for a varsity team hoping to build a proud tradition.
But thanks in part to Glenn’s efforts, the second year, the Lady Horns had their own field to call home.
Those who knew Glenn remember him as the acknowledged leader of hundreds of projects, but a man who preferred to work behind the scenes deflecting credit to others.
While Glenn spent gads of volunteer hours on the project challenges, he always found time to remain a loyal PHS sports fan, especially when one of his children was involved.
“My parents attended every game I ever played and those were the years that we traveled to Parker and Wickenburg for division games,” Niki recalls. “No matter how far it was, they were there, in the stands cheering us on.”
It’s a given around the Rim Country that Glenn’s death has left a gaping hole in the school district and town. But in life, he set a glowing example of dedication, commitment and perseverance that will last forever.