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Hall of Fame Member Bios 1992

View: Alphabetical List - Members by Induction Class - Biographies

Chester A. Olinger
Chester A. “Chet” Olinger is best remembered as a teacher and administrator whose association with Collingswood Junior and Senior High Schools spanned six decades – from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. For many years, he was head of the math department and assistant principal of the high school. He taught, tutored and otherwise helped thousands of Collingswood students during his distinguished career.
An avid tennis player since his youth, Mr. Olinger revived the Collingswood High School tennis team in 1953 and coached numerous championship teams during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He also enabled Colls High tennis players to compete against the best in the Delaware Valley in Saturday morning and fall matches.
Mr. Olinger taught at Faith Christian School after retiring from Collingswood High and continued to teach and tutor until shortly before he died, in January of 1990, at the age of 87. He was an important part of Collingswood High School for most of the 20th century.

Ben Mark
Mr. Ben, as he was known to his Collingswood basketball players, had quite an athletic background. He was an all-around athlete at South River High and went on to Rutgers where he was a basketball standout and an All-American in lacrosse.
From the time he took over the Panther court squad in 1932 he produced consistent winners. The Colls won five Camden Suburban League titles and always were in contention. His 1940 unit became the first in the history of the school to win the South Jersey Group 4 crown. To earn a position in the intersectionals his team had to defeat Trenton, one of the perennial state powers of the day.
For many years he worked skillfully with the young football players, many of whom went on to stardom. He was still in his coaching prime when a heart attack forced him from the sidelines. In 1981 he was selected to the South Jersey Basketball of Fame.

Harold “Hut” Larsen
As a Collingswood undergraduate, Larsen earned many local headlines. He was All-South Jersey tackle in 1929 and the top 440 man in the area in 1930. His brilliant defensive play in a goal line stand against Woodbury in 1928 played a major role in the championship season of 1928.
The headlines became national ones in the early days of World War II. An Annapolis graduate, Larsen earned the Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross as commander of Reconstituted Torpedo Squadron 8. The sinking of a Japanese cruiser was one of his military accomplishments. Those heroics were performed in the early days of the war when a few navy pilots were entrusted with the responsibility of slowing the inexorable Japanese push through the South Pacific.

Bill Conover
Bill not only lettered in four sports at Collingswood; he excelled in all. For three seasons, beginning in 1928, he was a brilliant halfback for Skeets Irvine, playing on two championship teams while winning All-South Jersey honors as junior.
He was South Jersey high jump champion and was the first athlete in the state to long-jump over 23 feet. At the same time he was winning honors in track and field he was serving as captain centerfielder, and cleanup man on the baseball team. As a senior he came out for basketball and earned the job as starting center.
Bill was more than just a fine athlete. His humble attitude and winning personality made him one of the most popular figures in the school. He currently resides in Barrington with his wife, Bea.

Rheta Batten Ware
It was not just the men of Collingswood who were area powers in the early 1930’s. The gals were also highly successful, and Rheta was one of the premier stars of the day. She was a standout in hockey, basketball and track. Among her tributes was earning the title of best athlete in the school at the graduation ceremonies of 1932.
In field hockey, Rheta set a Collingswood scoring record which stood until the 1960’s. One of her most fond memories is playing in the championship hockey game before a crowd of 2000 fans. Her desire to excel was so great that one time her mother called coach Hazel Nicholson Gallagher and suggested that she should arrange for a cot in the gymnasium. In 1986, Rheta was honored by the Field Hockey Club of South Jersey as the outstanding player of the 1930’s.

Ruth Woolston Pond
A three–sport star at Collingswood, Ruth went on to play at Temple. She returned to her scholastic Alma Mater where she served with distinction as a teacher and coach.
As an undergraduate, Ruth was recognized as one of the area’s top performers in field hockey, basketball and tennis. In hockey, she starred on two championship teams. She was a two-year starter in basketball and tennis.
In her outstanding coaching career, Ruth brought home four championships in swimming and two more in hockey. Her dedication and knowledge of all sports made her a favorite among the girls who gained much success under her tutelage.

Walt Motson
In his remarkable career at Collingswood, Walt earned eleven letters. He was All-Group 4 end in football, was a star on the basketball team, the first Collingswood unit to capture a South Jersey championship. He was a hard-hitting first baseman in baseball and a consistent point-winner in the weight events in track and field.
One of his most fond memories is a football game against Trenton when he found four opponents lined up in a row and blocked them all to set up a touchdown run by Ray Beals. Another of his most fond memories is playing a major role in helping coach Ben Mark’s team defeat, among others, powerful Trenton en route to the basketball championship.
He later played for the University of Pennsylvania when that institution was a national gridiron power.

George Pims
George was the quarterback and leader on the championship football team of 1942. He was the first Collingswood passer to top the 1000-yard mark. In basketball he was a two year starter and one of the top set shots of his day. For three years he held down the keystone sack in baseball and did not commit and error as a senior.
After serving as a navigator on the Flying Fortresses in Europe, he returned to civilian life and earned a business degree at Temple and a law degree at Rutgers.
Pims lists as his greatest thrills playing on the unbeaten football team in 1942 and being a part of the Camden Suburban League basketball champions when he was a junior.

Al Usilton
Usilton was not only one of Collingswood’s best athletes, he was one of the smartest. All his contemporaries knew that someday he would become a coach.
He was All-South Jersey center on the unbeaten football team of 1942. In basketball he was selected as the outstanding player in the Camden Suburban League. He was the leading hitter and a fine defensive first baseman on the diamond squad.
After service with the Marines in the Pacific in the Second World War, he earned his degree at Temple. He returned to Collingswood as head basketball coach but the onset of multiple sclerosis ended his promising coaching career.

Louise Rossell Godshall
At the graduation ceremonies in 1946, Louise was selected as the best female athlete in the school. In fact, she ranks as one of the best, ever.
She was captain of the championship field hockey team of 1945, co-captain of the softball team, and a proficient basketball player. Winning the South Jersey title in hockey remains her greatest thrill.
In an era when girl athletics received a minimum of publicity, Louise praises coach Ruth Woolston Pond for her inspirational leadership. She also recalls with fondness her teammates for their dedication to winning.

Howard Birchmeier
Few Collingswood linemen were more dominant over a three year period than Birchmeier. He was a regular as a sophomore, an All-Group 4 tackle as a junior, and All-South Jersey as a senior. His final season was capped by his being named the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club’s Lineman of the Year. He served as captain of the 1953 team
His most fond memory of football was a victory over a strong Bridgeton team when coach Cliff Rubicam gave him the responsibility of shadowing a standout Bridgeton back. He accomplished the assignment in fine fashion.
He was a member of the first Colls wrestling squad and is proud of the fact that he and the team made rapid progress. He was also a letter-winner in baseball.

Dave Crossan
The “Golden Eleven” of 1958 celebrated Collingswood’s 50th football anniversary by going unbeaten and untied while gaining recognition as one of the Panthers greatest teams. One of the dominating players was All-State center-linebacker, Dave Crossan. His strong offensive blocking and savage tackling on defense brought him many collegiate offers.
He went on to star at Maryland and then spent several years with the Washington Redskins.
Although noted mainly for football he also was a key factor on a powerful basketball team where he was a dominating force under the backboards.

Raymond “Bucky” Waters
A guard with a fine outside shot and superior ball-handling ability, Bucky was a key player on the 1953 Collingswood South Jersey 4 honors as a football end. In baseball, he was one of the top pitcher-outfielders of his era.
He went on to play three years with North Carolina State University. He then became a head coach at Duke and West Virginia where his teams enjoyed conspicuous success. At both schools he produced teams that reached post-season play.
For two decades Bucky has been a familiar commentator on national television. During those years he has covered many sports, including work at the Seoul Olympics of 1988.
One of his most fond memories is Bill Diemer, his scholastic baseball coach, teaching how a uniform should be worn.

Stan Pawlak
Stan had the honor of being the first Collingswood basketball player to reach the 1000-point level. It was an extra thrill to him because it came against a great Camden team. He made All-South Jersey his last two years and as a senior was selected Player of the Year. He was the sectional champion in the discus and established a Collingswood team record.
He went on to a great court career at the University of Pennsylvania. He was honored by being named a charter member of the Big Five Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Al Carino Basketball Club Hall of Fame.
After college he starred for years in the Eastern Professional Basketball League and served as an assistant coach at Woodrow Wilson.

James Robertson
Many would say that Jim Robertson was, pound for pound, the best athlete in Collingswood history – since he never weighed over 100 pounds during his high school career. However, he was a three-year starter in cross-country, wrestling and tennis.
He was a consistent top-five scorer in cross-country and played on a championship tennis team, but it was in wrestling that Jim made his mark. He was a three-time district champion, a South Jersey champion – winning the 98-lb title. He was also captain of an undefeated team and a member of three championship teams.
Jim is part of a well-known Colls sports family. His grandfather “Buddy”, father Jack, Sr. and brother Jack, Jr. were all part of Collingswood’s storied sports tradition. Today, Jim is a professor at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

John Sohanchak
John Sohanchak’s jarring tackle on the opening kickoff against Bishop Eustace in 1966 has become part of Collingswood football lore.
He was the inspirational and spiritual leader of a team which swept through the season unbeaten and untied. Football was a collision game to Sohanchak and superlative play earned him a post on the First Team All-South Jersey squad and the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club’s award as Offensive Lineman of the Year. John’s All State teammates included Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders. John lettered on the track and field team throwing shot and discus.
He carried his competitive and aggressive nature into wrestling where he was unbeaten in three years in dual meets and twice captured district titles. Although a physical warrior on the football field and wrestling mat, John was a gentleman off the field who was deeply respected by his teachers, coaches, classmates and teammates.

Debbie Coursen Kessel
Debbie graduated in the Top Ten of her class of 1977. As a three year starter in three sports, her teams recorded seven championship seasons including three straight Colonial Conference championships in hockey, a South Jersey Group II championship in basketball and two State Titles in lacrosse.
Besides being an All Jersey lacrosse player, Debbie also received All Colonial Conference and All Group III honors in field hockey. She was the captain and MVP of her field hockey team during her senior year.
After graduation Debbie played four years of varsity field hockey and lacrosse at East Stroudsburg University. She then taught and coached at Oakcrest and Absagami High Schools.
She now lives in East Stroudsburg with her husband Gary and her newborn twins Gregory and Brielle.

Jim Birchmeier
Jim, an all around standout from the Class of 1979, was well known for his aggressive play. He earned a total of eight varsity letters in soccer, basketball and baseball and was selected as both captain and MVP in his senior year in all three sports.
As a sophomore, he was a member of the Colonial Conference basketball team and later helped lead the 1978 soccer team to a conference championship. Jim was also awarded numerous post season honors throughout his career including All Conference in basketball and baseball as well as All South Jersey and All State as a soccer goalie.
Following graduation, Jim matriculated at Ursinus College where he added to his athletic achievements. Besides playing three years of Varsity baseball, he was a four year starter and two year captain of the soccer team. Twice he was named MVP of the soccer team and was also placed on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Select All Star team in 1982.
Jim successfully completed law school and now practices in Atlantic City. He resides in Seaville with his wife Linda and their two children Ryan and Katie.

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