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September 12, 2007

Jack Molesworth touched many lives

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Hal Moser, Jack Molesworth, Homer Brooks

Ever since John E. "Jack" Molesworth, 80, a Western Maryland College graduate, accomplished Frederick and Carroll County area football coach and educator, died August 31 at Frederick Memorial Hospital from injuries from a fall, accolades and tributes have poured in from community leaders about the life accomplishments of this great man.

It is important for us to remember the people who have gone before us. A list of his extraordinary accomplishments can be found in his obituary; but the enduring question is why it is that such a self-effacing gentleman, who by all reports eschewed the limelight, touched so many lives in many capacities for generations of young men and women.

Jack Molesworth as a boxer at WMC

Of course, the better question is how to express in words the intangible qualities of such a rare gentleman? Words are never quite adequate.

Although I only knew him well enough to exchange hellos, I was always impressed with the high regard for which he was held in the community. Moreover, I have always been impressed with the high regard Mr. Molesworth was held by the people I look up to.

The first noticeable insight is that everyone has been quick to mention that he served his country. After he graduated from Frederick High School in 1944, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps in occupied Japan with the 2nd Marine Division.

Many a wise person has said you are the company you keep. After his service in the Marines, he enrolled at Western Maryland College in 1948 with people like former Carroll County schools Principal Victor Makovitch, Carroll County Superintendent of Schools Chuck Ecker, McDaniel College Professor Emeritus Dr. Ira Zepp, and Leroy Merritt, of Merritt Properties

Dr. Zepp, who played with Coach Molesworth on the undefeated 1951 Green Terrors football team, said that he was "an extraordinary guy who did extraordinary things."

Dr. Zepp explained part of Coach Molesworth's charisma. "Students and athletes had access to him. He developed a special bond, both conversationally and emotionally with his players. This is what engenders a loyalty. Jack understood developing relationships. He did not get in his own way. In everything he did, it was about his team, his family, the school, the students, the athletes, the community - and it wasn't about him."

Coach Molesworth played center on the Western Maryland College football squad, which was coached by another Carroll County legend, Charlie Havens.

His son, Dr. John K. Molesworth, of Frederick, reminisced that his Dad remained close with Coach Havens. "He lost his Dad when he was 29 years old, and Coach Havens became a father figure for Coach Molesworth. He looked up to Charlie."

Dr. Sam Case, former Western Maryland College provost, wrestling coach and professor worked with Coach Molesworth for many years when he coached the college football team in the 1980s. He said that as Coach Havens grew older, Jack helped look after his affairs and would visit at least once a week.

"Jack was a special person. He had a great sense of humor. He was fun to be around and he could laugh at himself," remarked Dr. Case. "He had things in the proper perspective. There is too much emphasis in athletics on the won-loss records; what he did for the players and athletics should be included in his win column. He believed in the educational process. He always put his players first (and he understood) that athletics was a means to an end."

"Jack did not forget the people who helped him get to where he was," said Dr. Case.

Jack Molesworth played center at WMC

After he graduated in 1952, Coach Molesworth took a job as a teacher and an assistant football coach at Mount Airy High School and later at Westminster High School.

Jim Head, who was the head football coach at Westminster High School from 1968 - 1977, (and my coach from 1968 to 1970) graduated from Westminster High School in 1957.

"He coached me for two years - here at Westminster," remembered Coach Head fondly. He and Superintendent Ecker agreed that Coach Molesworth was "a wonderful person. He liked winning, but it wasn't as important as building good character and building good people."

"He cared about people. He had the best interests of each individual at heart," said Superintendent Ecker.

In 1957 Coach Molesworth assumed the head football coach position at Frederick High School, where he stayed until 1966, when he moved over to the new Gov. Thomas Johnson High School to the start the program. He stayed there until 1971.

Jack Molesworth as FHS coach

In 1971 he took the position of executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. He held that position until 1981 and became well known for implementing many innovative organizational and approaches to high school sports from which Maryland sports continues to benefit to this day.

Coach Molesworth's son said: "He was a great Dad. (He had an) old school values system. Of course that generation did not talk about community leadership; they just did it. He was self-effacing, never sanctimonious and led by example."

He had a "quiet integrity. He didn't accept excuses from others and he made no excuses. He took things in genuine stride. There was nothing phony about him, what ya saw is what ya got."

Describing his leadership charisma, his son said that it could be explained in "the little things he did" that added up to a sum greater than its parts. "Like praying before the game and taking the team to church once a year."

It was after his death and he had a chance to talk with so many of his former players and students - and folks from all walks of life ". and heard their stories," that Dr. Molesworth "got a true sense that (his father) touched so many lives."

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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