Cars with license plates reading Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio crunched into the parking lot of Genoa’s Lou Thomas Memorial Field on July 6 as 80 to 100 souls gathered.
No, they didn’t brave an ominous forecast to take in another showdown between two of the Genoa Little League Association’s U12 house teams.
They were paying homage to former GLLA president, coach, and friend Craig Dunn, who passed away March 6 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio after a battle with stage 4 lung cancer. Diamond No. 4 was fittingly named after him four months later.
“The entire ceremony was just very touching, and a great tribute to a great, great leader who cared so much about Genoa Little League baseball, and the kids of our community. It was a tribute that was more than well-deserved,” offers current GLLA president Lee Nissen.
Dunn could always be seen up at the park or proudly wearing his ever-present Genoa baseball cap, tooling around in “Old Blue,” his trusty, heavy-duty pickup truck.
The tribune included a proclamation by Mayor Mark Williams; speeches by Village Administrator Kevin Gladden, Veteran’s Park Director Mike Thomas and various Dunn family members; as well as sign postings, a myriad of photographs, tears and hugs..
“I knew Craig for a long, long time before he passed, and I think he was just a fun-loving guy who just loved the kids of this community,” continues Nissen, “and it didn’t matter if a kid was a great ballplayer or not, Craig will always be remembered for loving them all. Whether they were kids he personally coached, or kids he didn’t. Craig always went way out of his way to make sure all the kids enjoyed themselves and had fun up here at the baseball field. I think that’s where he was at home — right here on the baseball field with our kids.
Mike Thomas, the son of Lou Thomas, played little league ball there during his youth.
“There’s no doubt Craig was always there for you, whether you needed him to be or not, and to the point that he would go out of his way to help anyone, and I truly think that’s what people will miss the most about him — his big, big heart.
“I had known Craig somewhere between 14 to 16 years, and working alongside him closely while he was the president of the GLLA, I can honestly tell you that I learned he always strived to do as much as he possibly could for this organization,” reflects Thomas. “It was like Craig just always knew what our kids needed, and then he made sure he found a way to give it to them.
“One of those things, of course, would be the building of the new concession stand that we have, which has gone on to serve a great number of people up at the park during the baseball season, and which, I think, just adds to the whole GLL experience,” he continues.
“He sponsored tournaments as we still do now, but they always seemed to bring in more outside teams. It seemed like everybody, from all over, would come. I mean, I’ve seen so many good people lead the GLLA over the years, and they’ve all had the same goal in mind — to make it the best league they possibly could for the kids of our community. And Craig was one of those great leaders, but he was also just a great friend. A great friend to everyone. A great friend who was always smiling, and just having a good time up at the park. You could just tell he loved being there. And his voice, his face, his smile — they’re sure missed up there today.”
Serving as the GLLA president from the early ‘90s to about 2000, Dunn brought the AABC Willie Mays state tournament to Genoa in 1998 and hosted it until 2002.
During his tenure, he helped bring a brand-new, double-tier concession stand and press box to the park, designing the structure, nailing it together with a little help from his friends, and then went on to manage concessions.
Along with Mike Parlette, Dunn coached the Genoa Indians, a team which won the league a number of times and made it to state one year. At one time or another, all three of his sons, Brian Huston and Matthew and Andrew Dunn played for the Indians.
To his eldest son Brian, 34, of Philadelphia, and a 1997 graduate of Genoa High School, he gave a sense of never forgetting where you came from.
“He was that ‘Simple Kind of Man’ that Lynyrd Skynyrd sings of,” Brian, a mortgage loan officer, said. “I didn’t appreciate it enough growing up, but there is so much to be said of his simple, consistent lifestyle.
“I always aspired for money and success, and thought the simple life in Genoa was lame, but now that I’m a father and a little wiser, I know that the important things in life are your time and relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. Craig didn’t aspire to be a CEO, but he spent time, and built memories, and loved in a way that other men of ‘success’ could only dream of.”
To Matthew, better known around Genoa as “Dewey,” 30, now a supervisor for an environmental company in Charleston, W.Va., Dad gave a sense of urgency to embrace each new day.
“If he wasn’t working on something, he was coaching, hunting, cooking, and cleaning. He did it all,” says the ’01 grad of GHS. “He couldn’t stand laziness, and one line he liked to say was ‘You rest, you rust.’ If that wasn’t his motto, I don’t know what was.”
To youngest son Andrew, aka “Rudy,” 26, of Media, Pa, an ’05 graduate of GHS, he gave the skills it would take to succeed in his chosen profession.
“I’m an electrician, and when I was a child I used to go to job sites with him to watch, learn, and help out as much as I could. He set a great example of what a true working man should be.
“He always gave it his all, whether it was working, hunting, being a father, coaching, or running the little league. He taught me to never give up, and to always give it 110 percent. He taught me how to respect life and the people in it. I’m proud to say he was my father. I try my best to walk in his footsteps and to live as he would every day.”
In 57 years, “Coach” Craig married the love of his life in wife of 33 years Karen (Brown); fathered four children, including daughter Angie (Bradfield), 36, of Genoa, a former Comet basketball player who is now a stay-at-home mom with six children.
“The dedication was amazing,” said Karen Dunn, “So many people turned out, the signs were awesome, the town crew had the field in great shape, even with the rain, and Mike Thomas and Kevin Gladden did a wonderful job with the program and dedication. My family and I were overwhelmed. The Genoa community has shown so much love and support for Craig and our family. We can’t express our gratitude and what it meant to us enough.
“But Craig loved GLL right back,” shares Karen. “He loved his players. Our family spent most of our summers up at the ballpark playing ball, working the concession stand, umpiring. Craig was just very devoted to GLL and was so well-loved. He had so many visitors over the last couple of months. Because of Craig, I experienced so much. We both agreed that our 33 years together were way too short, but we probably had experienced more than couples who have shared 50 together.”
Coach Craig Dunn talking strategy with his little league baseball’s team infield. Photo courtesy of Karen Dunn)
The sign at Veteran’s Park honoring the memory of the late Craig Dunn. (Photo courtesy of Karen Dunn)
Coach Craig Dunn with his son Andrew during his youth baseball days. Andrew is now 26 and living in Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of Karen Dunn)