Class of 2015 inducted to Ironwood sports hall of fame
August 10, 2015
IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP - The Ironwood Area Sports Hall of Fame welcomed new inductees at its 2015 induction ceremony on Saturday at the Gogebic Community College Lindquist Center.
The new inductees are a diverse group as they entered the sports hall of fame from a variety of backgrounds, ages and sports.
The new inductees included individuals Kristen Ruppe-Anderson, the late Theron Peterson, the late John Serbin, Lee Belmas, Shawn McMullin, Pete Kopecko, Andrea Smith and Ironwood's 1943 football team. Three players from the '43 team attended the ceremony, including Bob Mazurek, Ray Begalle and Nick Pavlovich.
One of the main themes of the night was nearly all the new inductees said they have come to appreciate the fact they had reached their levels of success in life only with the help and support of other people. They included family, teachers, coaches and others.
(Class of 2003)
When you combine excellent athletic talent with a top-notch attitude and a very strong work ethic, you get an athlete like Kristen Ruppe-Anderson, who graduated as one of Ironwood's finest female athletes.
Ruppe-Anderson not only earned 11 letters in three sports, but she excelled in basketball, track-and-field and volleyball.
"It's an honor to be inducted into the hall of fame," Ruppe-Anderson said. "I have a lot of fond memories of high school and most involve athletics. I've learned to appreciate where I've been and the people who helped me get to where I'm standing up here in front of you today being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
Ruppe-Anderson's induction speech was short and sweet, but her storied athletic career was not. Basketball was her specialty and she played four years on varsity for coach Pete Lewinski. She earned All-West PAC First Team honors three times, including being MVP her senior year. Kristen was also selected to the All-U.P. First Team and the All-U.P Dream Team. She finished her high school basketball career with 1,138 points.
Ruppe-Anderson went on to play for Dennis Mackey on some very good GCC women's basketball teams and became the No. 2 all-time scorer at Gogebic.
At the U.P. Track Finals, she placed first in the high jump and set a U.P. record in the event.
Ruppe-Anderson also earned All-West PAC First Team honors in volleyball, including West PAC MVP in 2003.
To top it off, Ruppe-Anderson was a very good teammate and role model for the younger girl athletes coming up.
Members of the late Theron Peterson's family accepted his plaque for his induction into the Hall of Fame and his daughter, Sue Murphy, addressed the large audience.
"He wasn't known for his skiing talents, but he could build a ski team and also build character," Murphy said. "Our family is proud of his legacy. And the kids meant a lot to him. He had a trophy case with a picture of each of the kids."
In a career spanning from 1957 to 1993, Peterson's ski teams captured 12 Upper Peninsula boys titles and added six more girls' championships.
He established the high school ski program in Ironwood and coached powerhouse teams for years.
Being an elementary school physical education teacher, Peterson started a ski racing program at each grade level in the Ironwood schools that became a feeder program for the high school teams.
Peterson had many notable accomplishments and he was inducted into the Michigan High School Ski Coaches Hall of Fame in 1992.
Murphy said her dad was "very proud" of his military service in World War II and he received several medals and citations, including the Bronze Star.
JOHN SERBIN (Class of 1929)
Selected out of the Legends category, the late John Serbin was an excellent all-around athlete in many sports such as basketball, baseball and boxing, but football was where he was at his finest.
His football biography in the 1928 year book said Serbin, playing at halfback was a fine passer, an exceptional open field runner and possessed very good football intelligence.
He was also a great punter and kick returner and was called the "finest performer" on Robert Black's 1928 football team. He earned All-U.P. honors that year.
"On behalf of our family, we want to thank the hall of fame for our father's induction," Joe Serbin said. "We thank everyone for coming out to join in a joyous celebration for our family."
LEE BELMAS (Class of 1967)
Presenter Tim Kolesar said Lee Belmas was the third member of the Belmas family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"I'm deeply honored and humbled by my induction into the hall of fame," Belmas said. "I want to thank my family and teammates as well as the Ironwood community for their great support. I graduated from high school 48 years ago and I remember all my roots in Ironwood. I owe so much to all the people who taught and coached me."
Belmas also payed tribute to the young men he knew who fought in the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
"They were brave men and some died for us in Vietnam," Belmas said.
Although not a big player, Belmas became known as one of finest offensive linemen in Ironwood football history. And he was a stellar performer on defense from his linebacker position.
Belmas started at offensive guard on Wayne Melchiori's unbeaten 1965 team before coming into his own in 1966.
He was also an All-U.P. First Team performer and was the U.P. Lineman of the Year in 1966. Belmas was also selected to the Associated Press Class B All-State First Team.
Belmas was a thankful man in another way. He received a life-saving liver after a transplant from the organ donor program in 2007.
SHAWN McMULLIN (Class of 1992)
Shawn McMullin said he was humbled by his nomination to the Hall of Fame and honored to be inducted.
"I share this honor with my coaches, family and teammates," McMullin said. "I had the best teammates you could have. That's why our football teams were so good. I had great coaches and my family was a blessing. I had the hardest working parents you could find. My bag of marbles from athletics is full and I've tried to pass that along to my kids."
McMullin named a number of his Ironwood coaches and said each of them taught him different life lessons. But he said teacher/principal Henry Bothwell taught him "a great lesson" he has never forgotten. Bothwell saw him in the hallway and asked him how things were going. McMullin said things were OK, but he didn't think he'd ever be as good a player as his older sister, Jackie.
Bothwell looked him straight in the eye and then spoke.
"Your sister has written her book and it's a good book," Bothwell said. "But don't ever compare yourself to someone else. You write your own book."
McMullin was a four-sport athlete and accumulated 11 total letters. He earned most of his honors on defense from football. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, Kolesar said McMullin was "a man among boys" on Ironwood's playing fields and courts.
He was All-West PAC First Team, All-U.P., All-State Class C First Team and All-Tri State on defense.
After high school, McMullin continued to play basketball at Gogebic Community College and the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. He continued to build on his athletic honors.
PETE KOPECKO (Class of 1961)
At Luther L. Wright High School, Pete Kopecko lettered in basketball, tennis and track, but he was best known as a sharp-shooting forward on the Red Devil basketball teams.
His scoring prowess earned him the Michigan-Wisconsin Conference's John J. Kraemer Memorial Award for the 1960-61 season and he was selected to the All-U.P. Class B First Team.
Kopecko and his teammates went on to win the Class B Regional tournament and represented Ironwood in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1937.
Kopecko continued his successful basketball career for the GCC Samsons and was an all-conference selection.
Dennis Tizani spoke for Pete Kopecko, who is battling a serious health issue.
"He is more than just an all-star athlete," Tiziani said. "His priorities are his religion, family and taking care of the people in his business. And he has the best street smarts of anyone I know.
"He was very taken back by this honor and he really appreciates his induction."
ANDREA SMITH (Class of 2002)
Andrea Smith earned awards too numerous to mention in both volleyball and track-and-field for her outstanding accomplishments in both sports.
In track, Smith helped her team win the U.P. Division 2 Track-and-Field Finals three of the four years she participated in the sport. She became the first high school female athlete in the U.P. to break the 40-foot barrier in the shot put with a toss of 40 feet 7 1/2 inches.
In her senior year, she broke the Ironwood high school record in the discus with a throw of 124 feet.
Smith capped off her stellar high school volleyball career by being named Co-Most Valuable Player in the West-PAC.
She and her teammates won the Class C District and Regional titles and went downstate in the playoffs for the first time in Ironwood's volleyball history.
Smith earned a volleyball scholarship to Northern Michigan University and excelled in the sport.
"I thank the Hall of Fame for my induction and its especially great some of my teammates such as Kristen are also being inducted," Smith said. "I made a lot of friends and there was a lot of character-building in sports, but I always pushed myself to work hard to accomplish things. I would especially like to thank my parents for their impact on my life."
1943 Ironwood FOOTBALL TEAM
The 1943 Ironwood football team went undefeated posting a 7-0 record and out-scored their opponents 158-19. The team captured the Michigan-Wisconsin Conference title.
Three members of the team attended the induction ceremony and Bob Mazurek, Ray Begalle and Nick Pavlovich all spoke, many times with humor.
"I congratulate the '43 team for all their accomplishments," Mazurek said. "I pray the other members of the '43 team who are no longer with us are here in spirit."
Mazurek said the '43 team was a "diverse and talented" crew. There were veterans on the team and one died in World War II.
Joe Gotta was a dentist who graduated from the University of Minnesota. Mazurek got the audience laughing when he said Gotta's motto as a dentist was 'Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you.'
Mazurek said the team had a Golden Gloves boxer and many on the team went on to be coaches.
"To the '43 team, thanks for a job well done," Mazurek concluded.
Nick Pavlovich shared a number of humorous stories, including ones about notes his early grade teachers sent home with him and how he and his mother tried to decipher them even though neither spoke English. He also thanked his family.
Ray Begalle said he was thankful to so many people and that he was in the right place at the right time with the '43 team.