January 25, 2006
For decades now, the Hood River Valley High School gymnasium has provided shelter and a home for countless athletic, extracurricular and community events. From basketball games, wrestling meets and volleyball matches to physical education classes, pep-rallies, assemblies, Air Guitar, motivational speakers and Luau activities, the gym has been a second home to many Hood River kids and community members. It is, in a sense, the Eagles’ nest.
And it does not have a name.
Eagle baseball plays on Traner Field, named in 1981 after Duane Traner. The school’s football facility received the name Henderson Community Stadium in 1995, after Irene A. and J. Warner Henderson. And, preceding the Jan. 27 boys’ home basketball game against Bend High School, the HRVHS gymnasium will officially be named Vannet Court, in honor of long-time Hood River locals and sports advocates Ed and Cherie Vannet. A dedication ceremony will start at 6:45 p.m.
As icing on the cake for Ed, Jan. 27 happens to be his 80th birthday.
“We invite former players, students and anyone who has worked with Ed and Cherie Vannet to please come join us as we honor them for all the work they have done for Hood River athletics,” said HRVHS Athletic Director Phil Vesel. “Ed and Cherie are a part of Hood River Valley athletics, always giving time and energy to support our student athletes.”
Ed’s life in Hood River started in 1926, with his birth. He grew up in the Pine Grove area before attending and graduating from Hood River High School in the ‘40s as a three-sport athlete and letterman. After high school, Ed attended Oregon State College (now Oregon State University), where he played basketball for legendary coach Amory “Slats” Gill.
After graduating from the University of Oregon as a health and physical education major, Ed returned to Hood River and began his teaching and coaching career at the high school.
He touched the lives of local students and athletes for over 30 years.
Ed taught for 20 years at Hood River High School and for four years at the newly named Hood River Valley High School. He also acted for nine years as the full time District Athletic Director and for 13 years as the HRVHS Athletic Director. During that time, he was the head basketball coach for 20 years, the head golf coach for 25 years (a sport which he helped bring to HRVHS), an assistant football coach for 19 years and the head baseball coach for 5 years.
Although Ed retired in 1983, he and Cherie have continued their support and involvement with local athletics as volunteer time keepers for football, basketball and wrestling. The two can be seen helping at every home varsity and junior varsity event in those three sports.
“The news came as a real surprise,” Vannet said. “It feels wonderful, for an old man like me … I put in my whole life here and I’ve loved it. I wouldn’t have wanted to do any other profession.”
Upon his retirement as a basketball coach, Ed was one of Oregon’s winningest high school coaches of the times, finishing with a 225-175 record over his 20- year campaign. In 1962 his squad of HRV Blue Dragons went 20-3, finishing fourth in the 3A state tournament.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes from the old days,” Vannet said. “In the old days the coaches did everything. We were the drivers, we swept the gym, we did the washing: the whole nine yards.”
Ed’s coaching goes back to the days when an away game often meant a trip over the old Columbia River Highway.
“We had some wild rides,” he said. “And I liked all of it. I liked working with the kids. They change every year and it has really been interesting seeing so many kids go through school here. It’s a great experience to be with young people for that long. I think they tend to keep me younger too.”
And behind Ed in his years of service is Cherie, who has dedicated much of her life in Hood River to helping her husband and the community.
“I couldn’t have done any of it without her,” said Vannet. “It’s been great that we can do this together and she was a great wife through all the times I was coaching.”
“I became wife, mother, chauffeur, accountant, seamstress, cook, gardener, doctor and number-one fan and supporter of any activity involving my family,” Cherie wrote in a 1993 column in the Hood River News. “It seems there was always more to do than time allowed … Whether you are 8 or 80, what matters most in life is being independent and having choices. Some things you have no choice in — the family you are born into, the economic circumstances of that family, how tall you are, or if your eyes are brown or blue. When choices are offered, I hope all of us are wise enough to choose that which will make a difference.”