JOHNSONBURG – Johnsonburg senior Michael Shuey earned the Third Annual Coach [Bill] Fulton Memorial Scholarship during a banquet Sunday evening to honor the school's basketball teams.
"There is a memorial scholarship in his name that is awarded to a senior after an essay is written by them," said Johnsonburg head boys varsity basketball coach Bill Shuey. "It's unfortunate that none of his daughters were able to attend but I do have a letter to read on the family's behalf."
The letter discussed coach Fulton's impact on Johnsonburg basketball and his love for the game.
"First I'd like to apologize for my sisters and I not being able to attend this year's banquet but I can think of no one better than coach Shuey to present dad's scholarship in our absence," coach Shuey said as he read a letter drafted by one of coach Fulton's daughters, Chris. "It's hard to believe that this is the third award of the Coach Fulton Memorial Scholarship. Time passes so quickly. Hopefully we are all taking the time to appreciate our gifts in life, our friends and our family.
"This year's winner of dad's scholarship is an all-around athlete dedicated to hard work and is a true team player. He hit the nail on the head in his essay when he said 'Coach Fulton loved the game of basketball so much that he could not stand to see the game played poorly regardless of the age of the players.'"
Coach Shuey paused as he read the letter and reflected on being with coach Fulton for practices with players from the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades; even at that level, coach Shuey remembers "[Fulton] was obsessed with maintaining a certain game as far as how it's played."
"The statement reminds me of when I came home and watched some of dad's practices when he was coaching [grandson] Alex's team in fourth and fifth grade," coach Shuey said. "Sometimes I thought maybe he was being a little bit too hard on these kids as he ran practices so strictly and didn't have any tolerance for bad behavior.
"I know he pulled Alex out of practice and sat him on the sidelines-- his own grandson-- several times because he was not doing what he was supposed to be doing."
His daughters remember their father as a perfectionist when it came to basketball.
"No room for error or silliness in the gym. I guess that's why he was such a great coach," coach Shuey said. "'Intensity in practice' is a great choice of words to describe our father-- even when he was too ill to attend the games I remember him listening to them on the radio, taking notes, and then he said, 'I'm going to call coach Shuey tomorrow and tell him what I thought of the game and the things he did wrong and right.'
"And he did-- all the time. In fact, I used to go to his bedside at his daughter's house and we would talk about the game, in addition to the family as well, because they were interested in what he had to say and how I probably how I would defend my position I guess. He was a good guy."
As Fulton's mental state "was kind of deteriorating" as he lie in UPMC Shadyside hospital in Pittsburgh, his daughters recalled when he once was having what seemed to be a dream.
"[Fulton] was talking in his sleep saying, 'Aaron, no stupid fouls.' My sister Annie and I thought that this was absolutely fantastic, that even in such a weak state he was still having basketball on his mind," coach Shuey said. "We miss him every day and there isn't a day that goes by that we don't wonder what life would be like if he was still here. I know if we could sit down with him now and talk to him about this scholarship, he would most definitely choose the athlete who truly loves the game and is dedicated to his teammates.
"He is a player that my father would have been so excited to coach and mentor. With that being said, on behalf of our father, it is with great pleasure that we award the third annual Coach Fulton Memorial Scholarship to Michael Shuey."
The scholarship is for $500.