"Old coaches never die...we just run out of timeouts". Ed Cerny, Ph.D.
Marion Leroy Florence, hereby known as "Skip", was born at the home of his parents, Tressie and Clarence ("Slim"), on August 29, 1936, in Onaga, KS. At the time, it was noted to be the hottest August on record, but there appears to be no direct correlation. The youngest of five, his mother had sent the three eldest children, Wilma Maxine, 7, Mavis Nadine, 6, and Wayne Francis, 4, to the county fair, while Lyle Duane, 2, stayed home. While close to all his siblings, Skip and Lyle forged a bond that allowed them to be great friends as well as brothers. Skip was educated in the Onaga school system and graduated a proud Buffalo in 1954. His hard work ethic began at the age of four when he and his brothers began their paper route and continued through pin setting at the bowling alley and running the projector at the movie theater. He was often in the company of Leon ("Rat") Ratcliff, and they remained life long friends and procurers of local lore.
The first in his family to go to college, he graduated from Emporia State in 1958 with a degree in education and later earned his masters in counseling. Skip, who had been a high school athlete in football, basketball, and track, took the same approach in college sports, thinking anyone interested in joining just showed up. As a result, he ended up making the JV football and basketball team.
Skip taught high school math and driver's ed in Wilson, Larned, Greensburg, and Lincoln, but his real passion was coaching. He coached football, basketball, track, and tennis, a sport he never played but volunteered to coach. In 1969 he coached the Lincoln Leopards to an 8-0-1 football season, a feat of which he was quietly proud.1970 brought a new record of 22 wins for the men's basketball team, which he coached with George Stephens and Ray Everhart. Along with these two men, he also forged a lasting friendship with fellow coach Charlie Newell. Later on, he coached his eldest daughter in track, an experience that possibly helped in his decision to retire! After retiring from math, computers, and junior high students, he became Lincoln's athletic director. Skip did take a brief hiatus from teaching when he purchased Anderson's clothing store in 1975 and ran it until 1984 when he sold it to Carly Seirer.
In 1968, one of his students introduced him to her sister. A true gentleman, he courted her with an ill-fated muddy ride in his old green Jeep. The following year, on June 14, Skip and the former Patricia Sheets were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln. A month later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. (It was a toss-up as to which man took the biggest historic step.) They honeymooned in California and came home to educate the youth of their town. Six years later, Skip's first real challenge occurred when his daughter Mindy Beth was born. Consoled by a friend upon the arrival of a daughter, when as a coach he should have been given a boy, Skip replied "What made you think I didn't want a girl?" Bravely, Skip and Pat decided things could only get better, so they added sweet-tempered Meghan Kathleen nearly three years later, and finally the elusive boy, Dustin Scott. He also had an honorary daughter in the form of his niece, Meredith Kobbeman. Skip attended games. plays, musicals, and was always supportive in his favorite role as dad. Later, the arrival of seven grandchildren completed the family and brought him countless smiles, hugs, drawings, and colored pictures, requests for reading books, and going to breakfast at the Hungry Hunter and Happy Days Diner.
Skip was an avid Kansas sports fan, faithfully supporting the Kansas Jayhawks through even the darkest seasons. He was a season ticket holder for KU football for over thirty years and never missed a home game, accompanied by his long-time friend Bill Marshall. Watching KU basketball was a must and he delighted in taking his family to a couple of home games over the years. He was also a KC Royals fan, but admitted to following the St. Louis Cardinals for many years.He had a signed Stan Musial baseball, as a reminder of his past allegiance. He never missed the Chiefs games and on his last night on earth, they beat the Chargers.
Skip was a big believer in public service, volunteering in many capacities: selling tickets at home games, announcing at track meets and baseball games, working the election board, Lions Club member since 1975, (serving as treasurer, heading the fireworks and calendar projects for many years), Presbyterian Church session member, City Councilman, and Post Rock Community Foundation Board Member. An all around dependable servant, he could be counted on to come through and help wherever he was needed.. After retirement, he could still be seen working at Vestal's Auction House, Hayworth's Hardware, and Lincoln Grocery. His early morning coffee sessions with his buddies were the bright spots in his days.
There are more stories, memories, and experiences that filled his eighty-three years and it is with those thoughts and recollections that we find solace in his loss. Skip quietly slipped out of this world on November 19th at Salina Regional Hospital in the same manner as he had lived his life-uncomplaining and not wanting a fuss.
Left to celebrate his life and contributions are his wife of fifty years, Pat, daughters Mindy Windholz (Kevin) of Edmond, OK, and Meghan Mai, McPherson, KS, son Dustin Florence, Lincoln, honorary daughter Meredith Hestand (Brandon), Mesa, AZ., seven grandchildren- Spencer and Aidan Windholz, Roman and Reeve Mai, and Mason, Marleigh, and Mallie Florence, and honorary granddaughter Braxtyn Stertz, brother Lyle Florence of Topeka, KS, sisters- in-law Deborah Ortiz and Florence Florence, brother-in-law Joe Ortiz, seven nephews, five nieces, cousins, and a host of great-nieces and nephews. He also leaves a number of good friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Pill and Deanie, brother Wayne, and two nieces, Malia Fager and Marsha Meskimen brother-in-law Dean Meskimen, and sister-in-law Lois Florence.
A celebration of life will take place on Saturday, December 7, 2019 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Senior Center in Lincoln, KS.
Rather than flowers, the family suggests memorials to Tammy Walker Cancer Center, the Rebecca A. Morrison House in Salina, or Lincoln County Hospital.