ITHACA, N.Y. –– Gary Hunter, the Ithaca High School coach who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle crash on Sunday evening, is remembered as a “dear friend and beloved educator” by the Ithaca community.
Hunter, 68, and an IHS alum himself was a gifted three-season athlete in high school. On the football field, Hunter led his team to their first undefeated, untied season in 63 years, in 1969. Hunter achieved accolades through his high school career, making All-Division and All-State for football in addition to being the unlimited weight champion in wrestling, and setting track and field records with the discus and shot put.
In 2007, Hunter was inducted into the IHS Athletics Hall of Fame.
In addition to his prowess as an athlete, he was also a leader socially –– Hunter was instrumental in forming the African-Latino Club at IHS.
Following high school, Hunter went on to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland with a scholarship to play football. He graduated with a degree in Liberal Arts in 1974.
He remained in Baltimore following graduation, working in security for a number of years before returning to Ithaca, where he worked at Camp McCormack as a counselor.
His tenure at IHS began as a teaching assistant and coach –– first as the conditioning coach for the women’s swim team, then as an assistant coach for both Little Red football and track and field. Hunter’s reach as a coach extend beyond the school year, operating a summer track and field camp for student-athletes in the Southern Tier, and working with students as a tutor during the academic year and throughout the summer months.
“Gary was larger than life with a passion for sports, believing that all students with the motivation and determination to excel would do so by trusting in their own abilities and not settling for anything less than their best,” the program for Hunter’s funeral says. “He never wanted to see complacency; he taught his students to never be satisfied. There was no such thing as try, only do. He brought out the best in all of the students that he worked with and thought of them as his extended family.”
Maggie Trumble, a junior at IHS, had Hunter as a track and field coach since she was in the seventh grade. She said his presence will be missed.
“He was a great coach,” Trumble said. “He pushed people to do their best. He was a wonderful man.”
Hunter is known around town and amongst IHS students and alumni as “The Legend.”
“He was not only a son, brother, uncle and coach, he was also a true friend to anymore who crossed his path. He was indeed ‘a Legend,’” his funeral program says.
Services for Gary Hunter will be held on Saturday, March 14, at Herson Wagner Funeral Home, 100 S. Geneva St., Ithaca. Calling hours will be from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., followed by a service from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Following the service, people are invited to join the family for a burial at Pleasant Grove Cemetery at 184 Pleasant Grove Rd., Ithaca.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.