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Farewell to the king of the H-room

Mar 12, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

I was always happy when Phil Juliard's path crossed mine.

We had lunch together at the Casper Events Center last Friday. It was a fitting place for a final meal with my longtime friend Phil Julliard.

Phil was known as the "King of the Hospitality Room" at culminating events across the state.Just the week before, we sat down in the Riverton Aquatic Center classroom for the always excellent fare provided by Pam Rivers and her RHS hospitality students at the 2-A West Regional tournament's version of the H-room.

Phil watched the Wind River/Wyoming Indian boys championship game late Saturday night, and many mutual friends related how they said goodbye and that'd they would meet again during track season.

Little did we know that this would be the last sporting event for Phil after a lifetime of dedication to young people.

He passed away later in the night.

The previous Thursday at Casper College, I had seen Phil again for the first time since he had a serious accident while burning weeds on his farm near Basin. The burn flared up, and when he tried to jump out of the way he caught his foot in a low-hanging barbed-wire fence and burned his arms and legs so severely he had to be placed in a medically induced coma for six weeks.

But Phil was a resilient man, a guy who faced challenges with a smile and always maintained a friendly demeanor whether dealing with an unruly parent as a coach and teacher or with constituents in his many years as a councilman and mayor in his home town of Basin.

Phil also was a character with a wry sense of humor and was always willing to share that humor with anyone around.

My assistant coach Bret Evans and I were enjoying the hospitality room at Lovell High School during the Five Rivers Conference basketball tournament in 1992 with Riverside head coach Cory Sova. Phil was Cory's assistant coach that season. Phil had already earned the title of "King of the Hospitality Room" many years before.

The Shoshoni Wranglers and Riverside Rebels were playing in the third-place game, with the winner having the possible chance to challenge either Lovell or Rocky Mountain to qualify for state.We had both been easily beaten by the Bulldogs and Grizzlies that year and knew this game would be the last for both of our teams.

The polish sausage in the hospitality room was spectacular. The gals running the room had just brought them out as our teams warmed up on the floor below. We all dug in and started to eat as the three-minute horn sounded. We didn't come down.

The horn sounded again and we looked down at the floor.There stood both of our teams, the two officials and the clock operators all looking up at us.

"You guys going to coach?" one of the officials yelled up.

Reluctantly Cory, Bret and I walked down the steps, knowing the other bandits in the conference would clean out allPolish sausage before the game was over.

Phil stayed upstairs until the second quarter.

As he sat down I heard him say, "I had a couple more of those. They were great."

At that same tournament Phil showed up in a white turtleneck and a maroon blazer. In the distance it looked exactly the same as the Riverside Rebel's red uniforms. But up close, there was a faded "M" over the right pocket. Manderson-Hyattville High School had closed forever back in 1987 and merged with Basin to from Riverside. I commented on how old that blazer must be and how deep in the trunk he had to dig to find it.

"Why let it go to waste?" Phil said. "You know I look good in it."

Phil coached football and basketball, but his love was track and field.

He was a fixture as clerk of the works at many track meets. He ran every event and served in every capacity you could at local meets. His friendly face, always framed by the classic black-framed glasses common in the 1960s, was always there at the starting or finish line once the running events began.

It was a tradition at every afternoon at the Bobcat Twilight track meet in Thermopolis that Phil would disappear just after the field events were completed and before the sprint and hurdle finals began.

Phil and his wife Dorothy always drove to the meet in their camper ,and Phil would leave the track, take a nap and eat a bowl of ice cream.He was often kidded about his habit, and he always had the same reply, complete with a big grin. "What's wrong with that? I like ice cream."

Phil ran the first exchange zone at the state track meet for decades. He set the cones, ran off coaches, and always harassed me as I set up on my favorite spot to catch the baton exchange during the 4x100-meter relay. I was always out of the way, off the track but Phil always spotted me and made a practice of letting me know it was his event and no one was going to interfere with it. As usual, he always had something funny to say when he administered the event.

In the summer of 1992 I took a varsity and a junior varsity team to the Greybull team camp.My assistant coach couldn't make it, and there was only one conflict with both teams playing at the same time. Phil Julliard saw the schedule and offered to coach my younger kids.

The junior varsity only won a single game at the camp. Wouldn't you know it, it was the one that Phil coached.

"Your kids told me 'thanks, it was nice having a real coach on the bench,'" Phil said with that familiar grin.

The mayor, as we often called Phil when he coached against us at Shoshoni, actually had mayoral responsibilities one fall day and drove separately to Shoshoni, with his assistants bringing the team down on the Riverside bus.

Phil always drove a Cadillac, the kind that rivaled a naval warship in size.

He and Shoshoni head coach Harold Bailey were good friends, but not on the gridiron.Harold enjoyed beating Phil more than any other coach, and he hated losing to him with just as much vigor.

In the days before cell phones, Phil sent the bus home and went out to start his car. It wouldn't turn over. He found Harold and asked him for a ride back to Basin. Harold was still angry from losing the football game earlier but he drove Phil back to Basin and then returned home to Riverton. I'm sure the conversation going north through Thermopolis and Worland was a fun one.

Just a few stories about a man who changed the lives of young men and women, dedicated his life to a town that became his home and never stopped working for both.


Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.

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