The State Fair Community College Roadrunners lost a member of the family this week. Bob Oehrke died Monday after a long illness.
Known as “Mr. Bob,” Oehrke was a longtime supporter of the basketball teams and was a fixture at every practice and game.
“Bob would help take tickets, open and close the concession stand, drive the team van to away games,” said SFCC Athletic Director Darren Pannier. “Anything you asked of him, he’d be there to do it, no matter how big or small.”
Lady Roadrunners head coach Kevin Bucher said he knew Oehrke from his coaching days at Moberly.
“When I was there I’d see him at games standing on the sidelines with coaches and at recruiting events,” Bucher said. “When I got (to SFCC) he was a permanent fixture in the gym or the offices. He truly loved the game and the players. He was always positive.”
That positive disposition was a lesson for Bucher.
“There were times when I’d be disgusted with the way we played a game and Mr. Bob would just tell me ‘Oh coach, it wasn’t so bad. We’ll get better,’ ” he said. “He definitely kept me grounded and had a calming effect.”
Former Lady Roadrunners shooting guard Marie Goyette said Oehrke and his wife were the grandparents she never knew.
“We had the adoptive parent program when I was at State Fair when I was a freshman and sophomore,” Goyette said. “He and Marlene (Oehrke’s wife) would invite me over to the house for dinner, let me do laundry there, bought me birthday and Christmas presents. I only have a grandfather who lives in Florida, so Mr. Bob and Marlene, they sort of filled that void.”
Goyette said Oehrke let her ride shotgun in the van for away games and they kept in touch even after she left SFCC.
“When I was playing at Ottawa University, he drove all the way to Ottawa, Kan., for senior night,” she said. “Besides my parents, he was my biggest fan and I know a lot of players felt that way. He was always there, cheering us on.”
Oehrke chose to keep his illness to himself, Pannier said. Not even Goyette — who still spoke to him once a month — knew until very recently.
“When he told me I was just devastated,” Goyette said. “During all our phone calls I told him how much he meant to me and how he affected my life. He knew how I, and I’m sure all the other players, felt about him. That comforts me.”
“He held it in,” Bucher. “He went to all the games, even if he wasn’t feeling well. You could see his dedication to his girls, his team.”
In the spring, Oehrke was inducted into the SFCC Athletics Hall of Fame for his 18 years of dedication to the SFCC Booster Club, a well-deserved honor, Pannier said.
“I was so glad (the Hall of Fame committee) inducted him this year,” Pannier said. “Especially with him being sick, I’m glad he was there to receive that honor. Bob was always a grandfather figure to the team, but he was also a father figure for us, too. He had great wisdom for everyone who listened.”
“I can’t tell you how many former players have called me this week about Bob’s passing,” Bucher said. “Everyone around here knew Mr. Bob. Everyone wants to share their stories and talk about the memories they have.”
For Goyette, one memory doesn’t involve basketball at all. Oehrke gave her a Christmas ornament one year with her name on it and she continues to hang it on her Christmas tree every year.
“It’s just a little memory, but it stands out,” she said. “I’m really going to miss him. I think they should change the whole fieldhouse and rename it after him. That’s how much of an influence he had on everyone.”
Written by Emily Jarrett