SHELBY — Terry L. Zuercher had a passion for running.
After 57 seasons as a track and cross country coach in Shelby, his passion infected hundreds of student-athletes in his wake.
His favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, even makes reference: "They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
Zuercher can now run without weariness into eternity; he passed away Friday, Sept. 4 at The James Cancer Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus after a brief battle with T-Cell Lymphoma. He was 73.
To honor his legacy as a coach and an educator in Shelby, his funeral was held Friday, Sept. 11 at the Shelby High School track. Approximately 200 people in attendance wore running shirts dating through the years and laced up their sneakers as Rev. Paula Archdeacon, the Zuerchers' friend, officiated the services.
Then, in Terry’s honor, a final run at the conclusion of his funeral services traveled the 1.5 miles from the track to Oakland Cemetery, counting the telephone poles along the way.
Jake Penwell, owner of Penwell Turner Funeral Home, coordinated the funeral with the Zuercher family and Shelby City Schools.
"It's an honor; I'm proud to have been one of this athletes and for us to be able to do something so special," Penwell said.
"Terry was a unique person in his own way. He would do anything for you; he'd give you the shirt off his back. But he was also a quiet and humble man, he treaded through life helping people in all these different ways and cheering them on every single step of the way, so it's fitting as all get out."
Zuercher's passion extended only the sport itself, but to the runners, their families, and what it instilled in the individuals involved. He deeply cared about the Shelby Whippet Cross Country and Track programs making them well respected all over the state of Ohio.
“He took every new class of young men and didn’t just teach them how to compete but taught them how to live," said Nathan Phillips, a former athlete taken under the Zuerchers' wing. "He taught us all how to treat others, and how to have fun."
His love for running became his family’s passion, too. After his retirement, his son Chris filled his void and became the high school cross country and track coach.
"He loved me like no other," said Linda Zuercher, his wife of 49 years. "We were a team and he certainly was my better half. When things looked bleak, he was the most positive person...and we would get through it.
"The sad thing is he had so many more lessons to teach, and that breaks my heart."
Terry was born April 22, 1947, in Millersburg, Ohio to the late Venus and Cora (Miller) Zuercher. He was a 1965 graduate of West Holmes High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education in 1969 from Ashland University. He later earned a master’s in education from Bowling Green State University.
Terry spent his entire teaching career in the Shelby City School district, starting at the middle school and later moving to the high school. He taught various courses over the years, all being social studies related, and retired in 2004. After retirement, Terry was a tutor at the Success Center at Pioneer Career and Technology Center for six years.
In track, he spent his first seven years coaching junior high and the next 27 years as the distance coach at the high school. The Shelby track team won State in 2003 & 2004.
Coach Zuercher guided 3X All-Ohio Jason Mueller to an indoor National Championship in the 3200 and several outdoor 1600 and 3200 State Championships.
In Cross Country, Coach Z won 8 Districts, 2 Regionals and was second at State in 1985. Shelby was represented at State 15 times in his 23 seasons. His dual meet record was 182-41. His teams placed first or second in 59 invitationals. 1988 graduate Jim Loveless went on to become an All-American at Kent State.
It was these accomplishments, and many more, which led to Terry’s induction into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches in 2009 - an award he humbly accepted saying, “I believe you’ve made a mistake.” He was also inducted into the Holmes County Hall of Fame.
Terry never stopped coaching for one moment and remained faithful to assisting Chris and many athletes for the last 16 years, especially with he and Linda always having the tent and site ready at each meet before the athletes arrived.
To read Terry's full obituary, visit penwellturner.com.