An amazing athletic legacy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2001

Some people sit around and wonder what kind of legacy they’ll leave when all is said and done.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Some people sit around and wonder what kind of legacy they’ll leave when all is said and done.

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Not LeRoy Maas.

His legacy in Albert Lea is undeniable, dating back nearly six decades and certain to continue many more. From the programs he founded as the city’s recreation director to the thousands of lives he reached as a teacher and coach, Maas will be remembered for his dedication to youth.

Maas is not young anymore, but he’s still going strong. He and his wife, Lillian, celebrated their 61st anniversary in June, and they spend the winter months in Arizona. Their Albert Lea condominium overlooks Fountain Lake and the city beach, which only seems appropriate given Maas’ years of service to the community’s parks.

At 83, he’s the oldest living city employee, dating back to 1943 when he was head life guard at the beach. He’s also the oldest employee of School District 241.

To list all of Maas’ accomplishments, involvements and awards is not possible here. You can, however, access the information on his web site at

There, you’ll also learn about the LeRoy Maas Wrestling Scholarship, which was established in Maas’ name by some of his former wrestlers several years ago.

It awards at least one scholarship to an Albert Lea High School graduating senior every year.

It’s the kids Maas influenced that he’s most proud of. They’re adults now of course, some of them retired like he is, and they won’t let people forget the positive impact Maas had on their lives.

On the web site, you’ll find a logo created by former Albert Lea Mayor Marv Wangen with an old-fashioned pump and an inscription reading: &uot;Roy Maas: He is the water that primed the pump for thousands.&uot;

Accompanying it is a testimonial by Dr. Manny Steil, one of Maas’ former wrestlers and a founder of the scholarship. It reads: &uot;The pump is symbolic as LeRoy Maas is the water that primed the pumps of thousands for more than 40 years. As a teacher, coach, mentor and friend, LeRoy Maas has helped Albert Lea youth fulfill their optimal promise. The LeRoy Maas Scholarships will continue to honor LeRoy Maas and prime the pump of Albert Lea students forever.&uot;

An athlete since his days as a boy in Lauderdale – a speck on the map between Minneapolis and St. Paul – Maas decided as a young man to pursue a career involving kids and sports.

&uot;This is something I have never shared before,&uot; said Maas. &uot;When I was in college, I dedicated my life to working with youth and being involved in sports. I loved kids, I loved sports, I loved working with people, and I knew that is what I wanted to do with my life.&uot;

Maas grew to love sports – particularly hockey and football – as a kid attending Ramsey County’s District 17 grade school. The third of six children, Maas remembers finding positive role models in athletics.

&uot;My dad was a magazine salesman, and we never saw much of him,&uot; said Maas. &uot;But there was a fellow in Lauderdale, Mike Schultz, and he loved sports. He hauled us around to games – baseball, softball, hockey.&uot;

He wanted to go to college but figured he couldn’t afford it. After countless odd jobs and a year off, he eventually earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree and took post-graduate courses.

It was after his freshman year at St. Cloud State, where he lettered in football, hockey and golf, that Maas almost quit college for good. He was getting up at 5 a.m. for a construction job and working nights bartending at a &uot;road house.&uot;

He returned to school two years later at Bemidji State upon the urging of his friend Herb Keller, captain of the football team.

&uot;There was no hockey program,&uot; said Maas, who paid his way working at the ice arena and at restaurants around town. He starred on the football field, making the all-star team as a junior, but broke his leg the second game of his senior year.

&uot;Some guy cut across and clipped me,&uot; said Maas.

But it started a tradition that continues to this day.

&uot;Because I was laid up, they elected me homecoming king – the first time they ever elected a homecoming king,&uot; said Maas. &uot;They’ve had one every year since then.&uot;

Though he couldn’t play collegiately, Maas remained heavily involved in hockey, playing in three different leagues. He also helped organize an adult city team, started a grade-school hockey program and the high school hockey team. All as a student.

It set the tone for his professional career, which included brief stops in Onamia and Tracy, Minn., before beginning his long Albert Lea tenure in 1943. It included 37 years as a teacher and coach and 17 as recreation director.

Maas said it wouldn’t have been possible without Lillian, whom he met at Bemidji State.

&uot;Any success I have achieved must be shared with by my &uot;help mate&uot; – my wife Lillian,&uot; said Maas. &uot;Without here, none of this could have happened.&uot;

What happened in ALHS physical education classes when Maas came to town was a bit of a shocker for the students. The superintendent, J. John Halverson gave Maas brief instructions: The physical education programs were out of control, and he wanted discipline.

Maas was happy to provide it, first instituting the &uot;spanking machine&uot; for disobedient students. This was replaced a couple years later by the &uot;duck walk,&uot; a lap around the gym while squatting. That, too, also eventually faded into memory, though Maas isn’t quite sure when.

&uot;I was probably one of the strictest teachers in the district,&uot; said Maas. &uot;And it’s strange. These kids come back to me and say, ‘Well, at least you taught us discipline.&uot;

A testimonial to this hangs on the wall of Maas’ office, signed by dozens of former students and presented at his retirement party in 1980. It’s a caricature of a young Maas, whistle in hand, saying: &uot;All right you joker. Duck walk!&uot;

Former student Chuck Anderson said Maas was tough but compassionate.

&uot;Roy was the track coach in 1955 during my one year of participation,&uot; said Anderson. &uot;I did run in one 440-yard race and finished seventh out of nine runners. After the race, he told me I had a great stride but the problem was that it was all behind me. The way he told me inspired me instead of humiliating me.

&uot;Roy was a strict teacher, and too much goofing off usually meant duck walking around the gym,&uot; added Anderson. &uot;Roy was and is deeply respected by his former students, which can be attested by the scholarship set up in his name. The biggest thing about Roy is the respect people had for him – after they got out of high school. He’s a guy everybody liked and respected.&uot;

Maas has no regrets.

&uot;I believe my dreams have been fulfilled,&uot; said Maas. &uot;In have served the youth of the state of Minnesota, the county of Freeborn, the city of Albert Lea to the best of my ability.

&uot;I believe they are better places to live because I passed through on my journey of life.&uot;