Great game, Dr. Jarrell
One of Louisiana Tech’s most devoted fans, friends, and benefactors passes away Wednesday
How he was able to do all the work involved in the delivering of 15,000 babies over a 50-year medical career and still have time attend more than 3,000 Louisiana Tech athletic events during the same half-century plus – more than anyone else in history — no one but Guthrie Jarrell will ever know.
But after four years of declining health, the man everyone knew as Dr. Jarrell, one of Tech’s most devoted followers and leaders, died at his Monroe home just before daybreak Wednesday. Services are pending.
He never told anyone his age; he graduated from Tech in 1949 – so 90 is the ballpark. But in Tech Time, he was timeless, so it all sort of fits anyway.
“We had a birthday party for him one year before a basketball game and couldn’t put a number on the cake,” said Tammie Oakes, wife of former Tech athletics director Jim Oakes; the pair visited Dr. Jarrell at least once a week for the past several months and were with him Tuesday night.
“I know this: he wasn’t old enough,” said Billie Joe Creed, who was with Dr. Jarrell when he passed away. She and her husband David became Dr. Jarrell’s transportation to Ruston – to Quarterback Club meetings, ballgames, and other University events — when he could no longer drive himself.
“We became friends sitting close to each other at football games,” she said. “When I was pregnant with Brittani during football season, he said he could just deliver her under the stands at halftime and we wouldn’t have to miss the second half. Brittani is 30 now.”
The Creeds took Dr. Jarrell to his last Tech ballgame March 1, a 13-10 baseball loss to Arkansas.
“We were going to Tech at least one more time,” she said, “no matter what.”
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone earned his nickname for sure, but Dr. Jarrell might be Tech’s original Mailman. After his brief basketball career at Tech, he graduated and continued going to games … and never stopped. An example: he witnessed Tech’s 27-7 victory over Ole Miss in Oxford in 2011, but was also at the game the only other time Tech has won in Oxford, which was a 7-6 final on Nov. 12. Of 1946.
“Drove over with some other boys, I believe in an old black sedan,” he recalled during Ole Miss Game Week in 2011. No one else alive could claim that two-game daily double.
But that’s the thing: he was everywhere. Planes. Buses. Taxis. How many cars did he wear out driving from Monroe to Ruston and back?
“Only person I know, ever, who came over from Monroe for a Tech cross country track meet,” said Sam Wilkinson, Tech’s now-retired trainer of more than three decades. “We got him a folding chair to sit on in the shade. He loved Louisiana Tech, I’ll tell you that.”
“If I ever needed to find Dr. Jarrell, I knew exactly where to look – at a Louisiana Tech sporting event,” said Tech football favorite Tim Rattay.
“He never wanted to miss any event that we were having, particularly athletics events,” said Tech president Les Guice. “If he could not attend in person, you could bet that he would be listening on the radio.”
Need proof? Dr. Jarrell was long invested in the pageant system, a supporter of the Miss Louisiana Organization and the Miss America Pageant. Tech fan Dorothy Hoogland, former secretary for the Miss Louisiana Pageant, has a years-old picture of her husband, Jim, and Dr. Jarrell walking down the Boardwalk in Atlantic City on the Saturday night of the pageant, sharing a phone so they could listen to the radio broadcast of a Tech game with the help of their friend Charlie Bourgeois, who was holding up his phone to the radio back in Ruston.
“He was the most loyal, most intense fan Louisiana Tech and the Lady Techsters ever had,” said Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach Leon Barmore. “He lived every game in the arena with you. I mean, he was practically on the bench with you. Victories were the only thing he cared about. He lived for the next game. I think he’s in Bulldog Heaven right now.”
“He could never really enjoy a win because he was always worried about the next one,” said Tech’s Hall of Fame former sports information director, Keith Prince. “As much as he loved winning, he was immediately worried about what was next. He never had an ‘off’ day. He was always thinking about what we can do to improve Tech.
“There has never been anyone who loved Tech more, nor has there been anyone more dedicated to wanting to help Tech,” Prince said. “He totally loved the school and the people.”
“Not only was he very generous with his money, but more importantly, he had a vision for what Louisiana Tech athletics could be, and he held all of us accountable to see it through,” said Tech athletics director Tommy McClelland. “…his legacy will never be forgotten. Louisiana Tech lost a dear friend today.”
“We’ve lost a great man, a friend, and a big part of our Bulldog family,” said head football coach Skip Holtz. “He has left his mark on us all.”
The Aillet Stadium press box and suites are scheduled to open Sept. 2 when Northwestern State visits Tech for the 2017 football season opener. When plans for the $17-million improvement were released, McClelland singled out Dr. Jarrell for his role in helping make the project a reality. And Holtz spoke for many men when he added this: “Great personality, genuine guy, cares for people,” he said in describing Dr. Jarrell. “And I’m glad that he’s as old as he is because he’d take my wife from me; I mean, she absolutely loves him.”
A lifelong bachelor, Dr. Jarrell made his admiration of females no secret. He once dated Bebe Shopp, Miss America 1948 – a story he was never shy to tell. His home had a room dedicated both to Tech and to Miss America and Miss Louisiana memorabilia, everything from footballs to 8x10s glamour shots of beauty queens. If he wasn’t at a game or practice, he was likely at a pageant.
“Dr. Jarrell was larger than life to most of us involved in the Miss Louisiana Organization,” said Miss Louisiana 1990 Linnea Fayard Allen, Tech grad student of the year in 2008 in the College of Education. “Between his great height and his storied history, he could have been an imposing presence, but the minute you met him and saw his smile, you felt his warmth and love for the pageant and all its participants… He always had a kind word, a fun story and a hug, no matter where you saw him.”
Each year at the Miss Louisiana Pageant, he hosted a party at his home for the former Miss Louisianas and the current contestants. And each year, he attended the Miss America pageant to support the current Miss Louisiana.
“It was funny to watch him because the Miss Americas from his youth, they’d get around him and swoon,” said Mette Boving Castor, Miss Tech in 1996 and Miss Louisiana in 1997. “They were enamored with him. And all of us, we just adored Dr. Jarrell.
“There’s a big hole at Tech now,” she said, “and a big hole in a lot of people’s hearts.”
He wasn’t perfect, of course. In 1995, he told Oakes, then the AD, to skip the Oct. 14 game at Pacific and stay home with Tammie, who was pregnant with triplets. “We’ll probably have to go in and get those babies Saturday,” Dr. Jarrell said.
Friday, Oct. 13, Sam Wilkinson, then the trainer, called Oakes, who was dutifully at his office while Tammie was in their Ruston home in a recliner.
“Jim, we are re-fueling the team plane in Phoenix,” Sam said. “I just want to know, who’s going to deliver those babies if Tammie goes into labor this weekend?”
“Dr. Jarrell is, Sam,” Jim said. “You know that.”
“Well,” Sam said, “that’s going to be hard, because Dr. Jarrell is sitting on the plane by me.”
“He told me later, ‘I could have gotten back,'” said Tammie, who ended up having the boys on Oct. 25. “That whole story is SO Dr. Jarrell.”
Dr. Jarrell was also sure Rachel Barmore would have a boy in 1971. Instead, Rachel had baby girl, Shannon, today the mother of Rachel and Leon’s twin granddaughters.
“That was before ultrasound, and he was so sure it was a boy,” Leon said. “I’ll always have that memory. It was a mistake, but it was a good mistake. Might be one of the only mistakes he ever made.”
His manner, bedside and courtside, was beyond reproach; you could count on him being there. After Tammie’s delivery, she struggled with a rare disorder that kept her in intensive care for a week. Dr. Jarrell slept in a chair by her bed.
“He saved my life,” she said. “Even though I was in the critical care unit, he stayed with me around the clock. He’s the godfather of our triplets.”
Being an AD’s spouse is no easy chore; keeping lots of fans and coaches and benefactors happy is difficult, and Tammie felt the bite of what comes with that position more than once. But with Dr. Jarrell, even though he was a nitpicker and complainer, things were different.
“He griped about everything!” she said. “Everything was gloom and doom. But he was positive too; his outlook was positive. He was positive about even the littlest things. Things were going to be better. He was intense, but he was devoted. He was devoted to the University and to the people. How can you not love ‘devoted’?”
Dr. Guthrie Jarrell at a glance
- Tech basketball letterman, 1946
- Tech graduate, 1949
- Began his medical career in the Navy, set up his private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Monroe and practiced for more than 50 years
- Former president of the Tech Alumni Association
- Tech Alumnus of the Year, 1975
- Tower Medallion recipient and inducted into the University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni, 1982
- Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, 1998
- Established the Dr. Guthrie Jarrell Conference Center in the new Wyly Athletic Center, 2001; today the Bulldog Football meeting room in Davison Athletics Center is named in his honor
- Was the (then) anonymous donor of new turf and improvements for Joe Aillet Stadium, 2006
- Inaugural member of the Miss Louisiana Organization Hall of Fame
- Supported several endowed professorships through the University Foundation
What they are saying about Dr. Guthrie Jarrell
“Dr. Jarrell has had a huge impact on Louisiana Tech, not only in athletics but across the campus. He was as loyal of an alumnus as I have ever met. I always enjoyed my visits with Dr. Jarrell, and most of all I enjoyed cheering on our Lady Techsters and Bulldogs with him. He loved his alma mater and wanted Tech to excel in every area. He never wanted to miss any event that we were having, particularly athletics events. If he could not attend in person, you could bet that he would be listening on the radio. He was a remarkable man, someone who I will miss personally and someone who will be missed by his Tech Family.” – Louisiana Tech president Dr. Les Guice
“I’ve known him all my life because he and my dad were great friends. He was probably one of the strongest and most ardent supporters Tech has ever had. He did so much good for every area of the University. He was an example of the commitment to excellence Tech pursues; it’s what he strived for. He supported several endowed professorships through the University Foundation. He’ll be dearly missed; his presence will be dearly missed. His support has made such a positive difference for Tech.” – Corre Stegall, former Vice President for University Advancement
“Dr. Jarrell was a dedicated and highly skilled physician that gave great care to his patients. He was also enormously generous to his alma mater, Louisiana Tech University. Tech would look very different and be much less than it is without the generosity of Dr. Jarrell.” – Steve Davison, Louisiana Tech Alumnus of the Year, 2013
“Dr. Jarrell was a man of great devotion and integrity for thousands of babies he delivered, his community, and certainly Louisiana Tech, which he loved with an unparalleled loyalty. What a tremendous loss for all who knew him.” – Jim Oakes
“We are saddened by the passing of Dr. Jarrell. There is no way to measure the impact that he has had on Louisiana Tech University, but one thing is for certain: we would not be the great university we are today without him. Not only was he very generous with his money, but more importantly, he had a vision for what Louisiana Tech athletics could be and held all of us accountable to see it through. I’m blessed for the time I had to spend with him and get to know him. He loved the Lady Techsters and the Bulldogs and his legacy will never be forgotten. Louisiana Tech lost a dear friend today.” – Louisiana Tech AD Tommy McClelland
“We are saddened by the passing of Dr. Jarrell, a true Louisiana Tech icon. His impact on Louisiana Tech and the Lady Techster program through the years is immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come. His support and encouragement of the program were unwavering. I will forever be grateful for the impact he has had on Louisiana Tech and for me personally. Dr. Jarrell truly embodied the great words of our alma mater, ‘ever loyal be.'” – Lady Techsters basketball head coach Brooke Stoehr
“If I ever needed to find Dr. Jarrell, I knew exactly where to look: a Louisiana Tech sporting event. He always had a smile on his face and an encouraging word. His passion for this University was evident every time I was around him. He truly loved Louisiana Tech.” – Tim Rattay, Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Famer and quarterbacks coach
“He lived for the next game; I think he’s in Bulldog Heaven right now.” – Leon Barmone, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer
“A game just wasn’t complete without him. I can count on one hand the games he wasn’t there in my 25 years.” – Keith Prince, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer
“Dr. Jarrell has been a strong part of the LA Tech family for generations. His generous gifts of both time and money have helped this University grow and prosper. We have lost a great man, a friend and a big part of our Bulldog family. He has left his mark on us all.” – Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz
“He went to everything, home and out of town. He loved the people and the school.” — Tammie Oakes, friend and the mother of triplets who are godsons to Dr. Jarrell
“On the road when there was an extra locker in the coaches’ locker room, we’d set him up so he’d have a place to leave his bag and everything. We always tried to take really good care of Dr. Jarrell. He loved Louisiana Tech, I’ll tell you that.” – Sam Wilkinson, former Louisiana Tech trainer
“He was about nothing else but Tech. It didn’t matter what the weather was, if we could an umbrella and get in the car or sometimes get in the car and get an umbrella and a wheelchair in the car, we were going. It didn’t matter what game it was, as long as we could get in the car and get to Tech.” – Billie Joe Creed, friend, patient, and, for the past several years, ‘chauffeur,’ along with her husband David.