In life, most people can think back to childhood, college or perhaps an early job and identify an individual that had a tremendous influence on them.
Students can often recall teachers that prompted them to take a particular path. Adults may have adopted a particular way of thinking through friendship or mentorship with a respected colleague. And of course, there are the children that learn important lessons in life through the actions of a parent.
Based on descriptions that were shared Saturday afternoon during a special ceremony at Clemens Field, Philomath coaching legend Paul Mariman filled all of those roles.
“He was very humble, very gentle,” PHS coach Joe Fulton said about his good friend following Mariman’s induction into Philomath’s Legend Club. “He loved the kids. He was very meticulous about everything. He never typed anything; everything was handwritten in beautiful cursive. He’d draw maps of all the courses and have every little tree out there; everything was always planned out perfectly.”
Mariman died unexpectedly in 1997 at age 61. He had gone into the hospital for back surgery but suffered an aneurysm. According to a story published at the time, doctors performed brain surgery to remove the aneurysm but he never regained consciousness from a drug-induced coma.
“He never let anybody down and every kid was just as important as the other kids,” said Gary Cox, who served as Philomath High’s athletic director for 25 years. “He was a great mentor for teachers in the district. His writing ability and his abiity to write poetry to encompass an event like a state championship or a birthday or an anniversary was unbelieveable. He was just a fantastic person and an honor to have on our staff.”
The Legend Club, established in 2011 by then-AD Steve Bennett, now includes 17 individuals and three couples. A selection committee determines inductees based on various criteria, primarily those who provided strong support to Philomath athletics over time through different types of contributions, whether volunteering or financial.
Several of Mariman’s family members attended the Legend Club event that followed the cross-country meet named in his honor — wife, Peggy; daughters, Denise, Kari and Danielle; sons, Stephen, Chris, Pat, Tim, Andrew and Gabe; sister, Jean; and brother, David.
His son, Pat Mariman, traveled to Philomath all the way from Germany to attend the event, a trip that covered more than 5,000 miles.
Mariman competed under his father as a high school athlete and remembers how he impacted his classmates. But while talking to others like Cox, he discovered how his presence went beyond the students.
“I didn’t realize how much of an influence he was on his fellow teachers and coaches, how many people he really influenced,” Mariman said after the ceremony. “That’s one of the things that impressed me. Being one of nine of his kids, he managed us as well as managing his accomplishments. I just can’t imagine the dedication required to do that.”
Mariman came to Philomath for good in 1975 with prior teaching and coaching stops in Alsea, an earlier stint at Philomath, Newberg and Enterprise. An English teacher, he retired from the local school district in 1993.
Mariman compiled a staggering record through his career with his teams winning eight state titles and 31 league championships in 37 years. Numerous coaching honors came his way, including a national honor that he accepted in 1991 at a National High School Coaches Association banquet in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Perhaps the most mind-boggling statistic that encompasses Mariman’s record would be out of the 82 team seasons he coached, 80 of them had winning records.
“The impressive thing is Paul’s not known for that record; he’s known for who he was as a person,” Bennett told the crowd during the induction ceremony. “He was a tremendous person. He was known as a father and a husband, a teacher, obviously a coach, a mentor to his kids, a mentor to other coaches and the coaches that worked with him.”
Cox remembers Mariman as a coach that didn’t have any favorites among his athletes.
“He was so much involved with the development of kids no matter what skill they had,” said Cox, who as a Legend Club inductee himself presented a plaque to his family. “He wanted to always have the best come from them and he had individual programs that he set up for kids as a cross-country coach and as a track coach and also as a swimming coach.”
Bennett described Mariman has a patient, kind and caring man with a positive outlook and the desire to see others achieve.
“He could tell you a story and teach you a lesson,” Bennett said. “I never saw him look at somebody sternly or raise his voice … and he had a way of talking to you and you remembered his lesson; it stuck with you. That’s probably why his personality made him such a great coach and teacher.”
Fulton, who was an assistant under Mariman for 11 years before taking on head coaching duties himself, needed to limit his words as the event got underway.
“I couldn’t talk much because I was going to get choked up,” Fulton said. “I delivered Paul’s eulogy and I haven’t seen most of these people since the funeral. The first one to come up to me was Dave, Paul’s brother — we used to go track meets together back in the ‘90s … This is a great family.”
An example of Mariman’s meticulous nature could be seen with how he measured cross-country courses with the “Mari-meter” stride — which he had down to a science at 1 meter per step.
“He’d walk the course, get 5,000 steps and he’d know it was accurate and then you’d wheel it and he was right on,” Fulton recalled.
Mariman’s grave marker at Mount Union Historical Cemetery features the following quote: “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
“The most impressive thing about him was how gentle he was, how sweet he was to the kids,” Fulton said. “That’s the lesson he gave me.”