Legendary Decatur Central football coach, athletic director and science teacher Devere G. Fair, 85, of Indianapolis, passed away December 4.
After leaving his post as head football coach at Wabash High School in 1965, Fair began a remarkable journey at Decatur Central High School.
At DC, he was head football coach until 1972, finishing with a record of 59-18-2, which included a 32-game winning streak. His teams were four-year Marion County “B” champions, as well as four-year Mid-State Conference champions from 1968-1971.
Three undefeated seasons and his team’s conference titles are only a few of his athletic accomplishments. The man known almost as much for phrases used to motivate his players as his no-nonsense coaching style led the school to titles that hadn’t been achieved in years and put Decatur Central on the map across the state.
Football wasn’t the only sport Fair coached at DC. From 1965 to 1970, he was an assistant wrestling coach, as well as an assistant baseball coach. He was the school’s athletic director from 1970 to 1993. His 28 years of dedication to Decatur Central, to Hoosier high school sports, and to education in general led him to become an Indiana high school athletic legend.
Fair is a member of the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and the state’s high school Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was known for his enthusiasm over hosting state wrestling events at Decatur Central. During his teaching career, he earned three National Science Scholarships.
The DC football stadium is named in honor of Fair. His favorite coaching hat and shoes were retired and encased in a plastic display.
Before coming to Decatur Central, Fair started at Crawfordsville High School in 1960 as an assistant varsity football coach, then became the junior high coach. In 1961, he became the assistant football coach for Wabash High School, then was named head football coach.
In 1963, Fair led his team to its first Central Indiana Conference title in 24 years. He was later named “Coach of the Year” and established the Junior Football Program. His three-year record at Wabash was 14-11-3.
Martinsville, Purdue grad
Fair was a 1956 graduate of Martinsville High School, where he played guard and linebacker and was a four-year letterman. He was a three-year All-South Conference lineman. In 1955, he was awarded MVP and earned All-State honors. He was also a two-year letterman in baseball as a catcher.
Fair was the first football player from Martinsville to receive a football scholarship to Purdue University.
While getting his education, he was a varsity letterman and distinguished student from 1958-1960. He graduated with his Master’s degree in 1967.
Fair was born September 3, 1937, in Indianapolis to his parents, Glen Fair and Zelda (Burns) Fair Hadley. He married Jane (Schnaiter) Fair on February 3, 1956. He was a resident of Indianapolis for most of his life.
Devere and Jane loved to travel and enjoyed spending time with family. He is survived by Jane, his loving wife; one daughter, Jo Ellen Fair (James Delehanty); one son, John Fair (Cara Breidster); three grandchildren: Mela Shah (Robert DesJarlais), William Fair, and Lilly Fair; and one brother, Charles Dudley Fair. Devere was preceded in death by both of his parents, one sister, Debra Fair; and one brother, Dave Fair.
A memorial was held on Friday (Dec. 9) at Jones Crossing Banquet Center in Mooresville. Cremation arrangements have been entrusted to Jones Family Mortuary in Mooresville. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions may be made in Devere’s memory to Riley Children’s Hospital or to the Decatur Central High School Athletic Department.
To send a condolence to the family or to share a story about Devere, visit: http://www.jonesfamilymortuary.com.
Memorial attendees celebrate Devere Fair
Mike Gillin clutched the thick ring binder, worn by age.
“I still have my playbook,” said Mooresville’s football coach, who played for coach Devere Fair at Decatur Central. “We still use many of those plays at Mooresville. They worked for Devere, and they work for us now.”
Gillin joined many others who attended Friday’s memorial for the former DC coach and athletic director who died Dec. 4 at age 85. The memorial was held at Jones Crossing Banquet Center in Mooresville.
Fair coached Decatur Central from 1965-72. At one point, his teams won 32 straight games in the era before IHSAA and its state championships. He also served as athletic director from 1970-93.
For all his winning ways, there were funny sides to Fair as well. Some included his witticisms.
“Devere-isms, we called them,” Gillin said. “Like ‘You’re as slow as steam coming off a cow turd.’”
Fair was also a teacher.
“He taught us so much,” said Gillin, who played quarterback on Fair’s teams. “I didn’t have to do that much. We had great players.”
And that great three-season run.
“I think it all started with Speedway,” Gillin recalled. “We beat them, and that was the springboard that got us into that 32-game win streak.”
It goes deeper than that.
“Coach Fair was the athletic director when I transferred from Manual to DC,” said former player Buz Brown. “I was there before all the busing started. He was the best thing to me. He was very influential. The teachers were very welcoming to me.”
“When he came here, Devere brought light to Decatur Central,” said Larry Brooks. “I graduated in ’67. The ’69, ’70 and ’71 classes were undefeated.
“I had first-period study hall with him. Jane (now Brooks’ wife) was a substitute teacher. If we needed a teacher, Devere would throw his car keys to me and I would go get Jane.”
The conversations weren’t limited to those who were there Friday.
Ted Bentley sent this memory to Fair’s obituary book:
“I was a 1968 graduate of DCHS along with my best friend Dave Oberle, et. al.,” he wrote. “Unlike Dave and the others, I was not a football player. Nevertheless, Coach Fair made an indelible mark on my development, if not my backside, as a student and young man. He dealt firmly with our lunchtime pranks, making us learn early of taking accountability for our actions. He taught science classes, which were part of my academic curriculum. All of those led me to be accepted into and graduate from Purdue.
“A portion of my success in life as a husband and father traces back to his role in my early development.
“The world could use a whole lot of Coach Fairs guiding today’s young people.”
Ted Bentley, DCHS 1968, Pittsburgh, PA
A family affair
Many members of Fair’s family were on hand as well.
“He took me to the games at Decatur,” recalled granddaughter Lilly Fair. “My favorite spot was the hospitality room. I was able to get chocolate bars.
“Grandpa was special to a lot of people. When we would leave his house, he would always say, “Go Hawks!’”
“He was the best grandpa ever,” said daughter-in-law Cara Breidster, wife of Devere’s son, John. “He would take his grandkids to school and pick them back up. He went from managing all the athletes and jumped right in with the kids.”
Devere Fair was instrumental in convincing the school board to name the baseball area the “Phil Webster Baseball Complex” after Webster directed the Hawks to the 1988 Class 4A baseball championship, the first DC team to earn a state title.
“Devere was very, very, very, very influential,” Webster said. “When I came from North Salem to Decatur in 1969, I knew him by his reputation. We had that first faculty meeting, and he was the only person who extended his hand to me and welcomed me to Decatur. That was Devere.
“He taught me the discipline of coaching. You may not have the best players, but if you have good players, discipline and know the fundamentals of your sport, you can succeed.”
“You always wondered,” said Oberle, who played for Fair and who later coached DC basketball. “One day, he would chew you out, and you wondered if he was going to fire you. The next day, he would give you a Snickers bar and just talk to you.
“He could tell joke after joke after joke. And he laughed at his own jokes.”