Moving to South Franklin Circle is “homecoming” for famed Gilmour coach

When Cleveland native and longtime Gilmour football coach Vern Weber first visited South Franklin Circle, he felt right at home.

“As we waited for our tour to begin, I picked up a booklet about Judson,” remembers Vern.  “I thumbed open to the first page and who do I see but a picture of (then Judson Board Chair) Jim McMonagle!  I coached Jim at Gilmour!”

“Later, as my wife Beverly and I toured the community, I heard a voice call out to me and realized it was old friend Jerry Conway!,” smiles Vern.  “He was meeting with a bunch of other guys, many of whom I also recognized.  I just sat down and joined the conversation.”

“There was no question that South Franklin Circle was where we wanted to live,” says Vern.  “It felt just like home.”

Coach Weber was born in Bedford and spent his early years in Cleveland.  Then his family moved to Solon on VJ day in August 1945.

“Solon’s population at the time was only 1,300,” notes Vern.  “It was a great place to grow up, especially when it came to participating in sports.  There were plenty of opportunities because the school was so small.”  Vern earned letters in football, basketball, baseball and track.  “I loved sports-I loved the competition.”

Vern accepted a scholarship to the University of Dayton.  “We had a great team and played in the Salad Bowl, which is now the Fiesta Bowl.”  While there, he met Beverly Nieman in speech class.  Lovingly referred to as the “Chicago Bombshell,” Vern and Beverly soon wed and together they raised five children.

After Dayton, Vern earned his Master’s of Science in physical education, then joined the army and was stationed in Korea for 16 months.  “My first coaching experience was in Korea,” says Vern. “I coached an army football team.  We won the division championship.”

Following his army service, Vern landed his first coaching job as defensive coordinator at Chaminade High School in Dayton.  Then in 1958 he accepted a career-defining position at Gilmour Academy, serving as football coach, teacher and athletic director.  “The first couple of seasons were challenging. After we beat Chanel my third year, 6-0, we just got better and better,”  remembers Vern.

Vern believes a successful coach is essentially a good teacher.  “I have a care and concern for the players as individuals-I’m interested in them as people first.”

“Gilmour was my life,” says Vern.  “It’s one of the premier schools in the nation-it really prepares kids for life.  My children went to school there and I had the pleasure of coaching my three sons.”

Often referred to as “Mr. Gilmour,” Vern was also a long-time ambassador for the school’s alumni and development programs.   He was so well-known that he inspired (in name at least!) the character of Vernon Wormer, the dean of Faber College in the film “Animal House.”   One of the movie’s writers, Douglas Kenney, was a 1964 Gilmour graduate!

Vern retired from Gilmour on his 65th birthday and was honored with the school naming its football field after him.

In the late 1990s, Vern and Bev moved to Cape Cod, where he coached a senior softball team.  As they grew older and Bev’s health began to decline, the couple began thinking about a move.

“We thought about staying on the Cape, but we really missed being around family,” notes Vern. “My grandkids made me want to come back.”

At the suggestion of their son, they started hunting for a retirement community in the Greater Cleveland area.  “We looked at a number of places but nothing compared with South Franklin Circle,” admits Vern. “Plus, the staff here is outstanding. They are sincere, cordial, and always willing to help.”

Today he enjoys easy access to the Village of Chagrin Falls-a pleasant two-mile round-trip walk via the Metroparks Trail that runs through the campus.  “I take my back pack and go into town for everything we need.  It’s very convenient and great exercise,” he says.

As Bev’s primary caregiver, Vern appreciates the balance he can achieve through social programs like the Men’s Discussion Group.  “We discuss a lot of things, mainly current events.  We solve the problems of the world.  No one has taken our advice yet, but that’s OK!,” he laughs.

“What matters most is that I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends,” says Vern.

Interested in connecting with friends old and new at South Franklin Circle like Vern?  Call 1-888-574-1906 or click here to request more information.

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