By Paul Garrod
PAW PAW – A Paw Paw High School graduate, nominated for his contributions to society since graduating, a longtime PPHS teacher, nominated for his service to Paw Paw High School, and the 2001-2002 PPHS women’s basketball team, nominated for their outstanding athletic achievements, are this year’s honorees to the Paw Paw Hall of Fame.
A ceremony to honor Clarence Stimac, Will Billings and the 2001-2002 PPHS women’s basketball team will be held Feb. 24, between the women’s and men’s varsity basketball games against the Otsego Bulldogs. A reception to congratulate the newest members will take place in the cafeteria, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Stimac is a 1962 graduate of PPHS, and an Armed Forces veteran, with six years of service in the Army National Guard. He has been self-employed for more than 50 years as owner/operator of Stimac Excavation. He has been a member of the McGowan-Johnson American Legion Post 68, Paw Paw, for over 50 years. As part of the American Legion, he has participated in benefit dinners, maintaining the Maple City Veterans Memorial Park, and setting up and working at the Sunday morning community breakfast.
Stimac was nominated by the American Legion Post 68 and was selected to be the grand marshal of the 2016 Paw Paw Memorial Day Parade. In recognition of his continuing community support, Stimac was also selected to be grand marshal of the Children’s Christmas Parade in Paw Paw in 2018. In 2017, he received a certificate of continuous membership award from the American Legion Post 68, as well as a certificate as an outstanding contributor to the programs of the American Legion.
Stimac has been a member of the Paw Paw Lions Club for nearly 50 years. As part of the Lions Club, he helped build Kid’s Paradise Park, and regularly works blood drives and weekly bingo. As part of the annual Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival and the Lions Club, he dumps the ducks in the river for the popular Duck Race and works at the Lions’ bratwurst tent.
Stimac received two prestigious awards from the Paw Paw Lions Club: Lifetime Membership, and the Melvin Jones Fellow Award in “recognition of dedicated humanitarian services to the community”. Year-round, Stimac volunteers his time for the Paw Paw Youth baseball and softball programs, and regularly contributes his time to the Knights of Columbus Tuesday night bingo, benefit dinners, and scrap metal drive programs.
Will Billings taught 48 years, with 39 at Paw Paw High School from 1972 to 2011. He also taught four years at Howard City, MI, from 1968 to 1972, and five years in Ohio, from 1963 to 1968.
At PPHS, Billings was coach of the varsity basketball team from 1992-93 to 1995-96, where he compiled a 61-32 win-loss record, with two leagues titles in 1993-94 and 1995-96, and one district title in 1993-94. He also served two different stints as junior varsity basketball coach during 14 seasons.
He was also PPHS varsity baseball coach from 1980 to 1989, where he won 121 games and had one league title. He also marked Paw Paw’s first KVA win in any sport.
In nominating Billings, Catey Bolton and Troy Hendrickson said Billings reminded them of John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind.” The pair said, “He is a highly intellectual mathematician with a mind and memory that was so advanced he rarely recalled on lesson gradebooks to recall each and every student performance during parent-teacher conferences. He is certainly a one-of-a-kind person. A tremendous teacher, a tremendous basketball and baseball coach. We think that everyone would have an entertaining and or unique story to share about Mr. Billings.”
The members of the 2001-02 women’s basketball team, which compiled a 25-1 record, include: Chastity DeRoo, Julie Abnet, Renee Vesey, Shanna Grubaugh, Ashley Herron, Julie Baltmanis, Caitlin Brown, Katie Anderson, Andrea Selent, and Kellie Nugteren. Seven of those girls were also on the previous season’s team that went 23-4, and were Kalamazoo Valley Association (KVA) Champions, District Champions, Regional Champions, and rated No. 3 in the state in Class B.
The team scored a total of 1,696 points to 952 by their opponents. Grubaugh, Anderson, Selent and Abnet were All-Conference No. 1 Team, and Shanna Grubaugh, All-State No. 4 Team. Before ending their careers at PPHS, all five starters made an All-State Class B Team and all five were All-Conference No. team, as well. All five starters also played college basketball. Abnet, Selent, Vesey and Baitmanis were all given the Redskins Boosters Top Female Athlete award their senior season.