GEORGE F. BASKER
George F. Basker, 96, legendary coach of the South Bend Washington High Panthers, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006, in St. Paul's Retirement Home.
Mr. Basker was born and raised in South Bend and attended the former South Bend Central High School and was a star halfback for the 1929-30 teams. He was promised a Notre Dame scholarship by Knute Rockne, but the famed coach died in early 1931 and Basker settled for a similar role at Purdue. He played for Rockne's disciple Noble Kizer with the Boilermakers and won varsity letters in 1933 and 1934. One of the highlights of his Purdue career was a 19-0 victory over Notre Dame in 1933.
George was so enamored with football that he soon began a coaching career. At Washington, he became an assistant to Bernie Witucki and when the head coach departed for military service, Basker became the head coach in 1943. There were a great number of stars for the Panthers, and among them was star halfback Ernie Zalejski, who went on to play for Notre Dame and then pro football.
George left Washington and moved to Evansville, Indiana, where he became head football coach at Reitz Memorial High School for a five-year period. When he returned to the South Bend area, he had a teaching job at Niles High and he later opened a photography studio in Niles. He had been a busy photographer even in his days at Washington. He taught English in his years at the West Side school. George never really retired because he kept busy with his camera, doing weddings, family reunions and social gatherings, as well as keeping his hand in the football scene as a director and board member of the Edward "Moose" Krause chapter of the College Football Hall of Fame. Krause chapter directors were honorary pallbearers, along with the Washington High Huddle Club.
George was born to Frank and Anna (Klosinski) Basker on April 19, 1910, his parents are deceased as are his four brothers, Gene, Frank, Ray and Ed and sisters, Natalie and Evelyn. George was married to Diane Nyikos on Aug. 21, 1933, and they had been married for 59 years when Diane passed away in 2002.
The Baskers are survived by one daughter, Suzanne (Hendricks). And one grandson, Robert and his wife, Jeanne. There are many surviving nieces and nephews.
George's funeral was held on Monday, Dec. 4, 2006 at Little Flower Catholic Church, in South Bend. Funeral arrangements were handled by McGann Hay, Forest G. Hay Chapel 435 S. Ironwood Drive, South Bend, Indiana.
Memorial contributions in George's name may be made to the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, 111 Sunnybrook Court, South Bend, Indiana, 46637. Browning Funeral Home is handling local arrangements.
Published by Courier Press on Dec. 7, 2006.