John L. "Corky" DeMillion


John L. "Corky" DeMillion, Jr. was born on August 25, 1928 in Monessen, Pennsylvania to John L. Sr. and Ruth Fohner DeMillion, the second youngest of five children. As a toddler, John L. Jr. was called "Corky" by his father and the nickname stuck.

At the age of 13, Corky joined the American Turners gymnastic club, attracted to the sport by the focus on individual skill and discipline. The advent of WW II called the older Turners to war, and Corky--being the eldest Turner but too young for military duty--was asked to be the Head Coach at the age of 16. During his time with the Turners, Corky competed extensively and won numerous awards.

1945 and 1946 were busy years. Corky attended Monessen High School and Vocational School, while working at the Monessen Steel Mill and the Corning Glass Factory during the summers.

At that time, the Allegheny Mountain Association of the Amateur Athletic Union (AMAAAU) Invitational Gymnastic Meets were held annually in Pittsburgh. The meets were comprised of six events: Parallel Bars, Horizontal Bar, Flying Rings, Side Horse, Long Horse Vaulting, and Tumbling. Encouraged by his four Second Place awards in the 1945 meet, Corky was determined to improve his performance the next year. His hard work resulted in five First Place awards and one Second Place award in the 1946 meet, earning Corky the title given for the highest score in all six events, "All Around Outstanding Gymnast".

Locally during these years, Corky participated in the Monessen May Day events; in 1946 he was the top man on a human pyramid and his handstand at the peak nearly touched the ceiling of the gymnasium. He also entertained the crowd by doing a handstand on the handlebars of a bicycle driven around the gym by a fellow gymnast.

The duo of Corky and gymnastics "bottom man" Henry Furio also toured the Mon Valley during these years, performing gymnastic exhibitions for various clubs and organizations.

Corky completed his training as a machinist at Monessen Vocational School in 1946, and eager to join his older companions in the military, signed up with the United States Marine Corps the following December. As a Marine, he quickly won a spot on the All Navy Gymnastic Team, training at the United States Naval Academy. Corky attained the rank of Sergeant, was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1950, and immediately joined the Marine Corps Reserve.

In January of 1950 at the age of 21, Corky was readmitted to Monessen High School to finish his secondary education and graduated in May of that year.

An acquaintance told Corky of Bill Bonsall, WWII POW, ex-Olympic gymnast and coach of gymnastics at West Virginia University. Corky contacted Bill, applied to the school and was accepted, joining the university's team as a senior member. Halfway through his first semester at WVU, however, USMC reservist Corky was recalled to active duty with the Corps.

After being honorably discharged from the Marines for the second time as a Staff Sergeant in December 1952, Corky enrolled at Slippery Rock State College (now Slippery Rock University) where he majored in Health and Physical Education and minored in Geography, completing this four-year course in three years. He was a member of the Slippery Rock Gymnastic Team, which performed regular exhibitions at various high schools, public functions, and institutions. Corky was also a member of the Slippery Rock Soccer Team for two years.

After Slippery Rock, Corky returned to Monessen, beginning his professional career by teaching high school Health and Physical Education in the Bridgeville School District.

The next year he accepted a teaching position in the Monessen School District. While there, Corky coached the Varsity Volleyball Team to the Western Pennsylvania Intramural Athletic League (WPIAL) Championships, winning Second Place the first year and the State Championship the next year with the great help of the Monessen Turner Team led by Baldo "Bud" Gianninni. Corky also became certified to conduct the "Kraus Webber Test", an examination sponsored by the President's Council on Youth Fitness that determined the relative wellness of elementary children compared to the rest of the world. He conducted tests for students at the three Monessen Elementary Schools and published the results in the local newspaper.

In 1955 while teaching in Monessen, Corky enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in pursuit of a Master's Degree in Education. He completed his Master's in 1957 along with 15 credits of Secondary Administration.

On June 6, 1960, Corky married Frances Giannetti, also of Monessen, and subsequently became the proud father of four children, John, Barry, Joan and Marcy.

Corky departed the Monessen Public Schools to accept a position with the Bellmar Area School District in Belle Vernon. There he inaugurated the Girls Athletic Association, the Recreation and Intramural Leagues, and the Men's Gymnastic Team, which won the Pennsylvania State Gymnastic Team Title on two occasions. Corky was also selected to receive the Outstanding District Coach of the Year award during this time.

Bellmar was later realigned to form the Belle Vernon Area School District, where Corky was assigned the position of Supervisor of Health and Physical Education and given responsibility for both the intramural and recreation programs.

Corky also managed the Monessen Elks Pool for two years and served as the Westmoreland County Red Cross Water Safety Trainer, charged with certifying Red Cross Water Safety Instructors for the county. Another pair of summers was devoted to the Monessen Sokol Gymnastic Union, at their camp located in Rostraver Township. In addition to these activities, Corky accepted a one-year volleyball coaching position at California State Teachers College (now California University of Pennsylvania) as a member of the Health Department Graduate Faculty. During this time the team traveled to Ball State University in Indiana, where they placed second in the National Invitational Volleyball Competition.

Corky applied for a leave of absence from the Belle Vernon Area School District in 1968 to work on his Education Specialist Degree (Ed. S.) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of 20 finalists selected from over 200 applicants. The university had the only Experienced Teacher Fellowship Program ever offered by the United States Department of Education, and Corky was awarded the fellowship in Physical Education. One of the responsibilities of the fellowship was to conduct a research project, which Corky fulfilled in the form of a manuscript entitled A Study of Physical Fitness of Junior High School Boys and their Subsequent Participation in Interscholastic Athletics, published in June of 1969. While at the university, he also assisted the gymnastic coach.

Although offered a position back in Belle Vernon, Corky had always been intrigued by post-secondary education, so when an offer came from West Chester University near Philadelphia, Corky welcomed the opportunity to join the Higher Education establishment. The family moved east and Corky began his duties as Professor of Health Education and Assistant Gymnastic Coach at the university.

While at West Chester, Corky conducted or facilitated more than 25 workshops, testified before the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, served as the Chairman of the School Health Division of the university, and became Vice President of School Health for both the Pennsylvania State Health and Physical Education Association and the Eastern Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. At this time, Corky also published two academic texts, How 130 Educational Methods can Lead to Pleasurable Classes (HELP), and 278 Experimental Strategies for Instructors of Health. In addition to his academic duties, Corky's twelve years as the Assistant Coach of the West Chester Men's Gymnastic Team saw six First Place and six Second Place standings in the Eastern Interscholastic Gymnastic League.

In 1982, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa offered Corky an Experienced Teacher's Fellowship, and he was granted a leave of absence from West Chester to assist Alabama's Health and Physical Education Department while attending doctorate courses.

After a year in Alabama, Corky returned to West Chester University and resumed his duties, adding to his accomplishments the establishment of the Pennsylvania School Health Association, the first and currently only organization of its kind in the state. He continued to serve on numerous academic committees and conducted a variety of health-related programs.

In 1985, Corky retired from West Chester University, joining the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Retired Faculties (APSCURF) organization and serving as Vice President for four years, while also serving on the board of the West Chester Borough Recreation Commission.

Corky kept busy in retirement working on antique clocks of all shapes and sizes, from the smallest table clock to the largest and oldest grandfather clocks from Chester County inns. He reveled not only in meticulously attending to the inner workings, but also in restoring the external beauty of the cases. His customers quickly became friends and arrived daily from near and far, bringing their treasured timepieces to be lovingly tended to by "The Village Timekeeper".

Corky also enjoyed woodcarving in his spare time, turning out pieces ranging from whimsical, brightly-painted chickens whittled from a single small stick, to carefully sculpted and beautifully stained representations of robed monks. His woodworking time was a chance to relax and contemplate, but it also produced smiles from the recipients of his work and lasting beauty for his family and friends to enjoy.

On July 30, 2003, Corky lost a four-month battle with aggressive lung cancer and died at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, surrounded by his family. He appreciated and was touched by the outpouring of friendship and love from his family, friends, colleagues, students, the hospital nursing staff, and the community.

Corky was a life member of the VFW, the American Legion and the Marine Corps League, and lived with his wife Frances in West Chester, Pennsylvania until his death. Son John and daughter Joan continue to live near West Chester, while son Barry lives in Colorado and daughter Marcy in Utah.

Corky conveyed his heartfelt thanks his family, colleagues, supervisors, students, and friends for their invaluable support and kindness over the years. They helped him to succeed and brought a sense of purpose and joy to his accomplishments.

John L. "Corky" DeMillion stated his simple driving philosophy as, "While one's bones may lie on the floor of the cave, you have succeeded if you leave on the wall the knowledge gained from a lifetime of pursuits."

John L. "Corky" DeMillion