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John Piches: 1920-2013

From buildings to veterans and girls basketball, he was a doer
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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To the end, John Piches was busy doing what he loved.

“Even a couple weeks ago, he was trying to get a Korean War memorial put in,” Jack Arney, president of the Rotary Club of Roseville, said Monday morning. “His bio is a lot deeper than I know. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”

Piches — World War II veteran, trainer of racing horses, 65-year member of the Rotary Club, father of the Oakmont Roseville Rotary Girls Basketball Tournament, noted storyteller and so much more — passed away Friday, April 5, after a short illness. He was 92. Arrangements are being made for a memorial service.

Piches grew up on Duranta Street in Roseville. He graduated from Roseville High School in 1939, played quarterback on the 1938 championship football team and led the baseball team in runs and hits during a three-year run of championships.

“He was a feisty little guy,” said Dave Fiddyment, who knew Piches since they were first-graders and sat next to his friend at Rotary meetings for 65 years.

Piches studied naval engineering in the 1940s in San Francisco. He returned to Roseville after World War II and became chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, according to his son, Dave Piches.

A contractor, he had several projects in Roseville, including the Lutheran Church on Douglas Boulevard near Folsom Road. Piches designed Richards Field, home of Roseville West Little League, and the bleachers at Clancy Field at Roseville High.

The city of Roseville honored Piches in 2007 by dedicating John G. Piches Park at 1471 Stone Point Drive.

Piches raced horses over the years at county fairs and was maintaining five at the time of his death, driving his Jeep to property he rented outside Roseville.

“He loved horses,” Fiddyment said. “He’d win one once in awhile.”

Fiddyment said Piches was on the historical society and did considerable work for veterans, including a program each Veterans Day at the memorial wall on Vernon Street.

“He promoted that and just did an outstanding job,” Fiddyment said. “He’d put on his uniform.”

Piches didn’t miss a meeting in 65 years of Rotary membership. Nor did he miss a game in 40 years of the basketball tournament he conceived.

Piches, who was featured in a story in the Dec. 14, 2012, edition of the Press Tribune, approached then-Rotary president Ken Sahl in 1973 wanting to do something for girls sports. The Rotary tournament was born, but it also needed an announcer. Last December, Piches called the tournament for the 40th time.

“John was honestly the highlight of our tournament. We all looked forward to his smiling face and loving personality,” Nicki Mitchell, who coached varsity girls basketball at Oakmont for 13 years, wrote in an email. “Players, coaches and parents loved to hear the true excitement in his voice, no matter who was playing. I knew no matter how stressed I would get during the tournament, John would be there, with his microphone, to always bring a smile to my face. The tournament will always be special because of him.”

Al Voigt, another former girls basketball coach at Oakmont, said Piches was always noticeable, leaning back behind the scorers’ table and celebrating baskets with his patented “Wow, wow, wow.”

“I never could spend just a few minutes with John during the tournament; it always turned into a trip down memory lane,” Voight wrote in an email. “He was a kind man who provided my family with many fond memories.”

Piches kept a pen between his first and middle fingers while gripping the mic, and he went over every name before every game. Bruce Henning, another former Oakmont girls coach, recalled Piches announcing every player “so they received recognition.”

“When he got the microphone in his hand, he was king,” Henning wrote in an email. “His commitment to the girls and the tournament was incredible, as seen by showing up each game day with his backrest and cushion in hand, only to sit on gym bleachers for seven to eight hours a night, three nights in a row, for 40 years. Visiting coaches and players that have attended in the past will miss him, as I will miss him.

“There will never be another John Piches.”