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February 24, 2009 3:56 am

Bloom's jersey retired during special ceremony

Written by Tribune Staff

Cross, Kawano, Havig also recognized

Keith Bloom, the man known as Mr. Panther, was on the receiving end of an honor long overdue Friday night at Powell High School.

Bloom, an accomplished student-athlete and 1945 graduate of PHS, had his No. 57 basketball jersey retired in front of a large crowd at the new Panther gymnasium. His jersey retirement was included in a ceremony where PHS officials unveiled what is now known as Hall of Fame Corner, a special area in the gymnasium which highlights the accomplishments of sports greats in PHS's illustrious history.

As part of the ceremony, Bloom, Eddie Kawano, Dennis Havig and Jesseca Cross each had a banner unveiled in their honor.

Jeff Jones, PHS activities director and assistant principal, noted during his speech Friday night that Kawano, Havig and Cross have already had their jerseys retired. Those jerseys are included in the trophy cases in the hallway in front of the PHS gymnasium.

Since Bloom's PHS basketball jersey is believed to have been lost, a special jersey with his No. 57 was made and presented to Bloom by the PHS varsity boys basketball team during last week's ceremony. That jersey, according to Jones, will join the others, which are on display at the school.

“Now it is time to extend a long overdue honor to one of the greatest student-athletes to ever wear a jersey at Powell High School,” Jones said during the ceremony Friday night. “All of us in this school and community take great pride in the tradition of excellence in our athletic programs that have been developed and preserved over the years. To this day, we strive to uphold the standard that has been created by the many impressive individuals who have come before us. The tradition of excellence we all feel at PHS is a direct result of our programs being influenced by amazing people like Mr. Keith Bloom.”

The presentation of the jersey and the unveiling of the banner in Bloom's honor was met with a long ovation and proved to be a special moment in the career of the man who spent countless hours as a PHS student-athlete, coach and athletic director.

“It's been a truly special night,” Bloom told one of the people who offered to hug his neck following the ceremony.

During Friday's event, Jones shared a list of highlights from Bloom's career. Bloom was an all-state selection in football, basketball and track. After graduating high school and serving in the United States Navy, Bloom attended the University of Wyoming on a basketball scholarship. He played basketball four years in Laramie while also playing football for one and baseball for three.

To this day, Bloom is the last person to letter in three sports at UW, according to Jones.

After college, Bloom went on to play professional basketball and baseball for a brief period. During his stint in baseball, Bloom broke his leg during a double steal. Soon after, he had the opportunity to return to Powell and serve as a coach in Park County School District No. 1, which he did for 38 years.

During those 38 years, Bloom served as the head boys basketball coach for 17 years. He also was an assistant football coach and track coach. For 20 years, he coached three sports at PHS. Bloom also started the tennis program at PHS and served as the tennis coach for many years.

Bloom finished his service to the school district as the athletic director for the final 17 years of his career.

As a tribute to Bloom, Jones had the year 1945 placed on Bloom's banner.

“Keith, I know you are a humble person and are thrilled to have the jersey retired at all,” Jones said. “But on behalf of the current student-athletes and coaches, all those that have come before us and everyone in this gymnasium, it is my honor and privilege to present you with your Hall of Fame banner marked with the year you should have had your jersey retired.”

The gesture appeared to bring tears to the eyes of Mr. Panther, who was joined by a many of his family members, including his wife, son and grandson.

The unveiling of the three banners for Kawano, Havig and Cross also proved to be memorable for those involved.

Kawano, who traveled from Colorado to be part of the event, enjoyed a stellar career while at PHS during the 1950s. The former running back scored 360 points during his time with the Panther football team. During his senior year alone, Kawano scored 186 points, which placed him fourth in the nation.

He averaged 9.4 yards per carry, and was named as an all-conference and all-state selection his junior and senior seasons.

Kawano, whose jersey was officially retired in 1957, was named the top backfield performer for the state of Wyoming his senior year, and was tabbed an Associated Press and United Press All-American.

“This is another fond memory from Powell High School that I will always treasure,” Kawano said during his speech Friday night.

Cross, who also was in attendance at the ceremony, was recognized for her many contributions in the areas of athletics. At PHS, she was an all-state selection in volleyball (one year), basketball (two years) and track (four years). Cross also was tabbed a Gatorade National Player of the Year in track as a sophomore, junior and senior and was an All-American in basketball her senior year.

Following high school, Cross attended UW on scholarships for track and basketball. As part of the Cowgirl basketball team, she was a two-time all-conference selection and received Academic All-American honors. Cross was a three-time All-American in track, an All-American strength and conditioning selection and was named an NCAA Woman of the Year, an honor given annually to the top collegiate athlete from each state.

Cross, who recently learned she has been chosen for the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame, also is a former Olympian. In the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, she competed in the shot put and hammer throw. Her PHS jersey was officially retired in 1993. Cross, who lives in Powell, is now a fitness trainer in Powell and Cody and serves as an assistant coach for the girls basketball team at Cody High School.

Havig, who resides in Georgia, was unable to attend Friday's event. However, he sent a letter to Jones, which was read for the crowd. In that letter, Havig stated, “I am sorry I can't be there, but I am proud to be a Powell High School alumnus and very honored to have had my number retired. I feel blessed to have grown up in Powell, Wyoming, and it is always a highlight of our year to return home and visit family and friends.”

In his letter, Havig also extended words of congratulations to Bloom for the honor of finally having his jersey retired.

“God has given us a glimpse of what a man should be about in this life,” Havig wrote. “He has lived his life humbly with the wife (Joyce) of his youth and been blessed with an outstanding legacy of family and friends. What more could a man ask for in this world? We can all look at Coach Bloom and Mrs. Bloom and see how life is meant to be lived.”

Havig played fullback for the Panthers in 1964-66. As a junior, he gained 876 yards and scored 73 points en route to all-conference and all-state honors.

In his senior season, Havig was again all-conference and all-state as well as an All-American. That year, 1966, he rushed for 1,311 yards and scored 85 points. He also was named Wyoming best fullback that year and was presented with the Wilford Mower Award.

Havig went on to play collegiate football at the University of Colorado, where he was a guard from 1967-70.

In 1970, he was an All Big-Eight selection. He also played in the East-West All-Star Game, the Senior Bowl and the Liberty Bowl. In 1971, Havig was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, and in 1972, he was chosen as a member of the Football Digest's All-Rookie squad.

From 1972 to 1978, Havig continued to play in the NFL for the Falcons, Houston Oilers and Green Bay Packers. His PHS jersey was officially retired in 1975.