TOP STORYBC icon remembered by friends, coaches

Leanne Cave

Friends spoke passionately about the impact that Gil Bishop, former director of athletics and basketball coach at Bakersfield College who died April 17 at the age of 88, had on the community during his memorial service on Monday.

“A lot of you have great memories and stories to tell about Gil,” said Don Pruett, during the service at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Bakersfield. “Gil contributed quality to our community. He was extremely loyal to his family and friends and gave his time and leadership to East Bakersfield High School, Bakersfield College and San Jose State University.”

“There were only a few things that Gil would not do. He would not mow the lawn or clean out the flowerbeds, he was not a gardener. He would not allow a salesman to pay for lunch,” Pruett said.

Bishop moved to Bakersfield in 1942 and accepted the position of head basketball coach and track coach as well as director of athletics at East Bakersfield High School. He established a winning basketball and track tradition while serving at EBHS.

In 1953, Bishop accepted the position of director of athletics at BC and served as head basketball coach of the Renegades. He also produced winning teams while coaching at BC.

According to Walt Johnson, a former BC coach, he also is credited with designing the three-quarter-length letterman’s jacket, worn by many athletes.

Bob Covey, Bishop’s friend and BC track coach, remembered Bishop’s great sense of humor, but more than that his public address “voice” at local and major sporting events.

Bishop was the “voice” at what Covey said was the “Golden Age of BC.”

“Gil was the greatest track-and-field announcer in the world. He always built up the athletes to their greatest potential. Gil once started a race with, ‘Gentlemen, start your engines,’ ” Covey said.

Covey credits Bishop with helping to establish the “state-of-the-art” track at BC. Bakersfield College became the track capital of the world because of Bishop, he said, drawing top-notch athletes to Bakersfield.

Johnson remembered Bishop as one who got the job done, a real decision maker.

“Gil has organizational skills second to none. He didn’t need a committee to get the job done,” Johnson said. “We never ordered equipment, Gil ordered everything.

“Gil was a model for willingness to serve people for his fellow colleagues because of his attitude,” Johnson continued. “He liked to work with people that needed his help.

“What a lot of people don’t know about Bishop is that he had musical talent,” he said. “Gil wrote songs and while at San Jose State, produced several musicals. Glenna, Gil’s sister, tells me that Gil’s mother taught him to play music by ear.”

Sybil Hilton, a friend and colleague, said that Bishop was efficient and intelligent.

“Gil will be remembered and admired for his warmth and for his love for family, friends and students. He will be with us all forever.”

Bishop is survived by his wife, Bettie; his daughter, Janis, and her husband, Steve Roberts; his son, Rob and wife, Lynn; sister Glenna and her husband, Ted Scheer; granddaughter Sara and her husband, Louie Lomonaco; granddaughter Robin and her husband, Cris Liesch; great-grandchildren Victoria and Adam Lomonaco; and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the Bakersfield College Athletic Foundation, 1801 Panorama Drive, Bakersfield, 93305.