Norwin track coach Harry ‘Bucky’ Hickle included family in passion

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Monday, August 24, 2020 | 5:45 PM


A championship family man and a championship coach, Harry Hickle was loyal to his loved ones and his student-athletes.

If Norwin’s track and field teams were winning — and they won a lot — he was happy.

Victories by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates and Notre Dame didn’t hurt, either.

Watching his athletes run around the oval and win races and meets, from the nervous starting blocks to the thrill of the final lap, was what made his day.

He had all of his athletes, from the runners and sprinters, to the jumpers and pole-vaulters, well trained for the top meets.

But he made sure his family came along for the ride.

“My dad would take his three young boys to his Norwin High School Saturday morning track practice, where we could run around and dream big,” said Hickle’s son, Dr. Patrick Hickle. “And then he would take us ‘down the street,’ as he referred to downtown Irwin, to the Colonial Grille for breakfast.”

Harry Hickle, known to many as “Bucky,” died Wednesday at his Irwin home, surrounded by family. Also a former teacher at Norwin, he was 83.

Hickle battled Lewy body dementia, years after he beat cancer to the finish line. He had a lung removed in 2005 and recovered.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ruby, and their children, Barbara (Hurrell), Patrick, David and Dan, and six grandchildren.

His body will be donated to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School for research.

Hickle is enshrined in the Norwin Athletics Hall of Fame. He led the Knights boys track team to a WPIAL title and PIAA runner-up finish in 1977.

The Knights mile- and two-mile relay teams captured first-place finishes that season. The mile team consisted of Tom Coyne, Jim Mason, Rick Opdyke and John Bilesimo. The two-milers were Bill Opdyke, Jack Cade, Mason and Rick Opdyke, who posted the 12th-best time in the country that season.

“I remember my mother getting us out of elementary school early so all four of us kids could go watch his track team meets,” Patrick Hickle said.

Harry Hickle was a three-sport athlete at North Huntingdon, graduating in 1954 before attending West Virginia Wesleyan, where he played quarterback on the freshman team.

A physical education teacher who helped mold a mean, soft-shoeing social dance class, he retired in 1996 after 38 years.

Storytelling was one of his defining characteristics, and he often added a touch of humor to track tales that stretched back years.

Hempfield has been a long-time rival to Norwin in track, and that was intensified because Hickle’s children went to Hempfield.

“The night before each meet he would predict the results of each event and strategize how to ensure victory,” Patrick Hickle said.

Harry Hickle was the 1977 Western Pennsylvania Track Council Coach of the Year. The Knights won four Westmoreland County titles under his leadership.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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