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July 8, 2012

Athletics were his ticket to education

DUNCAN — In his play “As You Like It,” William Shakespeare wrote the line “And one man in his time plays many parts.”

For Andy Cary Jr., he has taken on the role of educator, athlete, serviceman, husband, father among others during his 90 years of living.

Born on June 30, 1922, to Andy Cary Sr. in Marlow, Cary Jr. was the second oldest of nine children in his family. In second grade he moved to Duncan, where he found a love for athletics, especially track.

“I was mostly a half-mile runner when I started running track,” Cary Jr. said. “When I started winning then I started to both the 440 and 880 which just made me better as an athlete.”

During his time as a Duncan Demon from 1939-1942, Cary Jr. won four Class A state titles in the 880-yard dash and the 440-yard dash. But, Cary’s talents weren’t just limited to long distance running, he was also captain of the Duncan Demons basketball team,  playing center, and a member of the Demons baseball team.

After graduating from Duncan High School, Cary Jr. attended the University of Oklahoma and also was on its track team.

“He was offered a four-year scholarship to go run track for Oklahoma,” Cary Jr.’s wife Virginia said. “If that scholarship hadn’t have come about, then Andy wouldn’t have been able to attend college at all.”

However, in 1943, freshmen were not allowed to compete in college athletics, posing a problem for Cary Jr.

“Freshmen were not eligible in any way to compete in any sport when I first arrived at OU,” Cary Jr. said. “I would go to the track meets, but I wasn’t allowed to compete at any events. My first track meet was in Lincoln, Nebraska after all the coaches got together and changed the ruling for freshman in every sport that they were allowed to participate. I was a very lucky man when they changed the ruling.”  

He was the first freshman to compete and win a collegiate track event for OU and the Big Six conference, including a conference championship.

After conquering track at the collegiate level, Andy took his talents and service to the United States Naval Academy, where he served on active duty in Japan for five years. He left after completing six years of service.

“I helped set up a garrison boat pool, which was for boat transportation,” Cary Jr. said. “There was always sounds of boats coming in and out of my ears. I was lucky in the sense that most of my service happened near the end of the war. When I got out of the service I moved back to Duncan because that’s where my parents lived.”

Upon his return to Stephens County in 1951, Cary Jr. began serving as the principal for Lee Elementary School, until his retirement in 1986.

During his time as an administrator, he met Virginia, and they married on April 16, 1952. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.

“I actually wasn’t introduced to Andy at first, because we were both dating other people,” Virginia said. “The only reason I knew of him was through the bowling league. One of my friends actually brought me to see him at the bowling alley in August. It was love at first sight, because he reminded me of my uncle. He was very quiet so I had to do all the talking.”

After retirement, Cary Jr. continued to excel at sports with his skills in bowling. He proudly claims a record of bowling three perfect games, which eventually earned him a spot in the Oklahoma Bowling Hall of Fame in 1987. That was also the year he was inducted into the Duncan High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Before his time at Lee Elementary ended, Cary Jr. received an unexpected surprise. It was May 6, 1986 and the school district recognized his longevity by renaming Lee as the Andy Cary Elementary School. Even though the school continues to be known as Lee Elementary, Cary Jr. said he was humbled and surprised.

“I honestly thought they were joking about doing it, because it wasn’t that important to me having the school renamed,” he said.

“But when I showed up and saw they had done it then it was very humbling for me. I honestly didn’t want it renamed after me, but it meant a lot that the people wanted me to have that honor.”

“It gave me a great joy seeing those kids accomplish the things they did when I was at Lee,” Cary Jr. said.

“We were sending about 100 or so kids up to the junior high every year so that was very exciting. I loved being able to be around them, and every now and again I’ll run into some of the kids I taught at the school which always brings back some good memories for me.”

 Now, he has another set of youth who he enjoys spending time with. Andy and Virginia have nine children, and are grandparents of eight great-grandchildren.

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