A ‘Biggs’ honor for valley’s star athletes
Scholarship given in memory of Tiger standout, WWII casualty
Tyler Stanford feels honored to walk in the footsteps of some of Grand Junction’s greatest athletes, such as Morris Ficklin, Max Kendall, Teo Prinster and Gene Taylor.
Stanford and Jennifer Kelly were the 2010 recipients of the Homer C. “Joe” Biggs Jr. Memorial Award, an annual scholarship recognizing local athletes worth $250 and given Tuesday by the Grand Junction Lions Club.
“You look at all these men who have won the award before me,” Stanford said while pointing to a luncheon table at Two Rivers Convention Center filled with past recipients, “I hope that I might turn out to be as good of a man as them.”
The club invited many past recipients of the award to the luncheon and recognized their lifetime achievements.
Among the crowd, Morris Ficklin was the first recipient of the award on June 1, 1944. He traveled from Denver with his daughter to attend the luncheon. Ficklin was an all-star athlete at the University of Utah who later fought in World War II.
Also in attendance was Max Kendall, who received the award in 1945. He fought in the war and played football for Mesa College, where he earned all-conference honors as a halfback in 1946. Shortly thereafter, he became a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club and has been an active member for more than 50 years.
Teo Prinster was given the award in 1946. He used the money to play football at the University of Utah, with Ficklin, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War.
After receiving his scholarship in 1951, Gene Taylor became a professional baseball player who recently was inducted into the Colorado Baseball Hall of Fame.
Other past award winners who attended the luncheon included Jerry McClurg, Steve and Pete Cyphers, Ron Kovach, Jason Stanfield and Ky Oday. Together, they have a long list of personal achievements and community contributions.
They have all upheld the responsibility of living their lives with the “tenacity of a tiger,” in the way that Joe Biggs lived his, said Lion Joe Marak.
As new award recipients, Stanford and Kelly were charged with carrying on Biggs’ legacy and were given a copy of “Tenacity of a Tiger: The Joe Biggs Story” by Lion Trish Marak.
The book details Biggs’ accomplished life, including his service as senior class president and football standout at Grand Junction High School, his years playing all-conference football at Colorado College for famed coach W.T. “Bully” Van de Graaff, and his joining up with the Lions Club in 1940.
Biggs volunteered for the Army Air Corps during the war, flying a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber on nine successful missions. He and five crew members died on their 10th mission, May 13,1943, near Fleselles, France. His body was buried four times before it was laid to rest in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
Shortly after his death, the Grand Junction Lions Club began giving the Biggs scholarship. There have been 96 scholarships given in the past 66 years.