Yogi Garner was fortunate to call Terry Cordell a friend for most of his life, and though Garner was shocked to hear of the 64-year-old Harrison resident's death Tuesday, he wasn't surprised to hear it came following an act of kindness.
Cordell, who served the area sports community as both a former president of the Greater Chattanooga Bowling Association and as the regional coordinator of baseball and softball umpires for the TSSAA, died Tuesday of a massive heart attack. His death came shortly after he worked in the yard of a friend who, because of recent physical issues, could no longer handle the chore.
"That's just Terry Cordell," said Garner, a longtime member of the bowling association. "He was always doing something for someone. He'll be missed in a lot of ways. I don't know anyone who did more for bowling in this city. He was just so involved, and he easily is the most important person in the bowling community in Chattanooga history."
The family will receive visitors today from 2 to 8 p.m. at Turner Funeral Home on Highway 58, and a graveside service will be held at Forest Hills Cemetery in St. Elmo on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Cordell served as president of the GCBA from 1990 until 2008, and he was a prominent figure in the merger of the men's and women's associations into one entity. He became involved with the association in 1980 when he was elected to the board, and he served as secretary/treasurer for nine years before becoming president.
During his time as president, Cordell started the city mixed tournament, founded a scholarship fund for youth bowling, instituted a training seminar for league officers and was instrumental in helping bring four regional tournaments to town. He was a member of the 1992 American Bowling Congress committee that ultimately led to the inclusion of women into the newly formed United States Bowling Congress, a cause he championed for 20 years.
Cordell also was a past president of the Tennessee State Bowling Association and this year was to be the president of the Southeastern Bowling Association, where he served as executive vice president last year.
He was elected to the local and state bowling halls of fame and became a life member of each organization. As a bowler Cordell recorded four 300 games and two 800 series (a high of 816) and recorded a high average of 221 in the 2006-07 season. He also won three city tournament titles, was part of the 1991 Southeast doubles title tandem and was a member of the 2000 scratch team champion at the Southeast tournament in Virginia.
Cordell also was a TSSAA football official for 20 years, starting in 1985, and not long afterward became the coordinator of umpires for southeastern Tennessee. The news of his death was particularly upsetting for Bernard Childress, the state's overseer of softball from the time he went to work for the TSSAA on July 1, 1995, until he moved up to executive director in the summer of 2009.
"I came to know him as a close friend," Childress said. "He meant so much to softball and baseball as the TSSAA's umpire coordinator and assigner for the East Tennessee area. His knowledge of the game, the way he went about knowing the rules and helping umpires get better will be missed. He loved the game. He would not cheat the game."
Mike Richards spent the last 16 years working as a softball umpire for Cordell.
"He wanted you to go out and look the part, from your uniform down to your shoes," Richards said. "He didn't want you going out and representing the TSSAA in clothes that looked like you just pulled them out of your trunk. He was also very, very adamant that he wanted this area to be the best. He didn't want second rate.
"He could get on you, but his whole point was to make you better. That was his main goal. I've got nothing but praise and respect for the man. He was honest and straight up. That's about all you can ask about from anybody."
There are those in both fields who insist he will be a tough act to follow.
"Basically, he was my mentor, the person who got me started in the association and the real reason I got on the board," current GCBA secretary/treasurer Scott Vandiver said. "Terry's death is a huge loss for Chattanooga, not just in the bowling community. He did so much that most people will never know."
Said Childress: "If Terry Cordell told me an umpire was ready to call at the state tournament, he was ready. I didn't bother going about asking anybody else. He was thorough in his evaluations. Probably whoever steps in for him will be someone that's learned from him. It's going to be very, very difficult to find someone better."