Long-time Elkhart coach recognized at Martin Luther King Jr. Day event

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated in many ways today.

More than 250 were on hand at the Community Missionary Church honoring the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr.

It also involved paying tribute to retired Elkhart Central football coach Tom Kurth.

The local chapter of the Indiana Back Expo honored him with the Ben Barnes Community Service Award.

A number of former students and players spoke about the role Kurth played in their lives, helping them in the classroom and athletic field, getting them to college and later helping them become community leaders.

“I always tried to use athletics in general as a vehicle to get to these young men that I worked with, to show them what life was all about and use that as a springboard, to help them succeed in life,” Kurth said.

"How to be a gentlemen, be good in school, get them a college education, and then sit back and watch them go into the communities, like many of these guys are here today,” Kurth said about his goals when he worked with youth.

Over the years, he served as a father figure for many of his players as well as a role model and had a major impact on their lives then and well into the future.

“He put us in position to be successful in D-1 colleges and to get a quality education,” said former football player Garvin Roberson. “That is fairness. I don't care how you spell it.”

j.r shelt/former football player/ “Coach Kurth meant everything to me. There's only one man that I aspired to be like, and that was Coach Kurth,” said J.R. Shelt, another former football player. “He showed me the right way to do things, and he show me that I needed to help others.”

The 80-year-old kurth changed many lives. In his 51 years of coaching, Kurth helped hundreds of student athletes get into college.

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