Fan of Prairie Fire Athletics
Knox College has always been home to Pete Thierry.
"Where third base is at the Knox baseball field is where our house used to sit.
I was born and raised right there," he said. "I lived on Central Street."
Thierry, 74, a black man who stands about 5-foot-5, has short black hair tinged with gray and white, a black mustache and an ever-present pair of black Gucci glasses, has been attending Knox games for the past 57 years.
"It is just a school that I was born close to and it became a part of my life," he said. "I had a cousin, Binky Johnson, who played for Knox. He was from East Moline. I followed him all four years he played at Knox."
Thierry, a 1953 Galesburg High School graduate, is a former Silver Streaks basketball and baseball star. He also played football for one year, but he would not have if it were not for the Knox connection.
"I weighed 100 pounds and was the starting quarterback my sophomore year. Before the football season, Bill Heerde, who played for Knox and was from Knoxville, taught me how to throw a football. He was a quarterback," Thierry said. "I went to the old Galesburg High School, which is where the Public Safety Building is now, and I would cut across through Knox to go to school. I would always stop and watch them practice football."
Heerde is not the only Knox athlete Thierry has bonded with over the years. For three years, he played summer league softball with Knox's athletic director and head football coach, Chad Eisele, who graduated from Knox in 1993.
"Pete has been a long time supporter of Knox and someone I associate with Knox as far back as I remember," Eisele said. "When I was head football coach at Lake Forest, Pete always made a point to come see me before the [Knox] game. We stayed in contact. Pete is someone I always enjoyed having an opportunity to see. He truly cares about the student-athletes at Knox and someone I consider a great friend of Knox College."
Upon his graduation from GHS, Thierry attended Monmouth College and played halfback for former Fighting Scots football coach Bobby Woll.
"It is kind of funny, I went to Monmouth for a year. I was born and raised in Galesburg and was supposed to go to Knox, but I didn't," he said. "My heart is still here in Galesburg for Knox. Knox is still home to me."
Thierry only stayed in Monmouth for a year, because the summer after his freshman year, he got a job at Admiral, which later became Maytag.
"I was getting those big paychecks and I told myself I would sit out a year and go back but I never did," Thierry said. "I worked at Admiral/Maytag for 30-some odd years."
While working at Maytag, and to this day, Thierry attends Knox athletic events as well as Galesburg High School, Monmouth College, Carl Sandburg College, Lombard Middle School and Churchill Junior High. He also is a regular at Galesburg American Legion baseball games and Junior Football League games.
"I think that Pete for all the time I have known him has been one of the most sincere supporters of Galesburg athletics in general," said Harley Knosher, a Knox coaching legend and former athletic director, who met Thierry when he first moved to Galesburg to coach at Knox. "He is a supporter of young people and a positive force in the lives of lots of kids. He admires them, and it makes kids feel good. It is always fun to see him, because he always has a smile on his face and the expectation that the teams are going to do well."
Thierry has gone to so many games over the years he has lost count.
"To put a number on it would be tough. It just depends on the schedule," said Thierry, who was inducted into the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Friend of GHS Athletics" in 2005. "It seems like when I go to games, I just form a bond, a friendship with the players and coaches. They more or less expect me to be there."
For the past decade, Thierry has had to miss games due to health issues. He has had eight surgeries on his left knee, which he is unable to bend anymore. In 2008, he had a total right hip replacement.
"The toughest part when I was laid up was the fact I could not go to any games and that really killed me," Thierry said. "I'm still recuperating from my hip replacement."
Due to scheduling conflicts, Thierry cannot support all the teams that he would like so he has to prioritize. He first chooses to attend GHS games, then Knox games and then he goes from there.
Not only does he attend games in the 'Burg, but he also sometimes travels to away games to watch the teams he supports. When he cannot go to games, he listens to them on the radio. Sometimes, he even attends practices.
"When I go to watch basketball practice at Knox, someone will bring me a chair," he said.
Ben Wetherbee, a junior at Knox and a guard on the Prairie Fire men's basketball team, is appreciative of Thierry's support at practice and games.
"When I got here to campus I introduced myself and whenever he comes to a game I thank him for coming. He knew my dad when he was going here," Wetherbee said. "He is at practice quite a lot. We try and make him feel as comfortable as possible. He sometimes finds his own chair, but it is just something that we do; just anything to show him how happy we are for the support he shows us even through the rough times that we have been having lately.
"He is a very loyal guy to our basketball program. Hopefully in the next few years, he will see us getting to where we want to go."
This profile appeared in "Galesburg Is Knox: Breaking the Bubble," a senior captstone project by Knox College student Matthew Wheaton '10 that explored connections between the city of Galesburg and Knox. View more of Wheaton's project.
Photograph of Pete Thierry by Evan Temchin '10.