50th Edition, Sports

Danny Mendelson: 1951-1958

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

South’s Danny Mendelson award honors a senior athlete whose athletic abilities and devotion to the school are unparalleled. While the award carries the legacy of some of the best student-athletes in the past 50 years, the story of the life of Mendelson himself is moving and tragic.
In 1968, the junior passed away on the last day of school. He had just been elected captain of the Varsity Football team; he had a letter for the Varity Wrestling team and was an All-Star centerfielder for the Varsity Baseball team. His involvement in much of South’s extracurricular offerings and leadership abilities suggested that had an undoubtedly bright future.
The article below was published following Mendelson’s death and offers invaluable insight into the short but influential life of a South legend.

By Denebola Staff, Volume 8
September 25, 1968

Love. Love is an emotion rarely transmitted among casual high school friends; certainly it is less common between a student and his or her teachers. Danny Mendelson meant many things to his numerous friends and teachers. The dominant, emotional response to the name Danny Mendelson is love. Let those who knew him and loved him speak for themselves:
Social Studies teacher Warren Priest eulogized, “What was yesterday’s promise is today’s memory.
“Danny lived by a principle that remained strong with him. He hated sham, pretense. He saw much about him in his young life. He could not walk in the ways of other people. He had to find his own way. His way was different.”
Praised English teacher Slater, “You enjoyed his special summertime that we so seldom dare embrace in our lonely, cautious little worlds.
“To teach him was to accept his challenge, to reciprocate with enthusiasm and conviction—to give the best you had to give.”
Coach Winkler said, “Danny’s radiant personality, his wit, enthusiasm and unselfishness as a member of all athletic teams, were qualities admired by all his teammates and coaches. We were most fortunate to have a young man of Danny’s calibre in our midst.”
Principal William Geer stated, “There are many kinds of success that a 17-year-old boy can achieve.” Mr. Geer added, “And Danny Mendelson attained most of them. He was a gifted athlete, he was noble and warm with his peers, and he was bold and honest in his judgments. Yet these were not his real successes nor his remarkable gift.
“Danny waged a brave, gentle and innocent struggle with all the negative forces of status and cool.
“He was no clever tactician of success who calculated the amount of cool to be had in any act. He charted no grim and self-centered course for success and he seemed oblivious of the grim struggle for cool and status that surrounded him. He was never oblivious of the feelings and qualities of those with whom he came in contact, and so he succeeded in freeing all from the harsh and barren cool.
“Yet, in his youth Danny Mendelson gave this gift to us and asked for no return.”

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