Bio: Bandor, Gary (Football Jersey Returns Home – 2015)
----Source: THORP COURIER (Thorp, Clark County, Wis.) 08 Jul 2015
Each and every athletics program at Thorp High School has seen many celebrated athletes come and go throughout the school's history, each showcasing great talent and dedication their their sport. But one name still stands out as a legend amongst the greats: Gary Bandor.
In the early 1960's, a charismatic young man named Gary Bandor became a part of the thriving Cardinals' Athletics programs. A relatives small athlete, Bandor surprised everyone with his speed, agility, and natural talent in every sport he participated in. Even though he set school records in track and in basketball, including a 535-point season, his senior year, and a career total of 1,505 points, it was football he was most known for.
Serving as the school's quarterback his junior and senior years, proudly displaying number 11 on his back, Bandor was incredibly agile, quick to respond, and sharp with his passes. His final two years as a Cardinal, Bandor led his team to the Sectional Finals both years, earning him a spot on the All-Conference First Team three years running, WSAU All-Star Team and a spot on the Prep All-America Honorable Mention Team. The young man lived and breathed Thorp Athletics, and his dedication showed with every performance in every game.
As Bandor removed his jersey one last time, the Thorp School District did something it had never done before, and has yet to do again.. The Cardinals officially retired the number 11 jersey from Thorp football.
The story of Gary Bandor lived on, encapsulated in photos, trophies, and plaques with engravings of his illustrious name. The case full of athletic memorabilia became even more valued and cherished after Bandor was killed in a tragic car accident in 1968. Over the decades that followed, Bandor’s iconic jersey and awards remained behind glass; however, while the cases were emptied to be cleaned some years ago, the #11 jersey went missing.
In the years that followed, word got out that the iconic part in Thorp’s history was nowhere to be found. During the 100 years of Boy Basketball alumni event, a conversation between an alum and Thorp’s basketball coach, Rich Sonnentag, set in motion something miraculous.
Even though the red #11 jersey was seemingly gone, there was another jersey out in the world. In the 1960’s, Bandor gifted his white football jersey to his high school girlfriend. The jersey stayed in her family’s safekeeping over the years. The family knew just how much the aging white jersey had become a quintessential part of Thorp’s athletic past, which made them all the more determined to let the spirit of Gary Bandor live on in the excitement of many championship games members of their family competed in throughout the years, with Bandor’s jersey with them for good luck.
Understanding how much Bandor's legacy was still living on in their hometown, the family allowed Mesquite Pub and Grill in Thorp to have a turn at displaying the jersey and holding it in their safe-keeping before permanently donating Bandor's jersey to the Thorp School District, where it would live on as a revered part of the school's history, sitting amongst Bandor's other memorabilia.
Thanks to the generous donation, Thorp's sole retired jersey has returned home, where it will watch over the next generations of talented athletes who are each striving to be the next Cardinal legend.
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