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Nobody knew the turf at Lancaster Memorial Stadium as well as the late David Gause.
A coach and educator in the Lancaster County School system for 37 years, Gause, 72, died Saturday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Gause came here as a fresh-out-of-college teacher in 1962. A University of South Carolina graduate, he was hired by the late Wade Corn as an assistant football coach.
While Gause shaped his share of young lives from a classroom and a basketball bench, his biggest impact came on the football field in more ways than one.
He not only roamed the sidelines shouting words of encouragement to junior high, B-team and junior varsity players for more than a quarter of a century, but walked every inch of it more than once to line it off for football games.
A jack-of-all trades coach and mentor who could fix anything, Gause became a fixture in the athletics department at Lancaster High School.
“What he did for us is priceless,” said LHS athletics director Mark Strickland. “If something at that high school was broken – and it didn’t matter what it was – Coach Gause could handle it. He’d tell us not to call anybody, that he’d take care of it himself, and he did. That’s a rare bird these days.”
Strickland said when he first came to LHS from Hartsville High School, it didn’t take too long to learn that Gause meant business in everything related to athletics.
That doesn’t mean Gause didn’t have a sense of humor, Strickland said.
“There was one time where Coach Roscoe was talking to all of us about a line on the field that needed to be fixed, so Coach Gause went and got the line sprayer,” Strickland said. “At the time, the kids were on the field going through drills. One of them wouldn’t move out of his way, so Coach Gause just painted over the top of one of his shoes. It was funny, but he never missed a beat.”
Retired educator Floyd Drum first met Gause in 1969 when he was hired as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach at South Junior High (Middle) School. Drum said the two became fast friends almost immediately.
“One thing for sure, when Dave Gause befriended you, it was more than friendship; it was a commitment,” Drum said. “He’d go out of his way to help you any way he could.”
Although he retired in 2003, Gause had a position of coach emeritus at LHS, said Bruins football coach Bennie McMurray. As long as he was able to attend games, Gause’s truck would be parked by the inside fence near the field house. While McMurray never had a chance to coach with Gause, he knew him well.
“We called several high school basketball games together and I always considered him as a great friend,” McMurray said. “The thing about coaching is once you get it in your blood, it’s hard to get it out. You want to be around the game and the players as much as you can.”
McMurray recalls the time the two of them were assigned to referee varsity basketball contests in Cherokee County between Gaffney and Spartanburg. Since they both lived in Lancaster, they decided to commute. The games went off without a hitch, but just before leaving Gaffney, it started to snow. At the time, McMurray said S.C. 5 was a much narrower highway.
“Coach Gause decided to take 185 back to Charlotte, which was clearly the right choice given the weather. I was just about asleep when we hit a patch of ice going across the Catawba River bridge. When I woke up, we were sliding all over the place. You always remember stuff like that. Coach Gause was just a good guy.” McMurray said laughing.
“He loved the camaraderie of being around it,” said Gause’s son, Gregg Gause. “He loved being around people and sharing the stories that coaches get to share.”
Gregg Gause said his dad had been going through dialysis since 2010.
“He was pretty dependent on the treatments,” Gregg Gause said.
However, that didn’t slow him down. Even after Gause’s health waned, he and Drum hunted and fished together whenever they could. Drum said he nicknamed Gause “Daniel Boone” years ago because he knew the outdoors like the back of his hand.
“Last year, we went to his farm in Florence County. Dave couldn’t get around very good without his walker, but still loved hunting. We sat him in a chair, camouflaged it and his walker and he killed a deer that afternoon,” Drum said. “How’s that for not letting something hold you back?
“I tried to call him back Saturday and got the news,” Drum said. “It’s just a sad, sad time for his family. What a great friend. I hate we lost him.”
There was another side of Gause that many didn’t see. A history and civics teacher early in his career, Gause also taught driver’s education at Lancaster High School. If a student in Gause’s driver’s ed class disregarded traffic signs, Gause would make them pull over, park, get out and go hug the sign.
“He did it all the time,” Drum said. “It sounds kind of funny, but I’ll bet to this day, that’s one sign they remember.”
Stickland recalls the first time he saw Gause do that to a student.
“I was kinda’ shocked because I didn’t know what was happening,” Strickland said. “I had to ask somebody. ”
Gause’s own family wasn’t exempt from the sign-hugging lesson.
“You know, come to think of it, when I was in his class, he got me once for missing a ‘No Parking’ sign,” said Gregg Gause.
Contact copy editor Gregory A. Summers at (803) 283-1156