Alumnus John Leara of St. Louis has always been fascinated by sports. He has recently published a book entitled “Fascination with Balls: The Life and Escapades of John Leara” about his life and experiences as an athlete and coach.
“This means a great deal to me,” John says about getting the book published. “Honesty was foremost in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever lived a lie. So, I’ve disclosed my inner-most feelings for one reason: to share with the common person emotions that they have also experienced.”
John knew he wanted to coach young people. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with majors in marketing and English from Southeast Missouri State University, John found a job teaching secondary English so he could coach as well.
“I was always excited by sports, and coaching was the venue to keep me connected to sports. As teacher and coach, my goal was to have a positive influence on some of the athletes and students, knowing that I could not reach all of them.
“Two football seasons as head coach on the Indian reservation in Sells, Ariz., were my inspiration. Despair played a major roll, but then the 25 Papago Indian athletes who played football those two seasons came together as a team, and, oh, what a story. Those two years were the inspiration that my wife encouraged me to relate. From there, the story grew into all of my ‘escapades,’” John says.
He says he authored the book for his children and grandchildren.
“My career today is husband, father and grandfather. The book is dedicated to my children and grandchildren so that they will know what made me the person I am,” he says.
Before he was a coach, he was a student athlete at Southeast. He was awarded a full football scholarship to the University. In addition to playing football, he studied. Two of the classes he took with two professors in the Department of English, Dr. John Bierk, professor emeritus at Southeast, and Geneva Parmley, inspired him. They took an interest in him and his studies and helped him.
“Both have a special place in my memory,” he says.
Leara selected Southeast because of the scholarship award he received and the beauty of Cape Girardeau.
He makes regular visits to Honolulu and New York City to see his son and daughter respectively. He also enjoys playing golf.
“At age 72, I played the best golf of my life with a dozen or so rounds in the 70s. I just recently bought a dirt bike with which I plan to investigate the many off road trails in the Prescott area. I am still an avid Cardinal baseball fan and keep up with the St. Louis Rams,” he says.
Leara retired from teaching in 1995. He moved to Prescott, Ariz., in 2004, after living in Wentzville, Mo., for 30 years with his wife, Dorci, who co-authored the book. He’s been married to her for 46 years.
His book can be purchased at www.Amazon.com.
To Southeast students, he offers this advice: “Be true to yourself.”