JOY HAMPTON

Progress Correspondent



INOLA — There’s an empty seat on the front row of bleachers in the Inola High

School gym. Once occupied by the late Jerry Oquin, the seat is still

paid for each year. Charlotte Oquin makes sure of that. She pays for

it, and the seat next to it — her seat. And buys a few other seats as

well.

It’s not that Charlotte has to pay to attend basketball

games at Inola. After all, the scorekeeper gets in free. But she and

Jerry supported the Longhorn basketball program most of their adult

lives, and she’s not going to stop writing those checks now.

“We’ve always been basketball enthusiasts,”

Charlotte said. “I’ll buy those seats as long as I’m able to buy them.”

Jerry Oquin was born in Porter, but he grew up

and attended school in Inola, starting first grade at the old Shady

Grove School. He played basketball on the first Inola High School

team to go to the state tournament, in 1959, his senior year.

Charlotte knew him then. A year younger, she played ball

at Oologah. The schools were rivals, but the pair never really

talked until college. The couple fell in love and married while at

Northeastern State. Charlotte finished her senior year a married woman

while Jerry earned his masters degree.

A teacher, Jerry began his career in Burbank, in Osage County,

where he taught for a year before moving on to Claremore in 1964. He

taught sixth grade for three years at Claremont Elementary where he

also coached the sixth-grade basketball team. Back then, the kids

practiced outside — they didn’t have a gym.

In 1967, at age 26, Jerry became principal at Inola

Elementary where he taught sixth grade, coached basketball and drove

a bus. At home, he milked a small herd of cows, and on weekends he

worked as a security guard at the nearby lock and damon the McClellan-Kerr waterway. Eventually, he moved

on to the middle school and high school where he taught and

worked as an administrative assistant until his retirement in 1992.

Jerry was instrumental in selecting the design of the

new Inola High School gymnasium. He looked at other gyms and

considered Inola’s needs. Problem was, at some point during

construction, the school realized that it did not have the money to put

seats inside the gym. Not one to give up easily, Jerry came up with

a plan.

During the fall of 1986, the community met on the

football field. There was a chart with seats numbered on it. An

auctioneer sold the seats to the public.

“A lot of those people still pay for those seats today,”

said Charlotte, who pointed out that without strong support from the

Inola community, Jerry’s plan would have been a flop. “Some people

contribute who don’t come to a game.”

The 1987-88 school year, the new gym was in use. Folks

in Inola still speak of it with pride. After Jerry died from

congestive heart failure on Dec. 30, 2002, it was suggested that

the gym should be named for him, but Charlotte didn’t think he

would want that kind of glorification. Instead, they named the

annual Inola invitational basketball tournament in his honor.

“He was a people person,” Charlotte said. “He loved

people, and he was well-liked.”

She noted that he enjoyed playing

practical jokes and doing little ornery things.

When Jerry retired, Charlotte took over one of

his duties at school, the treasurer’s position. She has been doing it

ever since.

Retirement didn’t mean slowing down for Jerry. Instead,

he bought a ranch and increased his herd. He stayed active until his

death.

Son Taft and wife Michelle live east of the ranch where Charlotte

resides. Daughter Kelly and husband Mickey Martin live on

the west side of the ranch. Daughter Stacy and husband Mike Payne

live in Verdigris where she teaches kindergarten and he is

superintendent of Verdigris Public Schools. There are eight grandchildren.

Jerry’s legacy lives on, but Charlotte has been busy

creating a legacy of her own. In the fall of 1971, then-high school

principal Connie Ramsey, who also coached the girls’ basketball team

asked Charlotte if she would keep the scorebook.

“After the game, he asked me if I would do it

permanently,” she said, laughing. “Well, it’s been real permanent.”

“She kept the scorebooks when I was in high school,”

said Longhorns coach Clyde Barkley, who graduated in 1973.

“I haven’t kept every game — some of the away games I

don’t go to,” Charlotte said. “But I don’t remember missing a home

game. I probably did when Jerry was real sick, though, because that

was during basketball season.”

Charlotte doesn’t mind keeping the books. “When our

teams are playing, it keeps me calm,” she said. She kept the books

for the state championship teams in 1996 when the girls won and in

1998 when the boys won.

How long does she intend to continue with her scorebook

duties?

“Till they throw me out,” she said.

That doesn’t look to be any time soon.