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
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
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
Retirement didn’t mean slowing down for Jerry. Instead,
he bought a ranch and increased his herd. He stayed active until his
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
“Till they throw me out,” she said.
That doesn’t look to be any time soon.