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Hernando Youth League founder Ernie Wever dies

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Published:   |   Updated: January 21, 2014 at 07:23 PM

The park that bears his name, home to the baseball league he founded, remains a reminder of Ernie Wever's legacy.

His many years working at SunTrust Bank, his service on the city council and as mayor in Brooksville would be enough to leave a lasting imprint on the county.

But it's his role in the creation of what eventually became Hernando Youth League Inc. that may serve as his greatest contribution to the local community.

"Every time you see a young man or a little boy or a little girl playing any type of sport, I'll always think of Ernie Wever," said Hernando High head baseball coach Tim Sims, who has played, coached and been a director in Hernando Youth League.

On Friday, Wever passed away at HPH Hospice Care Center. He was 88.

Ernest E. Wever Jr. was born May 23, 1925 in Yazoo City, Miss. and came to Brooksville 56 years ago by way of Jackson, Miss.

A bank examiner with FDIC covering the southeast, in October 1957 he started working at Hernando State Bank, now SunTrust.

He was a member of the board of directors, with duties including operations officer, internal controls, personnel and investment officer and assisted customers and made loans to many government-run entities in Hernando and Citrus counties.

He was also once a 2nd Lt. Bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and had stints serving as president of PTAs, Brooksville Rotary, the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and the West Central Florida Chapter Bank Administration Institute.

Her served on the Brooksville City Council, including terms as mayor, in 1998 and 2002.

"He was just a really nice guy and loved children probably more than most men I've ever met," said June Ester, a county commissioner during Wever's political career. "The dedication he had for the children, and it didn't happen one year, two years, three years, he did it for decades. Even when his kids were grown he was still coaching."

In 1958, Wever established a Dixie Little Boys franchise operating out of Hernando High's Emerson Field.

He remained baseball director through 1970. Two years later, Hernando Youth League was incorporated and he became the association's president for many years.

"He's the founder of youth baseball in Hernando County," said Nature Coast head softball coach Ernie Chatman. "He was task-oriented, willing to do anything for anybody to help them better their programs. He was tireless."

Chatman, a Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Famer who has previously coached numerous sports at Parrott Middle School, Hernando High and Hernando Christian Academy over the past five decades, was involved with Hernando Youth League for more than 30 years, as a player, coach and director.

His coaching resume includes a World Series title in the Majors (ages 17-19) division in 1983, but his career began as a 19-year-old put in charge of a Hernando Youth League squad.

"He was the one responsible for me getting started in coaching," Chatman said of Wever. "I could go on and on about what he did for me and my programs."

Sims and City of Brooksville parks/facilities and recreation director Mike Walker, the current president and Brooksville baseball director of Hernando Youth League, both played for Chatman and were members of that 1983 championship squad.

They both fondly recalled Wever and his work with the league.

"He was very instrumental in what we have today for youth. All you can say is 'Thank you,'" Walker said. "He was a man to look up to. He had a vision, he had a passion.

"Untouchable; passionate and willing to give everything he had for the dream he wanted to accomplish, and it got done and is still living."

"Basically, he's the guy," Sims said. "He's the definition of Hernando Youth League. A nonprofit, volunteer operation that gives back to the community; Mr. Wever was the definition of that."

Hernando Youth League now extends to softball, football and soccer, with Dixie leagues operating out of Ridge Manor and Spring Hill.

Ernie Wever Youth Park, tucked away near the PHCC campus off U.S. Highway 98, is a primary base for Hernando Youth League's Brooksville operations.

Not only was Wever pivotal in securing the land at what was at the time called Stringer Hill, Chatman recalled Wever's countless hours of physical labor in the construction of the park, which opened in 1982.

Walker and Sims both felt that without Wever, Hernando Youth League simply wouldn't exist.

"Somebody might have done something, but who knows what it would have been like?" Chatman said. "With his guidance, it made what we did happen sooner and in a more structural way."

Wever is survived by two sons, Kevin and Bryan; his daughter Pam Anderson; step-daughter Maurene Miller; five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A memorial gathering will be held Thursday, from 5 to 6 p.m., at Merritt Funeral Home, Brooksville Chapel, where a memorial service will begin at 6 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hernando Youth League.

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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