Blackfoot champion has lived a full life
BLACKFOOT — It has been over 70 years since Bill Twitchell made the winning basket to lead Blackfoot High School to an Idaho state basketball championship.
Since then Twitchell has been a collegiate athlete, a soldier, a coach and a horseman. He has also worked on a movie set and he and his wife, the former Dorothy Jane Wray, have travelled extensively.
"The one thing I learned from my dad was, 'son, give it 110 percent and you'll always have a job," Twitchell said.
Born Billye Twitchell near what is now the Sixth Grade School in Blackfoot, he grew to 6-foot-1 and participated in football, basketball and track.
After his junior year at BHS, Twitchell recalled that his coach told him, "Twitch, if you ever get over that bad back, we'll win the state basketball championship."
Twitchell did and the Broncos did.
"We beat Boise by two points," Twitchell recalled.
"I was the shortest center in the state of Idaho, but we decided we were going to run them to death and that's what we did," he said.
The account of the Daily Bulletin read, "Twitchell's neat loop from the foul circle, after each team had missed a previous try in the overtime period, gave Blackfoot its win."
The game was played at Reed Hall on the Idaho State campus.
Joining Twitchell on the all-tournament team after that season were Bronco teammate Bill Bergeson, Darrel Parente of Boise, Don Duncan of Boise and Dick Kelley of Bonners Ferry.
Between his last year of high school and his first year of college at Utah State Twitchell worked as a cook on the set of the movie "Northwest Passage" in McCall.
He then headed to Logan where he played four years of football. He did well enough that he was drafted by the New York Giants.
"But Uncle Sam had a different team for me," he recalled.
During his years at Utah State, Twitchell was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He eventually went to Europe, where he was wounded. After healing in a stateside hospital, its commander asked him to be the rehabilitation officer.
He was ticketed for Japan when the war ended.
Instead, he went to Fort Lewis, Wash., for the next four years. There he coached football and boxing, winning numerous championships. One of the boxers he trained was Rocky Marciano, who later won a world title.
Following his stint at Fort Lewis, Twitchell and his family moved to Indiana where he earned a master's degree at Purdue.
He then moved on to the Purdue extension branch in Fort Wayne, the place where the Twitchell family lived until he and his wife moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, about 30 years ago.
While at Fort Wayne, Twitchell coached junior high athletes, preparing them for their athletic futures. His players won several city championships in football and many went on to success at the high schools in the city.
At the end of his career Twitchell coached a girls' volleyball team. Although he had never coached girls, that team went undefeated.
"Bill got to do everything he wanted to do and he did it well," Jane recalled.
After retiring he bought an Apaloosa and trained it. He then rode that horse in the Indianapolis 500 parade 15 years in a row.
Shortly after taking his athletic skills to Utah State, Billye and Jane married. They did so on a Saturday, repeating their vows in Moreland in the morning. That afternoon he and the Aggies played a game. Bill suffered a broken nose and was bathed in blood when Jane next saw him at game's end.
"It's been a full and interesting life," Jane said with a smile.
Bill and Jane raised two children, Terry and Gary. They have lived in Salt Lake City the past 30 years.
Speaking of Bingham County's youngsters, Twitchell said, "They can aspire to whatever they want," repeating his father's advice to give their all in everything they try.