Dave Hunter recovering from surgery, missed at Corky Kell

(Credited to Will Hammock of Gwinnett Prep Sports)


Dave Hunter has given up a few of his past duties, most notably with the Georgia High School Association, in recent years, but he still puts his Corky Kell Classic role high on the priority list.

His cardiologist found that out in late July.

“He told me (Friday, July 21) that I was going to have open heart surgery on Monday (July 24),” Hunter said. “I said, ‘Well, I have a Corky Kell meeting on Tuesday.’ He looked at me and said, ‘You had a Corky Kell meeting.’”

Hunter had triple bypass surgery on his heart July 24 — to clear a 90 percent blockage of the anterior interventricular branch of the left coronary artery, known as the “Widowmaker” — and the ensuing recovery will force him to miss his beloved Corky Kell Classic for the first time. Brookwood, where Hunter was the longtime coach, and McEachern were founding schools of the event when it began in 1992, and Hunter promised his friend, the late Corky Kell, that he would oversee the event and keep it going.

The Corky Kell location has changed on occasion when the Georgia Dome wasn’t available (this year’s games are Thursday through Saturday, the latter two days at Georgia State Stadium) and Hunter is excited about this year’s new venue. Unfortunately, he will have to watch the games on WATL-TV this year. Former McEachern coach Jimmy Dorsey, Beverly Postell and I.J. Rosenberg, already actively involved in the event, will absorb the responsibilities normally handled by Hunter, the Corky Kell’s executive director.

“By Monday (of my surgery), I figured out I would be out of the (Corky Kell) for the first time in 25 years,” Hunter said. “I did some things behind the scenes, but we’ve got good people who will get things done. … I’m going to try to watch as much as I can (on TV). I’ll be watching with a different eye than just the games, to make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. But I’m sure everything will be fine. I just have to trust my people, and I do totally. … I’m going to miss the Corky Kell. It’s a labor of love. … If it was possible, I would be there. But by the same token, I have to do what’s best for me and my family.”

The heart issue came to light this summer thanks the persistence of Hunter, and his doctor, who pursued more testing after an initial diagnosis that all was well. The Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Famer recalled a round of golf in late June when he climbed out of a deep trap and it took him two holes to catch his breath. His left arm also hurt during that spell, and similar instances happened twice on a summer vacation to North Carolina.

Hunter didn’t have chest pain with the attacks, just arm pain, but shortened the vacation to have his heart checked out. An EKG and a stress test found nothing, but when the arm pain lingered, a heart catheterization was scheduled. It revealed the blockage and the need for triple-bypass surgery.

“I could have just been playing golf that weekend and died with a 90 percent blockage like that,” Hunter said. “I feel blessed we found it.”

Since his surgery, Hunter has been recovering slowly, but said he’s doing much better. The 72-year-old has been told he will feel better in three months, then experience another improvement at the beginning of the year. He still isn’t driving, sleeps in a recliner because he isn’t permitted to lay flat and can’t “lift anything heavier than a coffee cup.”

It’s a challenge for someone who spent his professional life on the go, juggling a number of roles at the local and state levels.

“Patience is not one of my better virtues,” Hunter said. “I asked the doctor (Monday) if I could go to the (Corky Kell) luncheon (Wednesday) or to the games and he kind of looked at me like, ‘I don’t think so.’ I call (my wife) Beverly my Nurse Nightingale. The doctor looked at her and said, ‘I think you need to keep him at home.’”

While the healing is slow, things are moving in a positive direction. Hunter walks twice daily for a total of 22 to 25 minutes. His spirits are high, even if he is forced to miss the annual high school football showcase he spearheads.

A major reason for his positivity is the support, and prayers, from his family and friends. He said the whole experience has given him a new outlook on life as he patiently waits on clearance to attend a high school football game — his goal is a September game at Brookwood.

“A lot of people were praying for me and I can feel it,” Hunter said. “I’m really fortunate to have so many people care about me. … I’m just thankful to be here. I’m thankful for the prayers people offered up to me. My wife Beverly has been great. My sons have been great. My grandchildren have all visited me. I’m a blessed guy.”

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