Happy birthday, Deacon

Deacon Duvall, Fairmont State football coaching legend, stands beside the new high-definition television his wife Joan gave him for his 90th birthday Thursday. Duvall is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame and West Virginia Sports Writers Hall of Fame. He played for the Falcons back in the 1930s. The retired coach received his present somewhat early so he could enjoy all the holiday bowl games.

Deacon Duvall reached a milestone Thursday.

The legendary Fairmont State football coach, an icon in his home community and the state as well, reached his 90th birthday.

And how was he planning to celebrate this big day?

“Joan and I are going out to eat, and then we’re going to see ‘We Are Marshall,’” he said,

That’s Deacon. A football film, of course.

It has been 36 years since Duvall last coached Fairmont State, but he remains as beloved in the community today as he ever was, even though many of his friends and contemporaries have passed on.

And to what does the esteemed former football coach attribute his longevity?

“I think the secret is having a good family and a good wife to take care of me,” he said with a big smile. “If they didn’t take care of me, I don’t know what might have happened.”

He said he really appreciates his wife, Joan, former educator and member of the Marion County Board of Education

Actually, both Joan and Deacon are former board members, although his time served came back in the 1980s — prior to hers.

“I taught in the department of physical education and health, and I think I followed some of those principles (that he taught). ... Trying to watch your weight and diet. And it always helps to have good genes,” he said.

Duvall says his mother lived to be 94 and his father 77.

“My mother had a brother who was 96 when he passed away,” he recalled, “and she had a sister who lived to be 94.”

Duvall has one sister living in Chester, Va., who is 80.

His daughter, Susan Mauro, resides in Alpharetta, Ga. — 50 miles north of Atlanta. She has three grown children.

Duvall is still active in keeping his farm up. And, naturally, he still loves football.

“I watched so many games over the bowl season that I can’t remember them all,” he said. But he labeled Boise State’s come-from-behind overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona as probably the most exciting of the bowl games.

“I got a big thrill watching that Boise State team,” he said.

And he was extremely impressed with West Virginia’s strong comeback triumph against Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl game in Jacksonville, Fla.

Duvall coached at Fairmont State from 1952-1971. His teams won a total of 125 games while losing only 42 with three ties.

His Falcon teams won eight West Virginia Conference championships during his reign — 1952, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969.

Duvall’s 1964 team qualified for the NAIA playoffs and traveled to Minneapolis where it lost to St. John’s of Minnesota, 27-7. His 1967 Fighting Falcon squad won the NAIA championship with a 28-21 victory over Eastern Washington.

E-mail John Veasey at jcveasey@timeswv.com.

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