The northern Michigan sports community lost an MHSAA officiating legend of 56 years, as Terry Wakeley passed away on Sunday at the age of 77 following a battle with cancer.
Wakeley had an impact on the northern Michigan community from the very beginning. The Grayling native began his officiating career in 1964 and founded the North Central Officials Association in 1987.
“It wasn’t easy to referee in this area because we didn’t have an association,” longtime MHSAA official Butch Brown said. “We had to be members of Petoskey, and Terry used to say, ‘We’ll start our own, we’ll start our own,’ and so we did. Terry started a association and the rest is history.”
“It wasn’t just the Grayling community. He got involved anywhere from Alpena to Gaylord, down to Houghton Lake,” former Houghton Lake athletic director Jack Kramer said. “He became known within the communities. He established those relationships, not just with coaches and with players, but with spectators in the stands and they respected him for that.”
On top of the numerous games he officiated in high school, Wakeley also had the opportunity to officiate the 1997 Class D state finals and the 1989 football state finals. It was more than just another job for him.
“He’d show up in the morning. He’d ref all day from the morning until into the evening and his passion and enthusiasm never wavered. It stayed the same the entire time. You don’t come across guys like that anymore,” said Mio boys basketball coach Ty McGregor, who also remembered Wakeley from when McGregor played at Mio.
It was never about the recognition for Wakeley, but he earned multiple honors as an official. In 2007, he received the MHSAA Vern Norris Award, which is presented to an athletic official with 20 or more years with the MHSAA at the high school level. He is also a 2001 inductee for the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame, a nomination he received from the winningest boys basketball coach in state history, Beaverton’s Roy Johnston.
Wakeley was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in mid-March and lost his battle with cancer on May 9, 2021. His legacy lives on through on the lives he touched.
“He’s a hero to me, so to see that he’s also a hero to a lot of other people too is just shows the true person that he actually is and what he has instilled in others with his passion for what he does,” his son Scott Wakeley said. “It’s been really amazing to see.”