SILVER LAKE — With the exception of time spent in college and later serving in the military, Tom Sittler has lived his entire life in the Silver Lake area. And a good portion of his life was spent coaching high school basketball.
Sittler lives on the backside of the farm he grew up on about a mile and a half south of Silver Lake. The farm faced SR 15 and he lived there with his parents, Paul and Wilgerdia Sittler.
“Dad was a horse trader more than he was into farming,” Sittler said. “He bought and sold draft horses when they were still used for farming.”
Tom Sittler attended school in Silver Lake from kindergarten through high school, graduating in 1952. While at Silver Lake High School, he followed in the footsteps of his father and played basketball for the Silver Lake Ramblers. Paul Sittler played ball in the days before the school even had a gym.
Tom was a three-sport athlete, though, and also played fast pitch softball in the fall and was on the track team in the spring. Dick Beck was the basketball coach at Silver Lake at that time.
Sittler was good enough in basketball to earn a scholarship to play at Valparaiso University. He played all four years of college, graduating in 1956 and earning a degree in physical education.
“I was also qualified to teach math,” he added.
His first teaching stint came in the small town of Hinckley, Ill., where he remained for one year before joining the U.S. Army in June 1957.
He served in the Army during the Cold War era and pulled armed guard duty at a base in New Mexico where atomic weapons were kept. He recalled it being a quite somber time and guards had to use special passwords when entering secured areas.
After two years in the Army, Sittler returned to Indiana and began coaching and teaching during the 1959-60 school year at Atwood High School. He would remain there through the 1960-61 school year.
Next stop was at Pierceton High School beginning with the 1961-62 school year. Until the end of the 1969-70 school year, he was a coach and teacher.
Then a position for an assistant basketball coach opened at Warsaw Community High School and Sittler accepted it, beginning with the 1970-71 school year. He remained there until 1979, leaving coaching for a few years and only teaching at Warsaw during that time.
After heeding some advice, he came back to coaching and accepted a position at Manchester High School beginning in the fall of 1979. During his time at the helm of the Manchester Squires, the team had some tremendous talent and won two sectional titles in the era before class basketball began.
Following the 1983-84 school year, Sittler decided he no longer wanted to coach. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” he said. He continued to teach at Manchester, though, until 1993.
From 1959 until 1993, Sittler taught either physical education or math in high schools and was a coach for most of that time. For two years after leaving Manchester High School, he taught at Ivy Tech and then retired.
Since 1997, he has been an employee of Whetstone Woodenware in Silver Lake where he cuts wood used in making various products such as cooking utensils. “I’ve always liked working with wood,” he said. “I had some experience building houses in construction (while in college).”
Tom and his wife, Pat, have two sons and a daughter, six grandchildren and one great grandchild. Tom’s son Jim also coached basketball and the other son Steve played basketball.
Tom and Pat attend Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church.