Noblitt took Wildcats to first 2 state tourneys


Jasper has long established itself as one of the richest and most prolific baseball towns in Indiana. The Wildcats hold the state record for the most sectional championships (38) and semistate championships (14) in history. This longstanding tradition all began with one man at the helm more than 50 years ago, when he took Jasper to the IHSAA Final Four in its first two years of existence.

The late Don Noblitt was born Aug. 5, 1937, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His parents, however, could not afford to keep him. Homer and Phila Noblitt of Indiana adopted Don, and brought him to the Hoosier State, where he placed his stamp in young people’s lives in athletics and academics.

Herald archives
Don Noblitt, 1967

Don’s widow, Alice, thought the adoption shaped the kind of man her husband was.

“He knew how it felt to be adopted, and he was adopted by a wonderful couple, and he said, ‘I wouldn’t hurt them for anything,’” Alice said. “He had a lot more patience with kids than normal teachers have.”

Don graduated from Rockville in 1955. Alice met him at Indiana State University, where he played baseball and basketball. She called it, “love at first sight.” The two wed in 1958. Don taught at Parker and Middlebury before becoming a mainstay in Jasper. Alice takes credit — or at least she likes to think — for bringing her husband here. Jasper is, after all, her hometown.

Alice told The Herald that Don loved all sports, but he really liked baseball. She knows how pleased he was when the Wildcats went to state in the first-ever IHSAA tournament in 1967. The clincher came on June 13, 1967, when the Wildcats held off Terre Haute Gerstmeyer, 3-1, on their very own Recreation Field.

The Wildcats didn’t win a state championship in baseball until 1996, but Don got it all started by taking them to state in 1967 and 1968. They fell one game short of reaching the championship game both times he was there, but Alice thought Don took the losses well.

“He was an eternal optimist,” she said.

That eternal optimism, Alice said, came from an enjoyment of being around his kids, and the optimism rubbed off on them, too. Perhaps that was a reason she said Don didn’t have any regrets as a coach, because he believed people can learn from all their experiences if they really worked at it.

Only two men have coached Jasper baseball since Don: Ray Howard and Terry Gobert. Jasper has gone to state under all three coaches, and all three are enshrined in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

Don may have guided Jasper baseball to state twice, but a baseball cap wasn’t the only hat Don wore at Jasper.

He taught science, was freshman basketball coach and was a varsity assistant. Don served as athletic director, hiring Howard to be his replacement after the 1976 season. He was an administrator, serving as an assistant principal, principal and, later, the Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools superintendent. Don also played Santa Claus at GJCS for 14 years, and was a member of the Jasper Lions Club for many years.

The Noblitts spent time in Florida after retirement. Alice is back in Jasper now after her husband’s passing Jan. 27, 2010, and Don is interred in the town where he spent so much of his life.

With 10 years since his passing that day, Alice knows what she misses the most about her husband.

“Everything,” Alice said.

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