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Sortillo wins first annual Bill Minner award
On May 3, 2002 Elliott Sortillo became the first recipient of the Bill
Minner Award, the Michiana Region's highest honor.
Sortillo, former head referee for the Michiana Region, spent more than
25 years involved in volleyball. For many years he assisted local school
volleyball programs in Portage, Ind., via officiating, books, videos,
and mainly his time. He became a National official in USA Volleyball.
He officiated at many USAV Junior and Open Championships.
Sortillo instituted referee clinics and promoted the growth of the officiating
ranks in the region. He also officiated collegiate play for many years.
In 1999, he gave up all volleyball duties to focus full-time on the American
Association of Ex-POWs. He has since served a two-year term as president
of the organization.
Interestingly enough, Bill Minner and Elliott Sortillo were born in the
same year, 1934. Sortillo enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1950 at age 15.
He was captured during the Korean War and spent his 17th, 18th and 19th
birthdays as a prisoner of war. He was eventually released in August of
1953. He re-enlisted in April of 1954 and remained in the Army for 17
years. During his tenure he did a tour of 13 months in Vietnam and 13
months at the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. He served two tours in Germany
lasting three years each. In 1971 he retired from the Army with the rank
of sergeant major. He and his family then moved to Portage, Ind., where
he worked for 20 years at Bethlehem Steel.
The Bill Minner Award will be presented each year during the annual Michiana
Region championships. The recipient will be an individual who not only
has given time to promote the sport of volleyball, but has also made a
contribution to society as a whole. This award will be the region's highest
About Bill Minner
Bill Minner, the much-loved Michiana Region vice
president, died at his home in Horton, Mich., on Dec. 20, 2001. "People
like Bill come along once in a lifetime," said Michiana Region commissioner
Bill was born in Plain City, Ohio, on May 27,1934
and was a graduate of Ohio State University. He worked for Michigan State
University in the County Extension Service out of Jackson, Mich., as a
4-H youth agent. He was one of the organizers of the Michigan Seniors
Volleyball Club and served as its president and treasurer.
Bill was also one of the founders of the Jackson
Area Volleyball Association and coached the womens volleyball team
at Spring Arbor College. He also coached volleyball for Jackson Community
College, Albion College and Hanover-Horton High School, and he served
on the board of the Michiana Region of USA Volleyball.
Bill was an incredibly caring and giving person.
As a result, the Michiana Region Volleyball Association established the
Bill Minner Awardas a way of honoring this special man.
Most of you are volleyball friends of Bill, some
of you are 4-H friends, some are relatives that live a distance, but I
wanted you to know Bill passed away December 20 shortly after noon. He
put up a good fight for a year against two diseases, polymyositis and
scleroderma. Just last Christmas Day, 2000, the hospital called and said
he needed to be admitted because of the results of tests they had taken
just a day or two before that.
He has fought the diseases since then. He first
was in the hospital for 63 days and was in and out of the hospital several
times for various reasons until he quietly took his last breath on the
20th. I could not have asked for a more peaceful end to his life than
the Lord granted him.
I know some of you are already aware of his passing
and some are not, but I am not sure just what you, personally, know or
don't know so I've included you all.
Thanks for the many prayers that have been said
in his behalf and for the many cards he received. You were all truly special
My fondest memory of Bill Minner will always
be of him smiling, standing there in his kneepads at a tournament. He
and his band of "old farts" have just knocked a team of cocky
young whippersnappers out of the playoffs (again) and are getting ready
to play the next playoff match. The young guys are supposed to be getting
ready to officiate the next match, but are spending more time arguing
and trying to figure out how in the world they just got beat by those
Bill's team just cordially took them out, cordially
shook their hands and taught them a volleyball lesson that most of them
won't understand for quite some time if at all. It was a lesson in teamwork,
a lesson in how experience means so much on the court, and a lesson on
how to conduct yourself afterward.
As I reflect on his passing, the irony of it all
is hard to shake. Several times in the early to mid-eighties I was one
of the whippersnappers. I stood there with my teammates trying to figure
out how we just got dinked, tooled, and abused by those guys. As time
went on I watched with great amusement as other teams fell into the trap
and were drawn and quartered in like fashion.
I realize that at this moment I am near the age
that Bill was when he and his team gave me my first lesson. And I realize
that the world could use all the Bill Minners we can find.
I was tuned in to sports radio the other day
and one of the late Dick Schapp's colleagues was speaking from the heart
about his friend. He said it didn't feel like just Dick Schapp had left,
but "about a hundred guys were gone." I think our organization
feels the same way about Bill. While he is in a much better place trying
to get some leagues started, we'll be down here trying to find a hundred
people to replace him.
May his passing give all of us pause to reflect
on a life well spent, and on what really matters when all else is done.
Hi Guys, thanks for letting me know about Bill's
passing. It is little ironic but, I have a bunch of buddies about Bill's
age that have passed on, or are about to pass on to the big Camp in the
sky. He certainly was a good person and always nice to be around. He will
be missed by everyone that knew him.
Former Michiana Region referee chair
This region, and humanity in general, has suffered
a great loss with the passing of Bill Minner. Bill was one of the kindest
and most caring individuals I had ever met. He comforted me greatly after
the passing of my brother-in-law and my 7 year old nephew.
He didn't know me extremely well at the time, but he did care enough to
see that I was struggling with some tough emotions. Years afterward, he
would ask me how my sister was doing and always wanted to know if she
was fortunate enough to have another child yet. Almost 6 years later,
I always looked forward to seeing Bill and showing him the pictures of
my sister's growing children.
I am proud to announce that at this year's Michiana
Championships, one of our members will be honored with the first ever
Bill Minner award. My hope is that it will become the region's top annual
honor. More details on this award will be issued later.
In the meantime, I am comforted knowing that
the good Lord has finally got someone with him willing to organize a very
special group of individuals that would like to play some volleyball.
Our prayers are with Jean during this time, and I know her faith will
see her through this most difficult time.
Friend of Bill Minner