Conversations with Geno still memorable decades later
There is a business establishment in west Glenwood Springs that I have passed by each day on the way home for almost 25 years now. I used to stop in from time to time, but the place doesn’t hold the same allure for me that it once did. The man who owned it since the time I was a bit younger is no longer behind the counter.
Gene “Geno” Yellico was the proprietor of Geno’s Liquor Mart until his passing in May 2009. Geno was a successful businessman and a respected member of the Glenwood community for close to four decades. Geno loved to chat people up when they entered his store, especially if the topic of conversation had to do with sports. He had an infectious personality and wore his heart on his sleeve.
A legendary softball pitcher during the days of the Glenwood fastpitch league, Geno would talk on sports subjects ranging from the Rockies, Broncos and Nuggets to whom he believed was the greatest prize fighter of all time. Geno loved the local high school sports scene, especially the Glenwood Demons.
My visits to Geno’s didn’t often involve the purchase of any type of libation. Rather, I was curious to know what Yellico’s thoughts were on a sports topic of significant interest at the time. Geno always had a colorful — and direct — way of giving his opinion on a player, team or event. With expletives interjected at several key junctures, Geno made his opinion known in no uncertain terms.
Here is an example of a conversation I had with Geno back in the days when Jake Plummer was the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. I have taken the liberty of inserting the word “darn” in place of the many adjectives Geno used that day.
“Mikey, those darn Broncos aren’t going anywhere with that darn Plummer playing quarterback. That darn guy couldn’t lead a darn horse to water if they were both standing in the middle of a darn lake!”
I never left the store once wondering where Geno stood. He did not ride fences, he kicked them over.
Geno loved to go to the Glenwood High School basketball games in the early 1990s to watch his boy Jim play. Jim Yellico was part of a unique group of young men who graduated in 1992 who had a love for the game that was refreshing to be around. Adam Wiggins, Jason Hill, Dorian McClelland, Trent Peabody, Dan Kite, Arlo Vigil and Eli Houck were some of the members of that class. They were a talented and well-coached group, but their collective dream of making it to the state tournament was dashed with a regional loss at Sterling in the spring of ’92.
At every home game, I remember watching Geno and a contingent of other parents sitting together and rooting on the team, giving the officials and coaches some timely advice, and generally enjoying every moment of the high school days of their sons.
If he were still here today, I’m sure Geno would be rooting with even more enthusiasm as he watched his grandson Mason, who is a junior guard on the current Glenwood basketball team, zip up and down the court in that red and white uniform.
Those boys from the class of ‘92 still make their way back to Glenwood every summer for the outdoor “Hoop D’ville” basketball tournament at Sayre Park. They all have successful careers and they are husbands and fathers now, but the love for the game of basketball is still heated by at least a pilot light as they travel down the road to imminent hoops retirement.
If he could see them now, Geno would have some thoughts on these boys he so enjoyed watching, and how well their lives have turned out. It may be tough for him, but I doubt that even Geno could find one “darn” to describe this group of outstanding young men that graced the basketball court at Glenwood High so long ago.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
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The long-awaited Colorado State Track and Field Championships are underway at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood, Colorado.