After thousands of races, countless honors, and an immeasurable amount of influence, Kermit Ambrose passed away on February 24 at 101 years old.
“They called him Mr. Cross Country,” Seaholm cross country coach Jeff Devantier said.“He was so well known as a coach, a starter, and as a person.”
Kermit N. Ambrose was born on January 6 1911 in Pierce, Nebraska. After serving in the Air Corps during World War II, Ambrose obtained his teaching degree from University of Michigan. He began teaching Science courses in the Birmingham school district. During this time, Ambrose began coaching football, track, and cross country at Seaholm. The latter became his true passion.
Ambrose spent 16 years coaching women’s cross country, leading the team to11 league championships, 9 regional titles, 2 state championships and 2 state runners-up.
Charles “Chip” Gorman, Seaholm’s parking lot security agent, was fortunate enough to run under Ambrose for three years during his time studying at Seaholm. Gorman was a captain during Ambrose’s last season coaching cross country.
“I was terrified of him,” Gorman said with a laugh. “He could scare the absolute nonsense out of you.”
Ambrose was known for being a stickler for rules, and didn’t stand for his lines being crossed.
“He was a tough nut, he had a big gruff voice and always made sure everything ran smoothly,” Devantier said. “But he was always fair.”
Novi Detroit Catholic Central cross country coach Tony Magni also ran as an athlete under Ambrose at Seaholm.
“(We would get) A hot fudge sundae, no matter what time we ended,” Magni said in an interview with the Oakland County Tribune on February 28th. “He loved them.”
Ambrose was always focused on pushing responsibility and honesty in his athletes. After a bad situation involving the misbehaving of athletes, Ambrose signed for an early retirement from coaching in 1967.He became an official starter for the district and would remain so until his death.
Devantier acquired the coaching position fifteen years after Ambrose retired.
“It was pretty definitely big shoes to fill,” Devantier said.
Ambrose was involved in Oakland County sports for most of his life. He was one of the founding members of the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association and is a member of the Michigan Hall of Fame.
Always known to have a sense of humor and an inspirational quote handy, Ambrose’s influence was seen on tens of thousands of athletes. The 56th Annual Kermit Ambrose Huron Relays were held last year at Eastern Michigan University in his honor.
“He practically reinvented the sport in Michigan,” Gorman said. “He was always involved and changing things.”
Ambrose continued to start races well into his nineties. Even after his second retirement from starting, Ambrose always made an effort to support Seaholm athletics.
“He was always so interested in our team,” cross country captain Mallory Wilberding said. “He was just a genuinely sweet guy.”
The memorial service was held on March 16 and was attended by former athletes and colleagues.
“He was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met,” Gorman said. “He had such an influence on all of us.”