Louis Surber, Ormand Beach recipient, passes at 91

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Just as the Pawhuska Huskies football team was preparing to host a first-round 2021 playoff game versus Hominy, word arrived of the passing of a former star player.

Louis "Louie" Surber, 91, who graduated from Pawhuska High School in 1948 and was the first recipient of the Ormand Beach Award, passed away Nov. 4 in Eureka, Kansas. A memorial service was at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 12 in Eureka.

Louis Surber was an All State offensive end for Pawhuska.

The Ormand Beach Award, which is still given annually, recognizes a young man for outstanding football performance, as well as excellence of character and scholarship. Ormand Beach was a Huskies football great who went on to play college football at the University of Kansas before joining the Sarnia Imperials, a Canadian football team.

Surber also excelled as a basketball player and was inducted, in the 2015 class, into the Pawhuska Basketball Hall of Fame.

Milton Labadie of Pawhuska, who is now 91, and who was the 1949 recipient of the Ormand Beach Award, told the Journal-Capital that Louis Surber threw a key block for him, leading to his first touchdown as a member of the Pawhuska Huskies.

"With one block he took out two men and I scored my first touchdown of my football days," Labadie said in a telephone conversation. He recalled Pawhuska was playing the Fairfax Red Devils. "I'll never forget him taking those two Fairfax boys down with one block."

Labadie expressed sorrow upon learning of Louis Surber's passing.

"They were just good people," Labadie said of the Surbers.

Alvin Gann, of Wichita, Kansas, who was one of Louie Surber's oldest friends and a Pawhuska High classmate, explained that they telephoned one another on their birthdays in recent years.

"We played ball together. He was a pretty darn good athlete," Gann said of Surber. Gann recalled that they played childhood pranks together on the Fourth of July and Halloween.

"I'll miss him," Gann said. "He was like a brother."

Surber's son-in-law, Mark Ivancic, said Surber had a knack for making good friends.

"Louie made friends wherever he went, and he kept them," Ivancic said. "I never met anyone who had a bad word to say about him.  Perhaps more importantly, I never heard Louie speak ill of anyone else."

Wyatt Bechtel, a grandson of Mr. Surber, said his grandfather was proud of being a member of the Pawhuska Huskies and retained an interest throughout his life in his high school's athletic teams.

"In some of my last conversations with him we talked about how the Pawhuska football team was doing this season," Bechtel said. "He really enjoyed following the team's performance last season on their run to the state semifinals. I even set up a stream for him to watch the semifinal game last year."

Joe Bob Surber, a nephew of Louie Surber, recalled his uncle being a fun, likable person who participated in family fishing trips.

Louie Surber was born on April 3, 1930, in Pawhuska, the son of William and Cora (Hale) Surber. He was the youngest of eight children. After he graduated from Pawhuska High, Louie spent the next two years at Miami Jr. College (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M) and Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. While in college he played both football and basketball for which he earned athletic scholarships.

Mr. Surber also served in the U.S. Air Force. He served for three years as a military police officer working with his German Shepherd, "Aro," during the Korean War, and he was stationed in Japan and Korea. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, U.N. Service Medal, ROK President Unit Citation, and three Bronze Service Medals.

Mr. Surber worked in the oil business and in construction, and became involved in the cattle business. He retired from ranching in 2007, and is survived by his wife, Patricia "Pat" Angeline Payne Surber, his wife of 67 years.

The Pawhuska Journal-Capital thanks the family of Louis "Louie" Surber for access to photographs and to details of his obituary for use in and with this feature story.