Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation

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Fred Hirsimaki

Family affair

By KARL PEARSON
Staff Writer

"I felt I had to work twice as hard at it," he said. "I did it on my own so nobody could say my brother gave it to me.

"I think that helped make me an even better athlete. I've always worked hard at anything I did. I think that's why I've had the success I had."

Fred Hirsimaki always knew whatever his relationship was with his brother on the court, he could rely on Charles Hirshey for help.

"We had a great relationship," he said. "Our relationship was like most brothers. I could call him up and we'd talk about anything."

Even though Charles Hirshey passed away in 1998 at age 84, the two brothers will be linked again on April 1 when Fred Hirsimaki joins his brother in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame at the annual ACBF banquet at the Conneaut Human Resources Center. Hirshey was inducted into that body in 2005.

Hirsimaki is definitely pleased about that distinction.

"I was there when he was inducted," the 82-year-old Findlay resident said. "I'm kind of surprised to be recognized like that after all these years. I was kind of shocked when I was told. I appreciate that I am being remembered."

The brothers will not be the only Rowe Vikings in the ACBF Hall of Fame after this year. Bob Puffer, a guard on the teams that included Hirsimaki, is also a part of the Class of 2007.

"Bob was a junior when I was a senior," Hirsimaki said. "He was a good dribbler. He was a good boy."

Hirsimaki's early basketball exposure came from another of his brothers, Martin, who still lives in Conneaut in assisted living at the Villa at the Lake. In addition to Charles, they had five older brothers - Aarro, Eli, John, Raymond and George - two older sisters - Sylvia and Helen - and a younger brother, Ted. George lives in New York.

"Martin was three years older than me," he said. "We played a lot at home."

As he went through the elementary grades, Hirsimaki found another outlet to hone his skills in the thriving church league basketball scene in the area.

"When I was in fourth, fifth and sixth grade, I played for the Finnish Lutheran Church," he said. "I was put in with the older boys."

His basketball training continued when he reached the junior-high level at Rowe, although it was very informal. Meanwhile, his brother had already begun working as a history, social studies and physical education teacher and was already establishing a basketball juggernaut that would eventually compile a 172-38 record (.819 winning percentage) in nine seasons, average 19 wins a year over that period and never won less than 19 games.

Hirsimaki remembers sitting in many of his brother's classes over the years. Hirshey also had a reputation as a dynamic educator and took the same approach in the classroom that he did with his basketball team or equally excellent baseball and track squads.