Kaydo battled through tough circumstances
Despite losing his father, center had exceptional career at Ashtabula
By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon
Bill Kaydo's father died during Bill's junior year at Ashtabula High School.
Aside from grief, the family was blindsided by other, practical problems, like how to support the family of 10 — Kaydo, his mother and eight siblings — without the major breadwinner.
Most of the siblings were able to support themselves, since Bill was the baby of the family. But Bill, an outstanding basketball and football player for the Panthers, had dreams of going to college.
"My siblings (brothers Steve, Frank, Mike and Robert and sisters Catherine, Shirley, Elizabeth and Lillian) did what they had to do so I could go to college," Kaydo recalls. "Their efforts let me go to college and sent me some spending money. My sister Betty took care of Mom, paid the bills after Dad passed away."
Kaydo, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on Apr. 12 at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, started playing basketball in a manner common to many kids of his era — on neighborhood courts. Like many others, Kaydo and his group of friends would shovel snow out of their driveways to play in the winter.
BILL KAYDO shown driving for a layup against Geneva, started at center as a sophomore for Ashtabula High School
BILL KAYDO with his family
"I lived on the west side (of Ashtabula)," Kaydo said. "I played basketball and football in the neighborhood. We would shovel out the driveway and use a heat lamp to shine a light through a bedroom window. I played with guys like Dungy (Tony) Presciano, Dr. Jack Bell, Don Sneck, Dave Dewey, Tony Tipiero, Eric Forde and Randy Dramis. Every day (during that season) we played tackle football on the blacktop. We're friends to this day."
When he reached the fifth and sixth grades he was playing basketball at West Junior High under coach Robert (Bob) Davis with players like Alvin Benton, Andy Nappi, Eddie Cheatwood and Pete Sardella against teams like Edgewood, Conneaut, Mount Carmel, St. Joe's and Geneva.
"We played eight or nine games," Kaydo said. "(Davis) was pretty good at coaching fundamentals and teaching us the game. We didn't lose many, maybe one or two for the whole time I was there."
Kaydo also played junior high school flag football at Guarnieri Field with basically the same group of kids. Tackle football didn't start until the ninth grade during that time.
In his freshman year he played tight end, wide receiver and defensive end on an undefeated West Junior High School team. Nappi played quarterback, though the team ran the ball most of the time with Jerry Lyons (Wash Lyons' younger brother), Billy Smiley and Walter Crump.
Kaydo played freshman basketball under Bob Walters, a man he admired then and still does.
"I played with Bob after high school and college, probably for 15 years," Kaydo said. "He was a great competitor and, I think, the best basketball player to come out of this county. He is a great gentleman and a great teacher. He's now the shooting coach at Lakeside. I respect him greatly."
That freshman team included most of the players that would form the nucleus of some very good Panther teams for the following three years. In addition to Kaydo, Benton, Cheatwood and Nappi, players like Larry Alberts, Phil Fain and Jerry Lyons came over from State Road School to contribute.
When he entered his sophomore year, Kaydo came under the tutelage of Gene Gephart, along with Walters a member of the ACBF Hall of Fame. Kaydo becomes emotional when talking about Gephart's influence on him.
"My dad died during my junior year of high school," he said. "(Gephart) took me under his wing. I started at center, though I was probably 6-foot-2 as a sophomore. He was fantastic on fundamentals and coaching defense. He was like a father figure to me. I saw him every day. He was an excellent teacher and a great gentleman. I really respect him. I'd go to his house for dinner; they lived nearby me."
Lacking height, the Panthers were not a very good team when Kaydo was a sophomore, going about 8-10. Others on the team included John Smith and Alan Wintz.
But Ashtabula picked up Ron Showalter, a transfer from Edgewood, and Dave Clemens the following year. Along with the nucleus from Kaydo's class, including Nappi, Benton and Lyons, the Panthers became a formidable team, going 17-4.
"I was the forward, played the wing," Kaydo said. "Alvin Benton was at center, Showalter the other forward and Nappi and Clemens the (starting) guards. Ron Showalter and Jerry Lyons were seniors. Larry Alberts and Jerry Lyons started for them the next year when they were seniors. Phil Fain was our sixtth man. We went 20-2 and won the NEC and City Series."
Kaydo led the team in scoring as a senior with 16 per game, but four of the Panthers averaged double figures.
"I was an extremely good defensive player," Kaydo said. "I guarded the best player on the opposing team, whether he was big or short."
According to Kaydo, the Panthers were the 18th-ranked team in the Cleveland area at the time. They beat Perry, 71-47, to make the district tournament, but were beaten by Cleveland East. Kaydo, Nappi and Benton all made the all-tournament team and Kaydo was selected all-county and all-NEC team as a junior and senior and was an honorable-mention All-Ohio choice as a senior.
He was about as good in football, starting as a sophomore as a punter before tearing a ligament in his leg. He returned as a starter at end and defensive end or defensive tackle. Then, when as a senior all three Panther running backs got hurt, he moved on to that position and became a first-team all-county and all-NEC pick on those teams, too. After the season, he was named third-team All-Ohio as a defensive back. Other honors he reaped during his high school career were MVP in football and basketball, winner of the Richard Regner sports scholarship and the Judd Carleton football award.
Kaydo could have played either basketball or football on a scholarship in college. But his brother, Mike (a member of the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club Hall of Fame) had gone on to play football at Ohio University and Ashtabula coach Tony Chiacchiero had a pipeline to that school.
"My mother wanted me to go there," Kaydo said.
Recruited as a defensive back and running back on a full scholarship, Kaydo was switched to wide receiver. He saw playing time for three years, but didn't start. Part of the problem was a succession of injuries, including a knee that required surgery, hip pointers, bad ankles and a broken sternum.
He majored in health and physical education at OU, going there four years, but did not graduate.
"I was supposed to do my student teaching, but got sick," he said. "I became a police officer in Ashtabula in 1972-1973."
He was offered a job selling cars for Dorn Cobbledick in Ashtabula and never left that business.
Later in 1973 he moved to Jerry Sinkler Ford, then to Jerry Walrath's, where he worked for 18 years.
Altogether, Kaydo has been in the automobile business for 43 years. He has worked for Great Lakes GMC-Buick for 18 years, now serving as senior executive.
"I'm employed by John Rocco and Joey Huang, who are great bosses and fantastic dealers," he said. "They care about their customers. I'm honored to work for them."
Kaydo is married to Janice and the couple have one daughter (Jacquelynn) and one granddaughter, Elaine, 5.
He enjoys playing golf with his brother Mike, Dr. Bell, Gordy Balmford, Bruce Taylor, Tom Headman, Don Vincenzo and Kenny Melaragno.
"My brother (Mike) is my idol," he said. "I've always looked up to him. He was a good college player. If I had a son, I'd like for him to be coached by Mike."
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.