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Time for Chavez to be 'in the picture'

Park Hall of Fame inductee George Chavez at the Park High School Hall of Fame golf fundraiser on Sunday, Aug. 15, at Mississippi Dunes Golf Links in Cottage Grove.

George Chavez, the man most people see taking photographs from the sidelines at Park High School sports events, likes to stay in the background.

For more than two decades, Chavez, a Cottage Grove resident, has been taking photographs of athletes in action, printing out copies and giving them to the student free of charge.

"I played many sports when I was a kid, but my parents never took any pictures of me," Chavez said recently. "Quite a few students have parents who never go to games and never take pictures. I do it because I like high school sports and the kids bring me more joy than I give them."

Chavez, who retired from Imation in 2004, collapsed at church in early September. Doctors discovered a tumor on the right side of his brain, according to his daughter Christina Broeker.

"They performed a craniotomy on Sept. 16 and were able to remove 90 percent of the tumor," Broeker said. "My dad was diagnosed with a Grade II meningioma, which is neither malignant or benign, but is atypical. In other words they will treat it more aggressively than if it were benign but the likelihood of it returning is less than if it were malignant."

However, Broeker said her father, although retired is less than a year away from receiving Medicare. To help with medical expenses, family and friends have organized a taco bar benefit from 3 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7, at the Cottage Grove VFW Red Barn, 9260 East Point Douglas Road, in Cottage Grove. Everyone is invited for tacos, a silent auction and homemade bake sale.

Phil Kuemmel, activities director at Park High School, said, "George is at all our sports activities, not just football, but swimming, cross country plus he takes photos at school plays, choir and band concerts -- everything. Whenever we needed pictures taken, we asked George.

"We named him to the first class of 10 in the Park High School Hall of Fame in 2005 because of how much he's done as a community member," Kuemmel said. "He has done so much for the school. He spread himself out. We have teachers who attended Park, played sports and still have pictures George took of them. He's even taking pictures of their children who play sports here."

Park soccer coach Greg Juba said students "love to see George's action shots. It's always great to look back on those pictures."

Chavez, who is out of the hospital and undergoing a long series of radiation treatments, has been taking photographs ever since he served in the U.S. Air Force. He began photographing sports events when his three daughters, Christine, Yvonne and Elizabeth, started junior high school in the last '80s and early '90s. They played soccer and were in the band at Park.

"Dad has been taking photos since I can remember," Broeker said. "He loves taking pictures of everything and then giving them out to students so they will have memories of when they were younger.

And even though the craniotomy has affected his left eye, George said he plans to continue taking pictures at Park.