One of Chadron State College’s most versatile athletes who continued competing most of his life died Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Platte County Hospital in Wheatland, Wyo., where he and his wife had resided since shortly after their marriage in 1952.
Jack Dinnel, 92, played both quarterback and safety for Chadron State football teams and set the Eagles’ records that stood for several years in both the mile and the javelin. He won the mile at Nebraska College Conference Meets in 1947, ’48 and ’49 and the javelin in 1949 and ’50. He also was second in the two-mile run at the conference meets his final two years of competition.
A trophy case in the Armstrong Building at CSC contains a large photo of Dinnel, splattered with mud, winning the mile at the 1949 conference meet after he ran through a mud puddle and the runner-up, who remained clean, ran around it.
His school records were 4:37.4 in the mile and 182-7 ½ in the javelin. He won dozens of ribbons and medals to go with those he had earned in college when he continued to throw the javelin, run distances and later enter “power walking” at seniors’ competitions even when he was in his 80s. He qualified for the National Senior Olympics twice.
As a football player, he intercepted a pass while playing in the Bean Bowl in Scottsbluff on Thanksgiving Day 1949. The next year he was the Eagles’ quarterback and called the signals when the Eagles used both the single-wing and the T formations.
He was proud that he weighed the same—140 pounds—in his later years as he had when he was in the military and college.
Dinnel and his wife, Lorna, a native of Broadwater and the majorette for the Chadron State marching band, were active in Purple Passion, the college’s most prominent alumni group that was founded in the late 1940s, and attended homecoming and other activities on campus in recent years.
He was inducted into the Chadron State College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.
Dinnel was born in Superior, Neb., and grew up in Maryville, Kan., where he was an all-around athlete. Although World War II was winding down, he immediately joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1945. While serving with occupation forces in Europe, he placed fourth in the javelin as a member of the U.S. team that participated in the “Allied Olympics” involving military personnel from 12 countries in Berlin in September 1946.
Dinnel had more than a cursory relationship with Chadron. Following his discharge from the Army, he came to Chadron to visit his father, Harry, who was managing the Hested’s dime store on Main Street. During the visit, his father made sure Jack met Ross Armstrong, who coached all three sports and was athletic director at the college. When Armstrong told Dinnel he could participate in both football and track, he enrolled at CSC.
Harry Dinnel’s second wife was Helen, the founder of Helen’s Restaurant that continues to operate in Chadron. He was a carpenter and built the desk that Steve Lecher, who was born without arms, used so he could write with his feet while attending the Kenwood School. The desk was later given to a handicapped girl at McCook.
After graduating from CSC in January 1951, Jack Dinnel taught and coached at Chadron High for 1 ½ years before enrolling in graduate school at Colorado State College in Greeley, now the University of Northern College. As he neared completion of his master’s degree, he was recruited to teach industrial arts and coach track at Wheatland High School. He remained of the faculty there 35 years, his entire career.
He was president of both the Wyoming Industrial Arts and Wyoming Vocational Education Associations two terms and also was president of the national industrial arts organization one year.
In addition, Dinnel was an officer in the Wyoming Gideons approximately 20 years and often put his industrial arts skills to good use while he and Lorna traveled extensively for 12 years as members of SOWERS (Servants on Wheels Ever Ready) to help build and repair churches and Christian camps.
Survivors include his wife, their three daughters, three sons-in-law, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Services were Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Wheatland Bible Church.