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PEOPLE AND PLACES: The man behind the sport

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Shooting sports icon dies at 78

By Kacie Goode

Weaving through the rooms of Houghlin Funeral Home in Bloomfield, crowds waited in line for hours to pay their respects to Marion Creech, a community icon and role model for many.

“You could just sense and feel the amount of respect that so many people had for Marion,” and his wife, Judy, said Nelson County Extension Agent Ron Bowman, who delivered the eulogy at Creech’s funeral.

Some stood in line for up to three hours for the visitation, and Bowman was among those who attended. “People were in line, but they were seeing people they hadn’t seen in years and sharing stories. It was a sad time, but there was a lot of laughter, too,” as they remembered him. “He had a wit about him unlike anyone I’ve ever known.”

Creech, who passed away Sept. 9, played a crucial role in the community and state shooting sports for 4-H. In the early 1990s, Creech was among a few adult volunteers to become certified as an instructor in the program, which taught youth how to safely handle and maintain shooting equipment. He also served as the state coordinator for the program and camp.

Prior to his 4-H work, Creech served 41 years with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as a senior inspector.

Patrick Hayden, owner of Kentucky Gun Co., said he first met Creech during those days and became more acquainted with him over the years.

“Very few people have contributed to the community,” in the way that Creech contributed to the youth shooting sports, Hayden said. “He dedicated years and years volunteering.”

Hayden said if there was any youth in Heaven not yet instructed in shooting sports, they soon would be.

“It was all about the kids,” said Jerry Lawson, current project leader for Nelson County 4-H Shooting Sports Education. Lawson had a son go through the program with Creech 16 years ago. “He was a tremendous mentor, role model and friend.”

Lawson said Marion and Judy both took pride in the kids they helped and worked with, which included thousands across the state.

“It was just a joy for him to see those kids do well and learn how to do everything safely,” he said.

Jesi Evans joined shooting sports when she was about 8 years old. One of the few girls in the group, she remembered being afraid to shoot clay pigeons.

While attending shooting sports camp, Creech helped her overcome that fear.

“He showed me how to stand, pinned a recoil pad to my right shoulder, and taught me how to hold a 12-gauge shotgun,” she recalled. But the 12-gauge was large for the small child, and Creech helped pair her with a gun for her size.

“Once I got a feel for how to hold and aim the gun, he let me shoot for real. Out of 10 targets, I hit almost all of them,” she said. “I just remember feeling so proud of myself and excited that I had finally learned how to do this thing that had seemed so inaccessible before. I also remember how proud Mr. Creech seemed to be of me.”

Evans said Creech was like an adopted grandfather to her.

“He was kind, patient and full of knowledge that he wanted to pass down,” she said. “I’m certainly not the only child who felt that way. I saw the evidence of that during his visitation.”

When Creech died, he was attending his 28th state shooting sports competition. Lawson was with him when he passed. He had picked him up and the two headed to Nicholasville to put up directional signs for the event.

“He wouldn’t stay home,” Lawson said. “He’d been to every tournament.”

Creech spent the day preparing for the competition, ate well and was cutting up as usual, Lawson said.

“He was doing what he wanted to do,” he said.

The next morning, he didn’t wake up.

At the visitation, 4-H alumni filled a viewing room in their T-shirts. At the funeral, they formed an honor guard.

Creech was laid to rest Sept. 14 in Maple Grove Cemetery. Shortly after his passing, many changed their profile photos on social media to green ribbons in his memory and hundreds have posted on Facebook sharing stories and paying their respects.

A full obituary for Creech can be found on page A3 of the Sept. 11 edition of The Kentucky Standard.