We lost a great man – Thanks Joe

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    He came within a day of his 75th birthday. My friend and longtime Wyoming sports official lost his battle with cancer last week, surrounded by family in Billings.

    Joe Doak is the epitome of what a sports official should be. He was fair, firm, not afraid to make the hard call, and did it all with a smile.


    He was a mentor to many, and a friend to many more.

    I’ll miss our friendly banter when I was taking photographs of basketball games under the basket and especially our much longer conversations on the sideline when he was working the chains or a line judge on the home field sidelines.

    Joe was a class act in every way.

    Joe Doak as he will always be remembered – h/t Matt Koritnik

    We often sat down during tournaments in the hospitality room and talked about teams from the past, the continuing decline of parent behavior in the stands, and about the kids and younger officials who were just entering the game.


    We shared a lot of stories as well, not as many as Joe had with his lifelong friend and former opponent Joe White, but many memorable ones nonetheless.

    I stretched the truth a bit with Joe, claiming he was officiating when I was playing, but that was off by a couple of years. I graduated from Wind River in 1975, and Joe put on the stripes for the first time two years later.

    Some officials work football, some basketball, and some track or softball. Joe wasn’t a track official, but he did the other three and did them well.


    He was recognized in 2017 with a Distinguished Service Award from the Wyoming High School Activities Association for 40 years as a football and basketball official.

    Joe was a member of arguably the best official associations in the state, the 307 Officials Association and the Worland Association.

    Joe Doak and crew at Dubois – h/t Randy Tucker

    Joe worked out of his home in Thermopolis with other association officials ranging from Lovell, Powell, and Cody to Riverton. His easy smile and quick sense of humor made him a favorite of coaches, players, and other officials across the region.


    Joe Doak was a busy man come the postseason, his superlatives are extensive, 35 state football playoff games and his first state football championship game came in 2001 when Big Piney beat Southwest 3-A Conference rival Mountain View 24-14 in Laramie. There were five divisions of Wyoming football that season.

    Joe worked the state basketball tournament for decades, breaking into his first title game in 1986. In those days, the state tournament wasn’t always in either Laramie or Casper and rotated.

    It was another pair of Southwest teams, this time Class 2-A girls with Mountain View, beating Kemmerer 42-36 in Douglas

    He had a few more summertime officiating gigs, working the Wyoming-Montana All-State Game and the Shrine Bowl.

    While Joe and I, along with the coaches and players from Fremont County crossed paths many times during fall and winter sports, Joe was busy in the summer as well.

    He was a top-notch ASA Softball Official, working 60+ tournaments at all levels, including several national championship tournaments.

    Joe didn’t move far from home, graduating from Ten Sleep in 1967, then attending Black Hill State and moving to Thermopolis in 1974.

    One early afternoon at the Class 1-A/2-A State Tournament at the hospitality room in the Ford-Wyoming Center, Joe and I were talking about life in the Big Horn Basin, and he mentioned operating the Sideboard Café in Thermopolis.

    I told him it was the first place I ever tasted Thousand Island dressing on a Wind River athletic trip and I was hooked. Joe beamed with that big friendly grin.

    I mentioned we also at the Manhattan Café in Thermopolis and the Washakie Grill in Worland when Wind River traveled north to Big Horn County.

    “I should have talked to your coaches more,” Joe said.

    Joe left the restaurant business to work with troubled kids at the Wyoming Boy’s School outside Worland. He retired after 27 years there.

    1967 Ten Sleep Pioneers – Front row – Joe Doak, Jerry Chalfant, Larry Walker, back row – Don Brown, Tom Patras, Tom Allred, Mike Lewis -h/t Ten Sleep High School

    My favorite stories are always those from the past, and Joe had plenty of them.

    Ten Sleep didn’t have a football team in Joe’s junior and senior years. After playing eight-man football, the Pioneers took a break until 1971.

    Ten Sleep head basketball coach Matt Minch eventually won three state championships in his 13-year tenure.

    In his first season, Joe was a senior and the newly arrived head coach told the boys if they wanted to play basketball, they had to run cross country. The Pioneers were state champions in cross country, and Ten Sleep finished third at the tournament in Laramie playing unbeaten Goshen Hole in their closest game of the year in the semi-finals 76-63.

    Joe’s sport was baseball. He traveled the 22 miles from Ten Sleep to Worland each summer to play American Legion Baseball.

    It all just heightened Joe’s love of sports and it led to a tremendous officiating career.

    The best line Joe had was for his friend Joe White. White played at Class B Burlington, in 1967, where he made the all-state team for the third-place Huskies.

    “It was because of my defense, that Joe White made all state,” Joe would often joke.

    Humor followed Joe wherever he went, sometimes he was the joker, and sometimes the joke was on him. It didn’t matter to Joe.

    One year somebody wrapped his officiating duffle bag so tight with duct tape he had to cut it loose with a knife. Another year, one of his partners hid his black officiating pants in the official’s locker room at the state tournament, not letting a panicked Joe know where they were until just a few minutes before the game.

    “Reffing can be a hard nut to crack,” Joe said. “It’s a position that takes you all over the state and away from your family a large part of the time.”

    Joe made the effort, and the kids of Wyoming are better for it.

    It was fitting in 2018, that Joe Doak and Joe White were both recipients of the Ox Zellner Award. The two longtime basketball partners could trace their friendship back over 50 years to epic Class C basketball games between the Huskies and Pioneers.

    Joe leaves behind his wife Linda of 54 years and two children, a son Sean and daughter Valerie.

    His familiar, smiling face was always a treat to see on Friday nights when the 307 crew arrived in Shoshoni, Pavillion, Ethete, Lander, or Riverton.

    Joe Doak officiating his final game, the 2-A state title game in 2023 – h/t Wyoming Officials Association

    Joe officiated his final football game in 2023 in the Class 2-A championship at Jonah Field in Laramie.

    The banter and stories will remain with hundreds of us, though Joe is now gone from our presence, but not from our memories.

    Joe’s memorial service will be at the Hot Springs County School District Auditorium at 2 pm on Saturday, May 11.


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