PORT ARTHUR —
Former Leader sports editor,
Big 33 guru Cervelli dies at 79
Fred Cervelli, former sports editor of the Orange Leader, died Wednesday at 79 at his home in Austin. Besides being an award-winning writer, Fred was the genius who assembled the Texas all-star teams which won three straight games against Pennsylvania's best to end a "bragging rights" Big 33 series.
Participants in the games included Lamar coach Bill Bradley, who QB'd a 26-10 Texas victory in 1965; and Southeast Texans Jerry Levias, Steve Worster, Cotton Speyrer, Steve Stuart, Paul Robichau, Tody Smith and Robert Hall.
Cervelli left the area in the late 60s to become press secretary for
the state AFL-CIO. He retired after losing his sight to a rare retina
disease, but remained active in labor and political issues.
Though he lost his eyesight in 1979, tapes and audio CDs enabled him to keep up with sports. He also listened to the narration of 9,000 books.
Fred was a close colleague of The Port Arthur News while at the Leader, often
sitting alongside John or Russ DeVillier at a high school press box,
or at Lamar. The staffs then worked together to select consensus
A Baylor grad, Cervelli remained a sports enthusiast his entire life.
He chronicled the exploits of Worster, then happily watched the
Bridge City fullback run roughshod when Texas bashed Pennsylvania in
the final Big 33 game in 1967.
News contributor John DeVillier, who made a couple trips to the
Big 33 games in Hershey, penned a story on these pages last fall, telling of
Fred's role in helping assemble the teams.
“Those Big 33 games between Texas and Pennsylvania
all-stars returned the national spotlight to Longhorn Bobby Layne’s offense and a staff of
luminaries that included Doak Walker, Harley Sewell and Rooster Andrews, but
Fred was the genius behind their success,” said John DeVillier.
“He combed the state not only for great players but the kind demanded for his
offense. He was in charge of getting the team to Hershey and back to Texas -- no
"Fred lost his sight, but his zest for life never dimmed,” added Russ DeVillier. “His wife
Marie, daughter Risa, and son Rhett came first, and Fred also stayed
close with a multitude of friends he knew as a sports writer, and
later as spokesman for the state AFL-CIO.
“All around the house knew to stay hushed when Fred tuned in to the
Horns, Aggies, Bears, Texans or Cowboys. And Marie kept him updated
on high school sports every Saturday morning. A lot of athletes, coaches and working people have lost a loyal friend in Fred Cervelli."
Funeral arrangements are for Saturday visitation at l p.m, and
service at 2 p.m., both at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange.