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Longtime North football stats keeper, BOE member Kiss dies

Rick Wagner • Aug 14, 2017 at 10:00 PM

KINGSPORT —  Jim Kiss, who died Saturday at 82, kept statistics for every Sullivan North High School football game, and before that Ketron High School, for 56 years straight.

That was since the middle of the 1957 season to 1979 at Ketron and until 2012 at North, which opened in the fall of 1980.

And he served on the Sullivan County school board for more than half that time, 30 years from 1982 to 2012.

The Bloomingdale resident, who died at home Saturday and will be buried Tuesday afternoon, was remembered Monday as a passionate supporter of the North zone and Bloomingdale youth, both athletically and academically. Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski first came to know Kiss when she was a teacher and coach at North starting in 1980, a time when his daughters were going through North.

“He was an extremely dedicated board member to the benefit of the athletics and educational programs in the North zone. His heart was all about serving that community, to make things better for children in that area,” said Rafalowsk. “I can honestly say I don’t remember ever attending a game at North High School that I didn’t see Mr. Kiss. He loved Ketron, and he loved North High School.”

Kiss served as a Board of Education members under six superintendents or directors: the late Jim Fleming, Wallace Ketron, John O’Dell (the last elected superintendent and first appointed director), Glen Arwood, Jack Barnes and Jubal Yennie. Ketron after North opened became a middle/intermediate school and eventually an elementary school. When Kingsport takes over the North building, projected to be 2020, Ketron will be the lone county school in the North zone after a new high school merges the zones of North, South and most of Central high schools.

“He was a staunch supporter of North but also of the kids,” said school board member Dan Wells. “He was a great supporter of the athletics and academics as well. He represented that district and community as good as anybody.”

Although board members didn’t always agree on issues, Wells said Kiss of Bloomingdale had “a lot of good insights” and held respect for and had the respect of fellow board members. Kiss lost a re-election bid in 2012 to newcomer Todd Broughton, who subsequently narrowly lost in 2016 when reapportionment put him and fellow incumber Randall Jones of Indian Springs in the same BOE district.

Former Director of Schools Jack Barnes said Kiss came up with a then-innovative way to keep stats on every player.

 “He had a program to keep the stats on. He first had it on a PDA, and then he went to a little piece of software,” Barnes said. “He was very dedicated.”

Born in Kingsport Nov. 18, 1934, Kiss graduated from Lynn View High School and attended East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, retired from Eastman Chemical Company after 43 years of service and was a member of the Bloomingdale Ruritan Club. He is survived by six children, 27 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren, a seemingly ever-growing list of descendants that at more than one school board meeting drew gentle jibs that he was doing his best to keep up enrollment in the North zone.

A graveside service will be conducted at 1 p.m. Tuesday at East Lawn Memorial Park. Those attending are asked to meet at the cemetery by 12:45 p.m.

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