LAKELAND, Fla. – Though sadly missed, the memory of two dedicated volunteers will live on in the naming of a special memorial pass gate created in honor of long-term community volunteers, Joe O’Leary and Cecil “Pete” Haupert. The memorial pass gate is located on the northwest side of Jenkins Arena and welcomes hundreds of athletes, FHSAA officials, members of the media and guests each year. As long time members of the Championship volunteer committee responsible for the management of this pass gate, both gentleman were instrumental in the hospitality provided for the state tournaments. A special dedication ceremony and unveiling of a commemorative plaque is planned for Tuesday, February 21st at 1:00pm in conjunction with the first day of the FHSAA Girls Basketball Championships. The public is invited to attend the ceremony.
Pete Haupert was a member of the Lakeland High School Century Club, Florida Southern College Sixth Man Club and the University of Florida Gator Boosters. He was an active member of First United Methodist Church of Lakeland. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Frances Coleman Haupert and three children. Pete passed away in 2009. Joe O’Leary was a founding member of Resurrection Catholic Church and served as a volunteer with Lakeland Vision, Polk Vision, United Way and Santa Fe High School. He is survived by Mary Jo O'Leary, his wife of 58 years, eight children and eleven grandchildren. Joe passed away in 2011.
Lakeland Center Executive Director, Mike LaPan had this to say about the upcoming ceremony, “Pete and Joe were pillars of the community and dedicated many hours of service to our annual tournaments. This gate will be a testament to the power of volunteerism and will serve as a reminder to those who enter of the importance of leadership and community spirit. The O’Leary and Haupert families are honored by our salute to these fine gentlemen and we are grateful for the opportunity to offer such a fitting tribute.”
The Lakeland Center offers a full variety of sporting events, concerts and shows. Located minutes between Orlando and Tampa in Lakeland, Florida off I-4 on Lime Street, The Lakeland Center is a short drive from anywhere in Central Florida. Regular box office hours are Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm and two hours prior to most events. For ticket information, call the Box Office at (863)834-8111 or visit our website at www.thelakelandcenter.com.