Junior LaVerne Boatner, AKA Verne Boatner, age 86, Former Sports Editor and Director of the Arizona Republic Sports Department, passed away peacefully after a long battle with cancer on February 5th in Phoenix, Arizona. Parents John and Pearl Boatner of Texas, his two sisters of Texas, Thelma and Betty, and his long time love, Irene Warren of Prescott, AZ, precede him in death. His niece, Denise Withers of Texas and extended family member Tina Warren of Prescott survive him.
Verne was born in Texarkana, Arkansas and moved to Snyder, Texas at a young age. He was salutatorian of his high school graduating class in 1949. Verne attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied journalism and English. Soon after he was drafted into the Army in an Intelligence Corps training program. He spent the rest of his tour of duty in Stuttgart, West Germany. After his tour of duty he returned to civilian life and started work as a sports writer.
Verne’s first and most favorite job as a journalist became when he was hired in 1957 by the “News-Messenger” of Marshall, Texas to become a sports editor. He enjoyed the freedom of being his own boss and the newspaper won several state sports writing awards during Verne’s tenure- the first the paper had ever won. His boss, Millard Cope, suggested that he interview for a job with J. Edward Murray, then managing editor of the Phoenix newspaper, The Arizona Republic. In 1962 Verne became a sports writer for the Arizona Republic. Frank Gianelli was the sports editor in the early 1960’s but in 1966 Verne was offered the position of sports editor. He gladly accepted and then in 1978 became the sports director, freeing him from most of the editing duties and allowing him to write his own column. Verne became friends with Frank Kush, former ASU football coach and has many fond memories of working with him. Verne retired from the newspaper in 1987. Verne then became a writer for The Tradition Golf Tournament for the next 15 years. He truly enjoyed working with all the people involved with The Tradition.
Verne has been a past president of the Phoenix Press Box Association, and a past director of the Football Writers of America and the Basketball Writers of America.
Verne wrote a column on former ASU President G. Homer Durham’s comments that Arizona should have their own bowl game. This column hit home with several prominent Phoenix business leaders who met to create a plan for the possibility of a local bowl game. They called themselves the Arizona Sports Foundation. As a result, The Fiesta Bowl was born and became a reality.
With a flair for the written word and a love of the excitement of sports, Verne Boatner has given added pleasure to the sports fan for many decades. He will be missed dearly. Regency Mortuary is handling all the arrangements and private memorial. In memory, please donate to Hospice of the Valley, 1510 E. Flower Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014.