By Sue Moore
For the last 35 years, Dr. Tom Willmeng has roamed the sidelines at Vicksburg High School’s home football games, before that, Hackett High School football and at the same time, he was the team physician for the Girls’ World Softball tournament in Kalamazoo.
Although recently retired from his original practice at Kal-Valley Orthopedics, now Bronson Health Care Sports Medicine, he plans to stay on a little longer to assist the athletic trainers that Western Michigan University sends here for their internship. He has been on the faculty for this graduate program that sends prospective trainers to both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg’s athletic programs. “Having Doc’s expertise in the training room and walking the sidelines is not only comforting, but very unique in these times. He always has a smile and a calming demeanor. I am glad I can call him a friend,” said Jim Mallery.
“Doc Willmeng is the unsung hero of Vicksburg athletics,” said Mike Roy, long-time athletic director. “He is compassionate and giving of his time, even making house calls for kids with broken legs and would give physicals in his office if a young person or exchange student happened to miss the designated day in the spring. Team Willmeng (wife Maryann) have worked long and hard for the Athletic Boosters. They have taken the organization to the next level.”
As a healthy and chipper 72, Doc Willmeng says his doesn’t plan to stop being available on the sidelines while still acting as an advisor to the personal trainer that treats minor injuries and bumps and bruises. He has set many arms and legs in his orthopedic practice over the years. Willmeng claims that part of the anatomy interested him more in medical school than the head, chest and belly.
Willmeng is famous locally for his hunting prowess and the great dinners he produces for fellow hunters each fall. His retirement plans include more hunting, fishing, golf and travel. Meanwhile, his wife Maryann has been responsible for the Athletic Boosters fall and winter sports program. She has solicited the advertising, worked with the photographers and overseen the printer for a program that is sold at home football and basketball games to raise money.
Both of the Willmengs have been tireless workers in the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters organization even when their offspring were done with sports. Jim Mallery praised the couple for their dedication. “I have been on the Athletic Booster Executive Board for the past eight years and have the fortunate opportunity to wear the ‘hats’ of a coach on staff, along with being the father of three Vicksburg athletes. Having said this, I feel very comfortable saying that no one has had as positive an impact on the athletic program as Doc Willmeng and Maryann. They have handled everything from organizing the golf outing, winter dance and advertising on the stadium sign. Anytime we need a last minute sub for volunteering at bingo, Tom and Maryann are willing to be there and they do it cheerfully. They have had an incredibly positive impact on an untold number of Vicksburg athletes and their families. We are so blessed to have them in our community.”
Willmeng comes from a farm family in Watervaliet where he loved sports along with the six other boys in his family and a sister. “I thought about being a priest, a teacher, or a farmer but finally settled on medicine when I graduated from Notre Dame and went to University of Michigan’s medical school. I realize that’s an oxymoron even more so, as my dad and brothers all went the Michigan State.
“I enjoyed the practice of medicine because of the people I worked with and taking care of the patients. I didn’t get involved in the administrative part so that was a bonus,” he says. Sports are my love, so I’ll stay on the sidelines until they tell me I’m too old.”