MARQUETTE - Led by Rod Guizzetti Sr.'s 45 years of service, nine area high school sports referees, umpires and officials will be honored by the Michigan High School Athletic Association at the annual Officials' Awards and Alumni Banquet next month in East Lansing.
MHSAA-registered officials are honored when they have reached milestone years of service - 50, 45, 40, 30 and 20 years.
Just eight in the state are being honored for 50 or more years, and none are from the Upper Peninsula.
Guizzetti, 67, is among a group of 14 in the state with 45 years, and the only one from the U.P.
"I just enjoy the sport," Guizzetti said about continuing to referee basketball games at levels ranging from high school varsity to junior high. "As you get older, it's good exercise. But I just enjoy the game."
Guizzetti estimated he worked 45 games this winter before he and his wife Lois left for Lake Havasu, Ariz., in mid-February.
"I've had a chance to referee at one state finals each for the boys and girls, and I had another chance, it was this year or last year, but we were already going to Arizona," Guizzetti said.
Norway's Milt Krznarich will be recognized for 40 years of service.
There are another dozen from other areas of the U.P. and the Wisconsin border also being honored. In all, 371 officials statewide will get mention, bringing the total over 35 years to 9,416.
The banquet is scheduled for May 3. Guizzetti said he won't be able to attend since he and his wife won't return from Arizona until Mother's Day weekend, about a week later.
He said the elimination of most jump balls is something he's noticed a lot in the sport along with the end of some of the smaller schools' tiny gyms in places like Trenary and Eben.
He added that he doesn't worry about fan reaction when calls don't go a team's way.
"Over the years, I've never had a serious problem with people," Guizzetti said. "And besides, you're only half-right all the time."
He laughed about that and also recalling that fellow Negaunee native Roland "Foo" Koski convinced him to become a referee.
"Foo and I started together," Guizzetti said. "He said, 'Why don't we do it?' I tell him all the time that I blame him - 'Look what you got me into.'"
A 1964 graduate of St. Paul's High School in Negaunee, he became a referee shortly after being discharged from the U.S. Army in 1968.
He raised his family in Munising, living there for 32 years until moving back to his hometown in 2003.
Over the years, Guizzetti has also umpired fastpitch and slowpitch softball and he refereed college basketball for about a decade.
He's currently the president of the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame.