After keeping the Tartan athletic department on track for over two decades — Debby Dellis is retiring

She has paid her dues.

It has been 23 years on the job at Tartan High School for activities secretary Debby Dellis.

Before that she was a volunteer in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District for about three years while her three kids - Dana, Keith and Leah - were students at Oakdale Elementary. She also served as a first-grade aide at Eagle Point Elementary for another three years.

So for a total of 29 years, Dellis has been an integral part of the school district staff.

Her children attended District 622 schools and graduated from Tartan, and she says, “I think being in the schools while my kids attended and were involved in athletics were some of the best years while I worked in the district.”

During her tenure as secretary to the Tartan athletic director - now called the activities director — she witnessed some drastic changes in high school extracurricular activities and served no less than six different AD’s. With each AD, she had to learn her role, and often had to help the newcomer get up to speed with “on the job training” courses.

It’s a complex job and Dellis admits it took her three school years to really learn everything. “But being a secretary in athletics is probably the best job in the school system. And I’ve been fortunate to live just five blocks from school,” she says.

Some were good and others were... 

She was of course reluctant to name any individuals she thought might be ‘favorites”, or conversely, those who might have been her “least favorites.”

But she talked about Roy Ward, who at the time was the AD for both North and Tartan - as being someone who taught her a lot about the job.

She also mentioned Lee Alger as being a highly professional person who always had an “open door” policy for anyone who cared to voice an opinion or suggestion.

“[Alger] was a ‘go-getter,’” she recalls. “He had great vision for what was needed at Tartan. He really made things happen.”

It was with Alger that she worked the longest as his tenure was for 13 years as the Tartan AD.

“Then there is [Bryan] Munter who is doing just a great job and is a person to be respected for what he does for the school. He so respects and cares for the kids,” she says. Munter is the current AD at Tartan High School.

There also have been five or six Tartan principals in her tenure with whom she has had to contend.

There were ‘good’ seasons and there were ‘bad’

“Those spring seasons when you had to change schedules were the worst,” Dellis says without hesitation when asked about the “bad” things about her job.

That’s because all the spring sports are played outdoors, when snow, sleet, rain showers, lightning and muddy fields are all possibilities. She talked about not only the changes that had to be made in scheduled games, but also trying to cancel and reschedule buses for the teams whose meets and games were postponed.

One only had to reminisce about the lousy weather conditions last spring to know what she was talking about.

But, she says, there were many more good memories that came with the job of being an activities secretary.

Things such as eating tacos at the games as well as friendly conversations with a local sports writer who happened to be “covering” particular contests in which her kids were playing.

Then she chuckles as she remembers the day when she was pulling into the parking lot to watch a Tartan baseball game.

Just as she parked in a spot outside of the left-field fence, her son Keith lofted a hard-hit ball. And, wouldn’t you know, the ball sailed true and right at her car! It landed just under the front bumper and bounced hard several times underneath her car.

While the Titans cheered her son’s home run, Dellis wondered how her poor vehicle had fared.

Dellis says she will miss the camaraderie with the Tartan staff and, of course, interacting with the kids. She hopes to continue seeing all the area AD secretaries, who have become friends through the years. “We get together once a month. All of the secretaries in our conference meet. It is good to meet with them and connect with one another. We split up the dates and where we meet. It certainly is a nice bunch of people to work with,” Dellis states.

A grand “Good Bye” was held

A goodbye get-together was organized in her honor and her husband, Jim, made sure invitations went out to many of the people who reaped the rewards of his wife’s knowledge and assistance over the years.

I was one of those who received an invitation, but unfortunately a personal health problem arose which prevented me from being there. But I’m sure it was well attended.

And in closing, Debby, I want to wish you all the best in your retirement, which you so richly deserve.

I would be remiss if I did not say a sincere “Thank You” for all the assistance you have provided in helping me do what I do as a prep sports journalist.

I wish you the very best in every venture that awaits you down the road!

Quick takeoffs

Heartiest congratulations to every member of the NORTH HIGH team and coaches for making the 2015 football season a most memorable and enjoyable experience! The Polars are in the MINNESOTA STATE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS for the first time since 1998. ... What has to be a step backward — though not unexpected — is the recent decision for NORTH and TARTAN to combine their girls hockey programs. Co-head coaches will be TARTAN and NORTH current head coaches NICK FUERST and ALLIE THUNSTROM... Congratulations are also in order to NORTH HIGH grads and former hockey players for the Polars ALLIE THUNSTROM and STEPHANIE ANDERSON who have recently been named to the U.S. NATIONAL WOMEN’s HOCKEY team. They are the first NORTH grads to be on a U. S. hockey team since FRANK SANDERS and CRAIG SARNER assisted in winning a silver medal for the U. S. 1972 Olympic squad... A record-setting number — 2,590 — student athletes competed in the MSHSL-sponsored MINNESOTA STATE High School Clay Target League this past fall sports season... Wondering about what happened to former TARTAN wrestling coach DAN RECCHIO? He is currently on the staff at LAKEVILLE NORTH High School... Congratulations to longtime HARDING HIGH AD and former basketball coach GERRY KEENAN - he began his teaching career in 1960 - for recently being named to the MSHSL Hall of Fame ! ... Hey RUTH, you hang in there!

Wally Wakefield can be reached at or at 651-748-7826.


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