Written by the late Andy Easton, Sr. for the Gillespie Area News contributed by the Gillespie Public Library
Frank “Lefty” Chappell was a graduate with the class of 1944. He was an outstanding all-around athlete who shined on the football field as well as the running track. “Lefty” also had two brothers, Dale (1941) and Bob (1950) who also were fine athletes for the orange and black.
“Lefty” Chappell was what you would call a seat back. He wasn’t a very big man but he was very fast and had the ability to make the defenders miss him in the open field. He was a nightmare to the opposing coaches as every time he touched the ball he was capable of going all the way for a touchdown. As a kickoff and punt return specialist, he had no equal. Not only did he score many times but he had more 60+ yard runs called back due to penalties than any other back in Gillespie history.
Two Thanksgiving Day games against Carlinville stand out when talking about “Lefty” Chappell. In 1942, the Cavaliers were undefeated for the second consecutive year and had a seventeen-game winning streak. They also had six shutouts and the only team to score was Staunton who they beat 12-2.
The Carlinville center snapped the ball over the kicker’s head for a safety. Carlinville kicked off to the Miners and Russell Sexton took the ball and ran to his right, stopped and threw a pass back across the field to “Lefty” who then ran 90 yards for the touchdown. Although Carlinville would come back and win 13-6, this was the only touchdown they allowed during the season.
In the 1943 season, the Cavaliers came into the game shooting for their third straight undefeated season and riding a 23-game winning streak. An underrated but inspired Gillespie team stunned the Cavaliers as “Lefty” got loose in the second quarter and scampered 70 yards for the touchdown. The Miners added another score in the second half for a big 13-0 victory.
“Lefty” Chappell was also a great track athlete as a sprinter and long jumper. In his second season of 1944, Chappell became the third Gillespie athlete to place in the state track meet as he finished fourth in the long jump.
“Lefty” Chappell drowned in a fishing accident at #4 pond in May of 1949.