Longtime Flint-area referee Jim Massar fulfilled a lifelong accomplishment before his life ended at his home in Grand Blanc on Monday morning.
Massar, 88, made it no secret that he was elated about his induction into the 33rd Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, Dec. 1.
He lived on cloud nine after his enshrinement.
"To me, this recognition is symbolic that referees can stand alongside the great players and the great coaches during the hall," Massar announced during his acceptance speech at the induction banquet. "There's no greater honor than to be inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame."
Massar's daughter, Debbie Goyette, felt like her father died "in peace" because of the accolades he received . His cause of death hasn't been confirmed yet by medical examiners, but the family suspects that his death was caused by heart failure.
"We're extremely shocked," an emotional Goyette admitted. "He was a little tired, but he was 88.
"He just had a physical and the doctor told him that he wanted to be like him when he grows up. He said that he was in such good shape that he had the body of a 65-year-old," she said. "He exercised every day, he watched what he ate and he just was very careful trying to stay as healthy as he could."
For 43 years, Massar built a strong reputation as one of the state's finest officials.
He called local high school basketball and football battles from the 1940s through the late 1980s. Massar nurtured his craft by officiating 43 districts, 26 regionals, 12 quarterfinals, 6 semifinals, and two state finals games for boys basketball. He enjoyed the challenge of trying to complete a "perfect job."
"Anybody can know the rules, but when you get to the point where you figure out what the intent of the rule is, then you become a more proficient official," Massar told MLive-Flint Journal in November. "Between that and being in good condition to stay ahead of the play, those two factors will give you confidence to be a good official."
He also mentored many young referees and was recognized by the Genesee County Coaches & Officials Association with the Jim Massar Service Award in his honor for dedicated officials starting in 1986.
In 1995, the Michigan High School Athletic Association selected Massar for the Vern L. Norris Award, which is given to the state's top referee. He was also member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"He was an icon," said Bob Burek, a retired local basketball official and Greater Flint Area Hall of Fame board member. "When it comes to officiating, he was the man and has been for five decades. Not only was he an outstanding official in his own right, but as a person he has nurtured and mentored so many officials to make them the best they could be.
"This is a tremendous loss for our community in so many ways, but certainly his impact on officiating in this area is almost beyond a description."
He graduated from Flint Central High School in 1942, spent five years with the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league baseball system, and served time in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He was known for his humility and honesty.
"If you knew him, he made an impact on your life," Massar's daughter Darlene Gaydos said. "You won't forget him."
Massar's life will be celebrated during a funeral mass on Friday, Dec. 21, at 1 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 11804 South Saginaw St., Grand Blanc.
Visitation will be held from 1-8 p.m. on Wednesday and 12-8 p.m. on Thursday at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road. There also is a viewing on Friday starting at 10 a.m. until the time of the funeral.
"We're trying to keep everything simple, but I want to let his friends be part of it if they want to be," Goyette said. "We're struggling a little bit."
For 43 years, Jim Massar took pride in coming to work.
Wearing black and white vertical stripes didn't just symbolize a referee uniform to Massar, they represented his lifestyle.
"I just loved it," Massar said. "I called according to the rulebook and was probably closer than most officials, but I prided myself on being consistent.
"Being in the position to make the call was a great challenge."
Massar's career went from the 1940s through the late 1980s. He officiated local basketball for 43 years and football for the Michigan High School Athletic Association for 27 years.
He is now being recognized as one of the finest sports figures in the community for his body of work through his induction into the 33rd annual Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame.
His attention to every minute details is what helped him reap statewide success.
"He demanded excellence and wouldn't settle for anything less," said Bob Burek, who officiated high school basketball games for 33 years in the Flint area. "No man had a greater impact of officials in this area than Jim Massar. He was the man when it came to officiating."
In 1994, Massar was inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The Genesee County Coaches & Officials Association established the Jim Massar Service Award in his honor starting in 1986. He was the inaugural recipient of the award, given annually to an official who has demonstrated a strong dedication the craft.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association picked Massar for the Vern L. Norris Award in 1995, which is its highest honor for officials.
An athletic official has to work with the MHSAA for 20 or more years at the high school level to earn the distinction. He or she must also have been active in a local officials association, mentored other officials, and have been involved in officials' education, according to the MHSAA.
Massar's commitment remained strong for more than four decades, despite holding a full-time job as a budget analyst for the AC Spark Plug Co. His concentration always remained high. The burden of juggling another job never kept him from staying abreast of what it took to be a great official.
"First of all, you've definitely got to know the rules," Massar said. "You have to spend time studying the rules, frontwards and backwards.
"Anybody can know the rules, but when you get to the point where you figure out what the intent of the rule is, then you become a more proficient official. Between that and being in good condition to stay ahead of the play, those two factors will give you confidence to be a good official."
Massar served as a clinician/interpreter for basketball rules in various associations and was instrumental in drafting the "Code of Ethics" for coaches and officials in Genesee County that was approved in 1984.
His efforts kept coaches from assaulting or harassing officials and stopped them from publically criticizing referees to the media. However, he held his fellow officials just as accountable for conducting themselves in a professional manner during games as well.
"He wanted for them to be the best they could be and he wasn't hesitant to criticize or complement them in order to make the person better," Burek said. "He was a real force in helping officials become better. Our officials in the area were some of the best of the state because of Jim Massar."
Massar developed a love for officiating while attending Flint Central High School. After he was cut from the basketball team, he began refereeing prep scrimmages. Before graduating from Central in 1942, Massar earned two varsity letters in baseball and won a cross country state title as a co-captain in 1941.
He also spent five years with the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league baseball system, but nothing compared to his work as a referee in Flint.
"The challenge of trying to do a perfect job was impossible to do, but it was great challenge," Massar said.
Jim Massar received the MHSAA Vern L. Norris Award in 1995.
The Vern L. Norris Award is presented to an athletic official with 20 or more years of registration with the MHSAA who works at the high school level. He or she must also have been active in a local officials' association, mentored other officials, and have been involved in officials education. It is named for Vern L. Norris, who was executive director of the MHSAA from 1978 to 1986.
The GCCOA Jim Massar Award began in 1986. Jim Massar is, without a doubt one of the most respected officials ever to come out of the Flint, Michigan area. As an official, Jim was considered to be "the most knowledgeable basketball rules man". He always believed in being both mentally and physically prepared to work a game. There was absolutely no excuse for an official to ever be late for a game or not having "back-up" equipment in the event that some part of his attire became faulty during the administration of the game. Someone once asked Jim what he would do if the fan belt on his car was to break on the way to a game. Jim response was simple and swift: "No problem! I would have left for the game early enough to give myself enough time to get the extra belt from my trunk and install it."
Jim officiated for 45 years working the State Finals in 1954 and 1955. His mind set was simple "How can I help the guy sitting next to me to become a better official?". Jim drove many miles putting on several clinics over the years and never accepted money for doing what he loved to do. In 1975, he chaired a committee with Mickey Hamilton and developed a code of conduct for coaches and officials for the 4 leagues in the Flint area. Jim Massar is and always will be a man who tells it like it is! He was recognized for his contributions to officiating many years ago when the MHSAA presented him with their most prestigious award: The VERN NORRIS Award.
The BCAM Hall of Honor was established in 1994 to honor those persons who have helped to improve basketball in Michigan. These honorees have been longtime supporters of their local teams or have given outstanding service to the game of basketball. Awards are given in four categories: Officials, Media, Assistant Coach and Friend of Basketball.
In 1994, Jim Massar was inducted into the BCAM Hall of Honor.
Jim Massar has been a registered MHSAA Basketball Official for 43 years and is current member of the Genesee County Coaches and Officials Association (GCCOA). He is currently assisting the Supervisor of MHSAA Officials with the "Evaluators Pilot Program" in Zone 4 for Boys Varsity Basketball.
He has officiated 12 Quarter-finals, 6 Semi-Finals, and 2 State Finals.
Jim has three daughters: Debbie, Denise, and Darcie.