2013: Women to Watch

Published 9:30 am Friday, March 1, 2013

She never had to make like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, clicking the heels of the ruby slippers and saying, “There’s no place like home”; but Lulu Eure always wanted to come back to Gates County.

Eure serves the dual role of director of the Gates County Community Center and as athletic director at Gates County High School – two facilities that, conveniently, sit side-by-side along US 158 near Gatesville.

A county native and 1973 graduate of GCHS, Eure was part of the first club team and later the first intercollegiate team for women’s basketball at N.C. State. Playing the shooting guard and later the point guard positions, she was mentored on the court by two legendary Wolfpack coaches:  Robert R. “Peanut” Doak and the now late Kay Yow.

“I was one of her first scholarship players, many years ago,” Eure said, referencing coach Yow. “That was mainly because she came in when I was already there. That was the first year they gave scholarships, so I was very blessed.

“I was All-Conference because back at that time basketball was all they had as far as honors goes,” she adds. “There was no (high school) softball or volleyball. If we played softball we played someplace else. I played with a team in a fast-pitch league in Franklin for a couple of years and then I played also at State under Coach Al (Proctor). I had a dual scholarship of basketball and softball.

Eure had originally been bound for East Carolina in Greenville, but changed to N.C. State at the last minute because her sister was at State at the time.

“I kind of wanted to go into recreation and an agricultural field so I decided at the last minute; and there I was in the first (basketball) group that started, the club team. After that we went to Peanut Doak and from there to Coach Yow.”

Eure is still in the N.C.State women’s basketball record books for leading the 1974-75 team in free throw percentage (.824, 28-34 in 16 games), assists (an average of 2.9 per game or 47 in 16 games) and steals (21 over the same period).

“I went from a shooting guard to a point guard and my job was to bring the ball down court to start the play and then to shoot free throws. They would give me the ball at the end of games, so it was key that I shoot free throws,” she says with a hearty laugh.

While recreation and agriculture together might seem an odd coupling, Eure made it work to her advantage in college and afterward.

“A lot of the girls I played with (at State) went more into the college era,” she recalled. “Girls like Genia Beasley, Faye and Kaye Young, Ginger Rouse, and Christy Earnhardt. But me, I wanted to come back to Gates County and that’s where I ended up.”

She continued, “I was from a farming family and I wanted to come back and farm so I did that. I trained race horses (standard-bred and cart) for Ashton Lewis in Gatesville. My mother (Frances Eure) owned the contract sewing plant and I helped her out; so between the farm and the sewing that’s what I did until I came here to the Community Center, and that was 25 years ago.

“At one time I thought I might be a park ranger or I wanted something back in the farming, natural resources, and recreation area. I still love animals, I love the outdoors, and I love farming,” Eure added.

Eure has a 145-acre farm near Eure where she raises produce to sell at the local Gates County Farmer’s Market. She has horses, dogs, chickens, and other livestock; and there is also a small family campground, Trail’s End Campground & Trail Rides, which is located on the property. The Trail’s End website calls it ‘a place to relax, kick back, and enjoy the best things in life with family and friends.’

“That’s my love, “she says with a smile. “Sports, natural resources, and stuff like that.”

Another coming together that might seem odd to some is the Community Center and the high school’s athletic programs, but Eure says the two have meld nicely into a good hybrid.

“It’s kind of a strange set-up,” she says. “The Community building here was built in 1978 and built on a grant between the schools and the county. I can’t remember if the county deeded it or sold it, but it was a very cheap price. The county would fund it, but the schools would oversee it because it was so close.

“Nowadays we’re the Community Center, but we’re sort of the community-dash-schools sort of situation,” she said. “We’re still with the schools, where I’m the athletic director, and I’ve coached there. It works for us, because for the grants we’ve written over the years (both Golden Leaf as well as the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund) we now have the ball fields, the additional tennis courts with lights, an outside rest room, a fitness trail and that benefits both the community and the schools.  We give the schools priority on game and practice days and we have use of things like their fields. I don’t know of many places where that (two separate facilities) would work, but it really works well for us here.”

Gates County High School sits just a few hundred feet away from the Community Center and that’s where Eure wears her other hat as athletic director, and where for more than 18 years she coached cross-country, as well as girls volleyball, softball, and basketball.

“Three years ago I had to step in and coach boy’s basketball team, which was quite interesting,” she says.

During that time, Eure was voted the NEWS-HERALD “Coach of the Year”.

“The boys did very well considering they had to deal with a woman coach,” says Eure. “It was very unique because some bit into it, and some didn’t. I was handed the team in January and we went from 2-9 to 9-2. We ended up in the playoffs and went to the second or third round.

“That year we lost to Northampton-East at their gym by 30 or 40 (points) and when we came back here we beat them by 20; and that was a big win for us. Our last game here of the regular season we beat North Edgecombe, who had been undefeated in the conference.

“We came a long way,” she adds with a grin. “But I was glad to give it up.”

Eure coached softball teams that went to the state tournament twice and her basketball team’s winningest season was making the regional finals.

“In softball we made it to the playoffs every year and I do remember that one year we made it to the final-four in the state and I do know we did that two years out of three,” she recalled.

“Hopefully in a couple of years I’m going to retire (as athletic director). Right now I split the job with the assistant principal (Jeremy Wright) and we’re trying to feed into it. He goes to all the games anyway and I don’t have to travel as much as I used to.”

On the youth level, Eure has coached basketball, helped with volleyball and coached one soccer team.

“That is one sport I’m not real versed on,” she says with a chuckle about international football. “But it is one of our growing sports and it’s our one program here that has grown more than anything else. We really need some soccer fields. We have co-ed soccer now because we tried girls in the spring and boys playing in the fall but we didn’t have enough kids. Co-ed works because if you can play, it doesn’t matter (the gender), you can play.”

While she may cut back on her participation in sports administration at the high school, she still has some things she’d like to see come to fruition at the community level.

“We have the skate park, we have the half-mile fitness trail, we have the tennis courts, we have the baseball and football fields and we do soccer on those. I’ve written a grant and hopefully we will have a nine-hole par-3 Frisbee golf course.

“I did that one because we’re running out of room. We’re landlocked. I really see too many of our kids as being very inactive; so if they can walk the fitness trail and throw a Frisbee, then they’re going to have to walk it and they’re all going around the trail.”

There are times Eure says that so much responsibility on so many levels can become a little overwhelming; so that’s one of the reasons she will be cutting back.

“Between the produce farming, the small campground, the horses and the dogs I’m a bit locked-in,” she stressed. “So much goes on at night and I’m an early riser. I can get so much more done from 5:30 to 8 (a.m.) because there’s no phone, no paper work. Since I came here we’ve added so much and it really didn’t cost the county”.

One gets the feeling that whether it’s organized sports, recreation and fitness, or just plain love of the outdoors that Lulu Eure will always find a way to fit in because she knows her priorities.

“I love GatesCounty,” she says as the interview concludes, “I really do. Whether it’s sports or nature. I love sitting on my porch and seeing bobcat, or turkey, or deer.”

“You just sit there,” she says, pausing for effect. “You just sit there and you listen.”