Some Central State football coaches and players used to have a nickname for her when she was the athletic compliance director at the school.
They would see her come marching out onto the practice field — rules and regulations in her back pocket, hall-of-fame basketball career on her resume, fairness in her heart, toughness in her manner — and they knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of debate if a player didn’t meet certain school or NCAA requirements.
“They didn’t want to see me out there,” Trona Logan said with a shrug and a growing smile. “It was like, ‘Uh-oh guys, here comes The Repo Lady.’ ”
Theresa Check, herself a hall-of-fame athlete, women’s hoops coach at CSU and the school’s former athletics director, initially hired Trona for compliance:
“It’s a tough job, but she was good at it. She knows right from wrong. She has a moral compass a lot of us don’t have. And everyone, especially those players and coaches, sensed it. When you see her coming, no matter what the deal, you have respect because of the way she handles herself.”
These days Trona is no longer the compliance person at CSU, she’s the 45-year-old assistant athletics director.
She no longer marches either. She moves more tentatively, has limited use of one arm and waning strength in both. But the toughness is there, more than ever.
As for the repo work, she’s doing it on herself now, trying to reclaim her body and spirit from the onset of ALS and the ravages that come with that progressive neuromuscular disease.
“Something has been going on with my body probably two years,” she said quietly as she sat at her desk the other day.
She said she had experienced cramps and weakness in one hand, had what she thought would be corrective surgeries, but then the problems returned. When therapy didn’t resolve it, she finally got an appointment at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
“By my second visit they had a diagnosis,” she said. “My mom and I went back with the doctor who told us it was ALS and asked if I knew what that was. I knew of it — just from Lou Gehrig — and then the doctor gave us more details.
“That was a hard moment right there and the ride back to Dayton — my sister and nephew were with us — was the longest in the world. But as soon as we got home, we had a family meeting and my dad’s approach was: ‘OK, what’s it all about? What can we do?’ And from that moment, we just decided to do our best and keep a positive attitude.
“Sure there was time for tears, but over that weekend I did a lot of reading on it and come Monday I was ready to move forward.”
Her family and the few people in the CSU community she has told have rallied around her, but most of the fight falls on her and she is living up to the billing given by her former coach.
“Trona Logan was one of the toughest all-around players I ever had,” said Check, who coached dozens of Marauder stars.
Just as important as her toughness has been Trona’s ability to adapt.
“It’s been a total life change,” she said. “I can’t do a lot of the activities like I used to. I can’t lift, so no bowling. And no riding a bike or swimming. The biggest thing that’s bothered me is that I coached my nephew’s baseball team, but I can’t go out and play catch with him anymore or go shoot baskets.
“But on the positive side, I’ve learned to verbally teach rather than show ‘n tell. That’s the key. You just have to find a way.”
She’s done the same with her CSU job.
She quit driving a month ago, so her parents or sister now drive her back and forth to the campus from Dayton. She’s had to get a computer mouse with a ball on it and her typing is now done by speech recognition software.
“If you didn’t know what she’s going through, you wouldn’t be able to tell it by the work she’s doing,” said athletics director Jahan Culbreath.
“I have always used this expression ‘a moment of truth’ with my own athletes. People face those moments in their lives and you never know how you’ll respond.
“Well, this is Trona’s moment and she has never used anything as an excuse. With her, it’s business as usual every single day and I think that’s awesome.”
A true ‘Centralian’
When Check returned to CSU in the mid-1980s, the women’s basketball program was struggling. She brought in seven freshmen with her first recruiting class and one of the centerpieces was Trona, who had been a good player for Tom Montgomery at Dunbar High School.
She had grown up in the Madden Hills area of West Dayton, the eldest daughter of a Dayton police officer (Oliver) and a Kroger store manager (Emmerlene, or Emmer, as she’s known.)
She said she signed to go to CSU without ever visiting: “It was all Miss Check. She sold me on Central. She came to my last game and everything was built on conversations and relationships. And she lived up to everything she said. She just always pushed you in the right direction.”
Angela Small already was a junior on the CSU team when Trona, Trotwood’s Tricia Harris and the other freshmen were brought in:
“They were highly talked about, so we were, ‘OK, let’s see what’s gonna happen,’ and Trona made a direct impact. She worked her way right into the starting lineup and became one of the people we went to when we were in a crunch and needed a basket. ”
Trona was a four-year starter and a three-year team captain. Her first season the Marauders went 17-7, the next year 29-2. “I can’t remember all the records, but I know we put up the first three women’s banners in the gym,” she said proudly.
“She helped start the basketball dynasty at the school,” said Check, who went 387-109 in 17 seasons.
After averaging close to 12 points and seven rebounds during her career, Trona was elected to the CSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. After college she had a WNBA tryout with Charlotte, but a bum knee helped scuttle that chance.
Following a few jobs outside of sports, she served as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Wilberforce University for a year and then Check lured her across the street to CSU as an assistant coach, academic adviser and compliance person — the latter soon becoming a full-time job — although she also coached CSU volleyball for four years prior to this season.
“I don’t know if people realize the impact she has had on athletes there,” said Small, now a school administrator in Tampa, Fla. “I’ve been friends with Trona for all these years and the one thing that stands out is how she truly tries to help people.
“When she got back to the university, she did everything she could to help the girls and mold them into better women. In her new job now, it’s the same. She really cares about the school.”
Check agreed: “Trona Logan is a Centralian through and through.”
No charity case
Her family has become her biggest support team. She now lives four days of the week with her parents. Her brother Oliver, who is two years younger and with whom she said she “grew up with playing football, basketball, baseball, riding bikes and skateboards,” moved back from Boston to help out.
Younger sister Christina and Christina’s 13-year-old son Brandon, a DECA student in the Ohio State Young Scholars program, are with her daily, as well.
“I don’t know where I’d be without my family — I know it would be harder for me now — but I also know I’m a survivor,” Trona said.
“I try to do everything I can for myself. It might not be quite the way I did it before, but I can find a way. If I do have a task I can’t get done, I’ll ask you. That’s the toughest thing for me. When you’ve been very independent your whole life, you have to learn patience and ask for help when you don’t want to.
“But when you get sick, you also have people who try to baby you and I don’t want that. I definitely don’t want to be a charity case.
Culbreath knows what she’s facing. He said his late Aunt Betty had ALS and he witnessed first-hand what she went through.
“Out of caring, people always want to ask, ‘How you feeling? Are you OK?’ But when somebody is going through something, they don’t want to be constantly reminded that they’re sick. The best thing is to just be normal with them.
“That’s what I’ve done with Trona. She’s my friend, my colleague, someone all of us here love dearly, but with her now it’s business as usual. It works great for her and it’s great for us. And if she needs to talk, she knows we’re here for her.”
Plenty of support
Last Sunday morning, Team Trona — all wearing bright yellow or gray t-shirts that proclaimed “My ALS is in God’s (Hands)” across the front — showed up some 70 strong at the Fairborn Community Park for the Walk to Defeat ALS, a two-mile event meant to raise funds and awareness.
Check was there, as was Small, who had flown in for the day from Tampa, current CSU coach Sheba Harris, some other former Marauder players and even some women who had played against Trona when she was at Dunbar.
The group’s drill sergeant was Brandon, who is doing everything he can to help his beloved auntie. For the walk, he wore a coach’s whistle around his neck and wasn’t shy about blowing it to prod the troops to “keep moving.”
“You’re wearing us out with that whistle,” his mom said at one point, her half-smile showing she was half-kidding.
Afterward, the family invited everyone to their Heartsoul Drive home for a barbecue. Oliver handled the grill duties, Emmer the side dishes.
“Her family support has always been the story through the years,” Small said. “They were always in the stands at the games so I wouldn’t think it would be any different now that she’s battling an illness.”
By Sunday evening Small — who had come in last year for homecoming and given Trona’s volleyball team a locker room pep talk at one game — was back on a plane to Tampa. Monday, everybody was back at work, including Trona.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” she said. “I try to make sure every day I have my head up and keep a positive attitude.”
And people see that, same as they did when she was The Repo Lady.
It’s just as Theresa Check said about those march-on-the-field days:
“When you see her coming, no matter what the deal, you have respect because of the way she handles herself.”