If you attended Salem High School in the late 70’s and early 80’s, you knew Greg Underwood. Maybe not personally, but he was hard to miss: tall, dark-haired, good-looking kid who moved with athletic grace and had a million dollar smile. When he stepped onto the basketball court, there was magic. Greg, a point guard, was a marvelous basketball player with a powerful shot, graceful athletic moves, and strong leadership skills. In my mind’s eye, I can see him charging down the floor as he brought up the ball, forceful and determined, a scoring plan swirling in his brain. It was a joy to watch him play.
I met Greg when he was a student in my Senior English class. English was not his favorite subject, but he was polite and cooperative. He quickly learned that I knew nothing about basketball plays or tactics. Greg liked to kid people and he was totally amused that he knew something that I didn’t. We joked about that a lot, all year. Mrs Arnold, his freshman English teacher, and I often traveled to his away games together. I am happy to remember that Greg knew his English teachers admired and supported his success.
My step-son, Steve Bedwell, another SHS basketball record holder, became friends with Greg in the 1978-1979 season. “I was on the floor,” Steve said, proudly, “when Greg made his first appearance as a varsity player.” Steve was a senior and Greg was a freshman. Many times, Greg was a welcome guest in the Bedwell home and many times Steve drove out to northern Washington County, the Mill Port Knobs, to take Greg to and from practice and games. In my Apple home, Greg was a HERO. My middle school son, Jimmy Apple, loved basketball and Greg was all that Jimmy wanted to be as a player. We attended all of Greg’s games and Jim worked on modeling Greg’s moves and shots. We were there on that glorious night when Greg scored 1000 points and the game was stopped for a picture. We glowed with pride when Greg completed the season in 1982 and set the Salem High School scoring record.
Greg set many SHS records and still holds several SHS records. He scored 1110 points and is now the second leading scorer in Boys Basketball at SHS. He holds the season and career records for assists: 143 and 477. He shares the game record for steals: 8 and holds the career record: 197. He shares the game record for free throws: 15. He holds the record for game free throw percent: 15-15. Those records were set from 1978-1982—almost 40 years ago, a strong indicator of his powerful basketball skills. If you talk to Coach Jerry Warriner, you would learn about even more scoring records that are not up on the SHS record board in Brooks Memorial Gymnasium.
Sometime after he graduated, Greg married his sweetheart Gina Bowman and they had a son named Josh. Josh and his wife Mallery now have two young children. Greg and Gina’s family was part of a large and loving extended family. Later Greg began preaching at a small church in northern Washington County. He was so successful that the church grew and grew, attracting hundreds of members. Eventually, they built the spacious and beautiful Faith Southern Baptist Church on North Highway 135.
Greg worked at a number of enterprises, one of which was well-known in Salem. He and some friends purchased the pizza recipe from a couple in Brownstown. Using that recipe, they opened Main Street Pizza in Salem. Eventually that business was sold to another SHS basketball player, Tommy Weeks.
Greg was taken from us far too soon. He leaves an example of a life well-lived in service to God, to his family, and to his community. He was a man who inspired the young. So many boys and girls watched his games and dreamed of playing like Greg. He set an example for young and old alike with a happy marriage and a strong family life. Greg built a large church family, bringing love, salvation, and Christian fellowship to many. As an athlete, Greg’s success inspired our community and later as a man of God he enriched his community with love and care. His passing leaves an aching void. So many of us, friends and family, will miss him always. We both mourn his passing and celebrate his life and work.
** In 1987, Jimmy Apple, broke his hero’s scoring record.