He’ll never forget the moment.

All of 20 years old and having grown up in Springfield where basketball had long been the premier sport, Rick Jester walked into his family’s kitchen one Saturday and there was his old high school coach, Larry Atwood, enjoying a cup of coffee along wtih Jester’s dad.

“Sit down here,” Atwood (MSHOF 1989), said, as Jester remembers it. “How would you like to be the next announcer for the Greenwood Blue & Gold Tournament?”

That’d be the tradition-rich Blue & Gold, a high school holiday event which first tipped off in 1947.

Stunned, Jester accepted the challenge and, with one of the most distinct baritone voices, has served as a public address announcer of Springfield-based basketball games ever since, covering roughly 3,500 games. And it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Jester with the Class of 2020.

The 2020-2021 academic year marked his 47th handling P.A. duties, with Jester reaching quite a milestone – No. 45 – on the mic for Blue & Gold Tournament.

For 30 years, he handled P.A. duties for Missouri State University men’s basketball. When the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions – an annual January showcase of high school teams featuring blue-chip recruits – began in 1986, then-Springfield Public Schools Athletic Director Edsel Matthews (MSHOF 2005) asked Jester to be the P.A. He’s done it ever since.

Nixa High School basketball, Kickapoo High School football and, in recent years, Drury University basketball have all welcomed Jester to the scorer’s table, too.

And it all started innocently enough, when his dad started the annual Pink & White Classic for girls basketball and asked him to handle the P.A. That was 1973, months after Jester graduated from Greenwood Laboratory School.

Less than two years later, Atwood recruited him for the Blue & Gold, at the time played in McDonald Arena on the Missouri State campus.

“I said, ‘No way,’” Jester recalled. “I mean, there could be 2,300 people in McDonald Arena (for the Blue & Gold). But that’s all there was back then, just McDonald Arena. It remains, in my mind, the very best place to watch a basketball game.”

Many memories have since followed:

  • A 1988 T of C game involving future University of Missouri star Anthony Peeler (MSHOF 2018) and future Arkansas Razorback Todd Day locking horns.
  • Missouri State men’s basketball beating Wichita State to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season – the Bears’ first – in 2011.
  • Missouri State’s Chris Potthast kicking a 33-yard field goal to win a first-round game, 38-35, in the 1989 NCAA playoffs (Football Championship Subdivision).
  • The 2018 Blue & Gold in which Greenwood, his alma mater, won it for the first time tournament history.

Of course, there have funny moments along the way.

One year, when Missouri State played an exhibition against team from Yugoslavia, Jester grabbed a copy of the rosters a week in advance in order to practice pronunciations of their names.

Two guys had the apparent same last name. Turned out, the names had accidentally been typed in backwards, which helped explain why the Yugoslavians seemed surprised every time Jester called their names.

“I figured out it wasn’t as important to get it right as it was to say their names the exact same every time,” Jester said, grinning. “They’d think you’re brilliant.”

There was another time, at a Bears football game, when a lost hearing aid was brought by the press box in hopes its owner could be found.

“I said, whoever has lost a hearing aid, it will be at the front gate but, because you probably can’t hear this anyway, maybe your friend will tell you,” Jester said.

Overall, the P.A. work has been a great way for Jester to give back to the community.

He is now Vice President of the employee health insurance-centered Benefits Unlimited Incorporated and recently retired from the Board of Directors of Mighty Mites of Southwest Missouri after 30 years. He also has been active in – and was once president of – the Springfield Tip-Off Club and Springfield Quarterback Club. He also served as potentate of Abou Ben Adhem Shriners.

The support of his wife of 40 years, Kathy, and their children Amy, Andy and Daniel – and their spouses Craig, Lauren and Alisha, and the grandchildren – have made it all the more special.

“I’ve been so lucky,” Jester said. “And the neatest part about all of this is all the people you get to meet going down the road. It’s just been a blast.”