World Premier The Vetters Documentary

A close-knit family of six siblings of Mexican/Native American descent from Chardon, Ohio emotionally reflects on the sacrifices and steadiness of their humble devoted father, and how they overcame poverty and the heartbreaking loss of their mother to achieve unimagined success as State and National Champions, World Record holders, and Olympic contenders in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Vetter Family

Set primarily in the 1970s and ‘80s, THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED is an independent feature documentary about a close-knit family of six siblings from Chardon, Ohio, who overcame incredible odds to become State and National Champions, World Record holders, and Olympic contenders in track & field, cross country and wrestling. After the heartbreaking death of their mother when they were ages 7 to 14, their humble devoted father, John Vetter, raised the children of Mexican/Native American and European heritage on his own. Saddled with poverty and the lack of an extended family, the Vetters drew close and kept to themselves in response to threats that Social Services would split them up. Through intimate, emotional, and revealing interviews, the siblings share their story of an extraordinary family bond and unflinching determination that nothing was going to tear them apart.

Marie & John Vetter

From their stunning athletic talent, to the unanticipated college dreams afforded by the passage of Title IX, to the resilient connection the siblings shared, THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED draws viewers into the lives of a unique family with a touching, compelling story. Edited in a nonlinear narrative unlike most documentaries, THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED offers a textured style of filmmaking. Vintage 8mm film footage, family photos, archival news articles, and a dynamic musical score, including the original theme song “My Father’s Eyes Were Watching,” are woven together to create a stirring viewing experience. This deeply uplifting journey of fatherly devotion, familial love, perseverance, and triumph will linger in viewers’ hearts.

THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED is an independent feature documentary about a close-knit family of six siblings. The Vetters grew up in the idyllic setting of Bass Lake in Munson Township, a community that borders Chardon, Ohio, the heart of Northeast Ohio’s “snow belt.” Though it was developed as a lake community for weekend residents, Bass Lake became the year-round home for John Vetter (born from Eastern European immigrants) and Marie Chavez (born from Mexican/Native American descent) after they married in 1954. The tiny cottage they purchased quickly became home to the six rambunctious children they bore over the next eight years: oldest son Greg, twins Debbie and Diane, Janis, Mark, and youngest Juanita. The Vetter children spent all their time outdoors, not just playing sports and games, but often coming up with crazy activities like swinging on vines above moving cars, and catapulting from sapling trees! When indoors, they continued their antics in “The Great Upstairs” – the unheated, un-insulated attic bedroom shared by all six brothers and sisters.

The Great Upstairs
Graphic rendering of The Great Upstairs-The unheated, un-insulated attic bedroom shared by all six Vetter children

In the 1960s, the Vetters were a vibrant, fun-loving family. Though they struggled to make ends meet with the modest income from John’s truck driving job, they enjoyed their simple but loving life together. However, the family’s blissful plans for the future took a dramatic turn when Marie unexpectedly became ill. After her heartbreaking death at the age of 42, John was left to raise the six children ages 7 to 14 on his own. With Social Services looking to split up the family, John took a low-wage job at a local gas station so he could be close to home. With no extended family on which to rely, the Vetter’s endured tumultuous upheaval and financial struggle. Fortunately, the foresight of the girls’ physical education teacher and the vision of a dedicated track coach drastically changed the family’s trajectory. And John realized that his children’s athletic gifts provided a way to hold the family together.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Vetters became highly touted athletes. Through a combination of cross country, track & field, and wrestling talents, they won innumerable awards. The oldest three girls experienced unimagined success as they excelled under the tutelage of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach Herb Stockman and his Blue Ribbon Track Club in Wickliffe, Ohio. As three of the runners on Blue Ribbon’s 4 x 880 relay team, Debbie, Diane, and Janis not only won the Women’s AAU Track & Field national championship, they set the Junior Women’s World Record that still stands today. With the scholarship opportunities afforded by the advent of Title IX, they attended college and competed for the top women’s track & field and cross country programs in the nation, racking up numerous national championships, and qualifying for the Olympic trials. All told, the Vetters earned a combined total of 16 State Championship awards, 35 All American awards, 25 National Championship awards, ten American records, and one World Record in the sports of track & field, cross country and wrestling.

Awards
Awards displayed on the wall of the Vetter family home

The Vetter siblings emotionally convey in the film that none of their success would have been possible without the sacrifices and devotion of their father. Though weary from the toils of his job, John Vetter devotedly drove his kids over an hour for track practice every day, and across the country for competitions. He also continued to coach his sons’ baseball teams in the community league he co-founded in Munson Township. And he didn’t just coach – he built and maintained the fields. Never demanding in demeanor and always supportive, he was determined that his children have the opportunity to make the most of their athletic and artistic talents.

THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED was produced and directed by northeast Ohioans Anne Bruder and Nancy Pokorny, and features music from native northeast Ohioans Anne E. DeChant, Colette Gschwind, and Tom Evanchuck. Edited in a nonlinear narrative unlike most documentaries, THE VETTERS: ALL WE NEEDED offers a textured style of filmmaking. Vintage 8mm film footage, family photos, archival news articles, and a dynamic musical score, including the original theme song “My Father’s Eyes Were Watching,” are woven together to create a stirring audience experience. This deeply uplifting journey of fatherly devotion, familial love, perseverance, and triumph will linger in viewers’ hearts.

The World Premiere Event takes place through the generous Marquee Sponsorship of the Kellogg Insurance Agency on Chardon Square and Junction Auto Family. Screenings are June 14 and 15 at 7:00 p.m. and June 16 (Father’s Day) at 3:00 p.m. at Geauga Lyric Theater, 101 Water Street, Chardon, Ohio.

Each screening will be followed by audience Q&A with the Vetters, a reception with light refreshments, and an opportunity to talk with the Vetters one-on-one. Tickets are $17 for adults, $14 for students/seniors, and $10 for children. Fifty percent of box office proceeds benefit Geauga Lyric Theater Guild.

Geauga News
Author: Geauga News