Clarence Tuma: From student-athlete to 'tremendous supporter'

July 21, 2016

Clarence Tuma, who founded The Embers fine-dining restaurant in 1958 and was a former two-sport student-athlete at Central Michigan University, died Thursday. He was 91.

Tuma remained close to CMU athletics after graduating from CMU in 1950. The Embers hosted all coaches' lunches for many years, and he was a regular visitor to games and athletics events even in recent years.

"We've lost a friend and a tremendous supporter," CMU Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said. "Always kind and giving of his time, he was a Chippewa every day."

Tuma was a 5-foot-11-inch, 219-pound tackle on the football team from 1946-49, and he lettered his freshman year while playing under Coach Lyle Bennett.

Dave Keilitz, a longtime baseball coach at CMU and director of athletics from 1984-1994, said he visited Tuma on Tuesday afternoon at Maplewood of Mt. Pleasant.

"We sat in the lobby and talked, and he was wearing his CMU cap," Keilitz said. "He always enjoyed talking about friends, community, CMU - especially CMU Athletics - and the Embers. So that's what we talked about.

"He was a giant in the community, and he will be missed."

Tuma was named Mount Pleasant's Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1974. In 2004, he received the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. He received an honorary doctorate from CMU in 2007.

"Mr. Tuma was a lifelong friend to CMU," President George E. Ross said. "With a gentle soul and constant enthusiasm for CMU, he became a legend, in part through all the mentoring he did of Central students who worked at The Embers through the decades."

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