'Original Warrior' Dick Kerner remembered
He was the original athletic director of the "Original Valley."
At Waubonsie Valley High School, Dick Kerner helped establish the tradition of athletic excellence in Indian Prairie School District 204 from the school's 1975 inception to his retirement in 1995.
A lifelong West Chicago resident, Mr. Kerner, 83, died July 23.
"He started it all up. He was like the original Warrior," said B.J. Luke, Waubonsie Valley's head football coach from 1988 to 2005.
An assistant football coach throughout his career at the high school, as an administrator Mr. Kerner was regarded as highly organized, bearing a legal pad listing the day's responsibilities he'd check off as he accomplished them. Known to be the first at school and the last to leave, attending as many school athletic events as possible, Mr. Kerner could be stern but always had the best interests of his staff and student-athletes at heart.
"He was good to the kids, and understanding. I know he was a hard-nosed coach, from what I understand talking to people from the early days. But he was a big, ol' softy, is what he was," said Luke, speaking from his hometown of Danville.
Born June 27, 1936, in Aurora to Albert and Florence Kerner, Mr. Kerner graduated from West Chicago Community High School and was a three-sport athlete at Northern Illinois University.
Starting his coaching career at West Chicago, he was the Wildcats' head football coach and a physical education teacher from 1961-71 before moving to St. Charles High School until Waubonsie Valley opened with 293 students. He was the new school's first department chair of physical education and driver's education.
"He was just a great guy to work for," said Bob Mattingly, Waubonsie Valley's first boys basketball coach. "His greatest quality, I think, was loyalty to his coaching staff. He expected a lot from you and if you gave it to him he was as loyal as could be.
"I'm a great example," said Mattingly, whose teams won eight total games their first three seasons before winning a regional title in the fourth. "In this day and age, I think I'd be fired after my third year."
Named outstanding athletic director of the year in 1995 by the Illinois Athletic Directors Association, Mr. Kerner was inducted into the IADA Hall of Fame in 2007. He entered the Waubonsie Valley High School Hall of Fame in 1995, and that fall the football stadium was named in his honor.
"He was really a coach's AD. He would support you, he could encourage you, he would chastise you. But he was always there to pick you up, too," said Jim Schmid, the former baseball coach who served as principal at both Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley before retiring in 2014.
"He knew all the kids, knew all the coaches. He was the kind of guy you really enjoyed working for, always had a big smile on his face," Schmid said.
An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Kerner is survived by his wife of 59 years, Dorothy; siblings Tom, Jerry and Sue; children Pam, Sheri and Rich; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial visitation for Mr. Kerner will be held Saturday, Aug. 31, at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club, 2241 Route 59, West Chicago, from noon-2 p.m. with a memorial service from 2-3 p.m. and continuing the celebration of his life from 3-4:30 p.m.
Contributions in Mr. Kerner's memory can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 8430 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 800, Chicago, 60631, or www.alz.org. For information call (630) 231-0060 or visit norrissegertfh.com.