A Good Man Gone Too Soon

At the beginning of the week, I saw that Sherrie Davis Ebersole, a member of the Sterling High School girls’ first State Championship Basketball Team (1977), posted on facebook a Chicago Tribune article which announced Bruce Scheidegger’s untimely death due to a car accident. Across the Midwest and beyond, we mourn the loss of a beloved former  coach, athletic director, husband, father and son.

Even though Bruce’s career took him to the big city, he never lost his small town ways. He took those same values along when he left Sterling for the athletic director position at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, where he continued to be respected for his honesty, fairplay and integrity.

He may have left Sterling, but he remained in our hearts.

I met Bruce when my dad introduced him to me as the new Sterling High School girls’ basketball coach (1998-2007). During my visits to the States over Christmas holidays, I went to the Dixon Tournament  to watch the girls play. Seeing Bruce coach his daughters reminded me of when my dad coached my sister and me. I admired the way Bruce spoke to the media,  interacted with his players, and called time out just at the right time.

Kind, upbeat, sincere. He remembered names and faces.Whenever we were back in town, he invited my Franco-American daughter to practice with the team. When she played for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he followed her career.

He once told me his family originally came from Switzerland. Years later, when I visited Kleine Scheidegg, 6,762 ft, the mountain pass between the Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks in the Swiss Alps, I wanted to send him a postcard of his ancestral village. He was the kind of person you never forget.

Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen -Switzerland

Kleine Scheidegg, Wengen -Switzerland

I did not know him well, but I know well where he came from – a tight-knit family from a small Northwestern Illinois town. He graduated from Chadwick a year after I graduated from Sterling. He attended University of Illinois; I went to Illinois State.  He played baseball; I played basketball. We both loved coaching. Whether he was coaching at Prophetstown, Dixon, Sterling or Carl Sandburg, he advocated for all student/athletes, especially girls.

Bruce was truly the kind of AD that looked out for coaches, including old ones. How many big school ADs would take the time to write a letter to an 80-year-old-coach (my dad) to commemorate his birthday?

His former athletes will remember his enthusiasm and compassion.

At SHS, he will be remembered as a class act, someone who always advocated for the well-being of others.

From Prophetstown, to Dixon, to Sterling, to Carl Sandburg, he motivated students. In 2007, thirty years after SHS won the first state championship, Bruce led the Sterling girls’ basketball team back down State. Most recently, he was supporting Carl Sandburg girls at an IHSA State Bowling Championship in Rockford.

Instantly, after a SHS alumni posted the words, the tragic message traveled the world via Internet impacting hundreds of people whose lives he touched even if only briefly. We were shaped by common values formed during the same time period in a similar place; we remained connected forever in our love of family, school, community, team and sport.

Sadly, especially for his cherished family, Bruce Scheidegger is gone from our daily lives, but never from our memory.

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  1. Beautifully written, Pat. Even though I am an English teacher, I have yet to find the words to express my sorrow. Maybe I won’t let myself sit down long enough to think about it. I especially love your last line: “Sadly, especially for his cherished family, Bruce Scheidegger is gone from our daily lives, but never from our memory.” That sure gets to the heart of it, even if our hearts are broken.

  2. Pat….

    Bruce was a friend of mine. He was
    on an other level of human being…the one
    you don’t see often enough.

    He was always in the moment and
    present. He and I shared our love for
    the Illini, baseball, and basketball and were
    friends while he was at Sterling.

    It’s so interesting that he would invite
    your daughter to run with the team….

    I enjoy your writing!

  3. Pat, what a heartwarming story. I’ve been lucky enough to be associated with coaches and mentors like that myself. Part of their legacy continues with us, as we will always try to emulate their ways.

    • Yes, Bonnie, I am been fortunate to have had many good mentors through sport and education that I try to emulate in my work with high school students.

  4. What a lovely tribute to Bruce! While I didn’t know him, I’ve known others like him — kind, compassionate, caring. Coaches and educators who selflessly put the kids’ interests before their own, who go to bat for the kids and joyfully pass on what they’ve learned to new generations. We could use a whole lot more of them today. I hope you’ll send a copy of your post to his family — it would mean a lot in their time of grieving to have these beautiful memories!

    • Yes, Debbie, those of us who have benefited from having been influenced by such compassionate men (and women) in education, in turn must pay it forward in our work. In this way the goodness in Bruce and others like him, lives on.

  5. What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Bruce, Pat. Not only do I feel like I’ve met Bruce but you write in such a way that I feel his loss to his community, his friends and his family. We should all strive to live like Bruce. Thank you for another wonderful story. My condolences to all whose lives he touched and especially to his family.

  6. You have paid homage to the loss of a good man in the best way, Pat. Thanks for sharing this with your reader family.


    • Yes and thanks to my reader family for helping sustain me during the hard times, when we grapple with the injustice of good men (and women) passing on too soon, leaving so many broken hearts behind.

  7. Pat, I was led to your website when I was reading about Coach Scheidegger. What a great tribute you wrote. We in Central Illinois, knew Bruce through our ADs and Coaching associations. Even though we only met him a few times, He was very well respected.

I would love to hear from you

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