JULIUS D. BLANKE: 1916-2004
Of the Post-Dispatch

Storied McKinley coach
was "incredible human"


In 1996, more than 800 people attended the 80th birthday party for Julius D. Blanke, who was known as "Coach."

"There would have been more people, but we had to keep it a surprise," said Lou Lewis of Manchester, a longtime friend and former student. "I can honestly say that I doubt if there is a living person in St. Louis that was more well-loved by as many people as Coach. He was truly an incredible human being, sharp as a tack with perfect recall."

Blanke, a retired high school teacher, football coach and baseball coach, died Tuesday (February 17, 2004) of a heart attack at his residence in south St. Louis County. He was 87.

Blanke was born in St. Louis and graduated in 1936 from McKinley High School, where he lettered all four years in baseball and football. He graduated in 1941 from what was then Central Missouri State Teachers College, now Central Missouri State University, in Warrensburg. He earned a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1947.

In 1941, after graduation, Blanke's first teaching assignment was in Perryville, Mo. With the U.S. entering World War II, he soon found himself serving in the Army as an MP until 1944. Returning from the Army, he taught briefly at St. Charles High School and then Cleveland High School until 1945.

In 1946, Blanke returned to his alma mater, McKinley High, where he was the coach of the football and baseball teams. The school did not have a football field or a baseball diamond. The football team practiced on a vacant dirt lot and still managed to capture league titles in 1946, '52, '56, '58, '59, '60 and 1977. The baseball players walked a mile from the school to practice at Lemp Park. The baseball teams won two league titles.

Blanke retired in 1981. After his retirement, he officiated high school football and basketball games. He also helped out weekly at Savage Foods, a family-owned and operated wholesale meat company owned by a former McKinley High football star, the late Paul Savage Sr.

"In 1955, my dad opened the company on Gravois Road," said Paul Savage Jr., president of Savage Foods. "Coach and another friend, Harry Hausmann, continued to help with the family business even when my father passed away a few years ago.

"For the last 50 years, Coach was in before 7 a.m. every Saturday. He seldom missed a Saturday. He did a lot of the minor repair maintenance, clean up and sweeping - just out of friendship with my father and family."

Savage Jr. said Blanke would stay until noon and head off to officiate games. He kept up that pace until he was in his 70s, when he suffered a broken leg at a football game, Savage said.

Blanke received many awards through the years, including The Sporting News' high school coach of the year in 1976 and in 2000 the Eddie Cochran Award for his contribution to football. He was the first recipient of the St. Louis Suburban Journal's Denver Miller Award, in 1978.

He was inducted into the Greater St. Louis Football Association Hall of Fame in 1985 and the St. Louis Metropolitan Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994.

Blanke was a member of the McKinley Goldbugs, a group of more than 500 McKinley graduates who meet bimonthly for lunch.

Visitation is from 3 to 9 p.m. today at Kutis Funeral Home, 10151 Gravois Road. There will be another visitation, at 9 a.m. Friday, followed by a 10 a.m. funeral service at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, 9712 Tesson Ferry Road. Burial will be in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Among survivors are his wife of 33 years, Martha Blanke, and a son by a previous marriage, Michael Blanke.

In lieu of flowers, donors are asked to contribute to a children's charity of their choice.

Reporter: Denice M. Santangelo
E-mail: dsantangelo@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-340-8342