Eulogy given by John Glore '61 at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church on February 20, 2004
COACH JULIUS BLANKE
Julius Delbert “Coach” Blanke
Born, June 27, 1916 Died, February 17, 2004
There is a bond among McKinley people that defies explanation. What is it that brings 300 people together for the luncheon meetings? What special quality brought 800 people to a birthday party for a retired high school coach? What created the love and the closeness that was felt in the rooms and corners of the funeral home last night? How about all the love and emotion being felt in this room today? As I have said, it defies explanation. But I know that Julius Blanke created the climate and nurtured the culture to foster this great bonding and caring for each other.
Coach Blanke was a fortunate man. He knew his purpose in life, his passion was well defined. It must be written somewhere that Julius Delbert Blanke was here on earth to make a difference in the lives of thousands of young people called “Goldbugs”. We are all here today as a testimonial that he accomplished his mission.
Julius Blanke first entered McKinley High School as a freshman in 1932. As a youngster, he walked from his grandmother’s house around Kingshighway and Oakland to the school. Coach was raised by his grandmother after his parents were killed in a car wreck while he was a young child. It was a long walk from Oakland and Kingshighway to McKinley but it was during the depression and no one had money for other transportation. His strong work ethic had started at an early age. He received his diploma from McKinley in 1936 and excelled in athletics during his high school years. He then attended college at Central MO State in Warrensburg on a football scholarship. He played college football and received his degree along with a teaching certificate.
He served in the army during
WW-II and as a member of the military police he was stationed with troops
at Forest Park, within walking distance to his
Early in his teaching career, he was assigned to McKinley High School, his school, that he had loved as a student. Jules Blanke had found a home. He served as head football coach at McKinley High School for 32 years, 1946 through 1978. During most of those years he was also the head baseball coach. But he was more than a coach. He was a friend, a mentor, a role-model, and an incredible human being. The more people you talk with, the more you are amazed. Ex-students all use the same terms when talking about coach’s influence on them.: mentor, friend, role-model, counselor, inspiration - support- guidance- motivation.
Frank Windegger, who went on to star as an athlete and student at TCU and then served as athletic director at that institution, says he would have dropped out of high school to go to work if Coach Blanke hadn’t influenced him to stay in school.
Other students and other athletes tell similar stories.
Willie Jones met Coach Blanke the first day he came to McKinley High School and it changed his life forever. Willie had been a victim of a terrible childhood growing up in East St. Louis. He moved to St. Louis, living with his mother in a small flat on Chouteau Ave. and went to Vashon to enroll. He thought he would go to school for a while and then quit and go to work. After spending an entire day in the guidance office at Vashon, wanting to enroll, and no one talking to him all day, he left disappointed. The next day he walked to McKinley. Upon entering the front door, he was met by Coach Blanke who got him enrolled and convinced him to try out for football. Willie became one of my best friends in high school and I know that he was tempted to drop out on many occasions. Coach kept him in school, helped turn him into an outstanding football player, and helped him to earn a scholarship to Kansas State University, where he excelled and then played professional football. Willie earned his degree and went on to help other children as he was a teacher, a coach, and a school principal for 30 years in Kansas City.
As I have said, there are hundreds or thousands of stories like Frank Windegger’s and Willie Jones’.
Coach Blanke was known and loved by everyone who attended McKinley during the 32 years he served as coach. He was known and loved by the entire community. He reflected the values and the strong work ethic of that wonderful working class community. He required hard work and dedication from his players, but no one worked harder than the coach and no one could ever match his dedication. Thirty-two years as a head coach in one school is rare. Thirty-two years at McKinley took true dedication. The school didn’t have a gym, a stadium, or practice fields.
He lined his own fields, both the baseball diamond at Lemp Park and the vacant lot by school which we referred to as “the campus”. Before lining them, he often had to pick up or rake up rocks and glass. He repaired his own equipment and coached with less equipment than any Coach I have ever known. McKinley High School had a terribly small budget and coach gave not only his time, but often his own money to keep his teams going or to help a student in need.
I can still picture his office in the basement of McKinley covered with pictures, poems, and slogans. One of his favorites was, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” He had pictures of all past teams, and more memories stored that office than I can ever imagine.
Coach Blanke had many successful seasons in both football and baseball. It certainly wasn’t due to players who were big, or overly fast, or gifted with athletic talent. His teams won because they were well disciplined, well schooled in the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, catching, throwing, being in position, knowing game situations. He was a great teacher and he taught us how to play. More importantly, he taught us the importance of always hustling, always trying, never giving up, and how to play as a team. There were no prima donnas or show boats on McKinley teams. You played hard and hustled all the time or you didn’t play for Jules Blanke. He taught us lessons that have lasted long after the last whistle or the last inning was played.
He developed his players into fine young men. He truly cared about his players. He built a closeness and bonding with his players that stretched over the years. If you ever wore the black and gold of McKinley High School, and played for Julius Blanke, you became one of his boys. He always told his teams, “When you win, you win for McKinley High School.” His teams were a reflection of him: hard working and always demonstrating good sportsmanship. His teams won with dignity and lost with honor. He cried at special events and believed the team was a family, long before Dick Vermeil entered the coaching profession.
When you think of McKinley High School, you think of Coach Blanke. The spirit, the traditions, the closeness of Goldbugs over the ages are all due to his influence. He enriched our lives immeasurably.
We will miss him but never forget him, our mentor, our role-model, our COACH.