Coach Jim Weinandt: He never gave up

The following is another "Have Fun or Get Out of the Way" column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Daily Telegram.

The following is another "Have Fun or Get Out of the Way" column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Daily Telegram.

The first time I met Jim Weinandt was in the winter of 1965. I was an eighth grader at the Lake Nebagamon Grade School and he was a senior at Northwestern High School.

He was the sports editor of the school paper, the Octagon. Our basketball team had just defeated the dreaded Poplarites and Weinandt interviewed me after the championship game.

When you are young, you are always leery of older people. After all, he was a senior in high school and I was only 13. I realized then and am reminded today of what a nice person he was and continued to be until his death on Aug. 15, 2001.

Using the word "great" to describe someone is used too much in today's society. Weinandt, however, deserves that description. He was a great teacher, coach, friend and human being. He was definitely unique in his approach to life and in the way he treated his fellow man: even a 13-year-old eighth grader from Lake Nebagamon.


This is my humble attempt to let everyone know about Jim.

Jim was born in Rice Lake on Oct. 17, 1947 as the second son in a family started by Mickey and Larry Weinandt. His older brother Larry was in the first graduating class at NHS in 1950.

The family moved to Poplar in 1948 and owned a "mom and pop" grocery store, appropriately named, Weinandt's. He attended school at the Poplar Elementary School and graduated from Northwestern in 1965. After high school, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1969 with a major in English, and began his love affair with teaching young people in the fall of 1969 at his beloved NHS.

During his career at NHS, he coached for the track, basketball, and football programs, including the 1988 state football championship team. One of his five children, Mark, who is in the Air Force stationed in Omaha, Neb., was the starting quarterback on that team. His other four children are Jill, who lives in Poplar, and Megan, Nikki and Mike, all of Superior.

Mike, the eldest, is following in his dad's footsteps as a football coach and teacher at Superior High School. Each of them has one thing in common with their father: his never-give-up attitude. In fact, that attitude is something for which Weinandt will always be remembered.

In May 2001, only three months before he left us, he was the keynote speaker for the commencement at NHS. His daughter Nikki was graduating that evening. His message to all in attendance was inspirational, emotional and thought provoking.

On March 4, 1993, another coach fighting a battle with cancer, Jim Valvano, gave one of the most inspirational speeches ever, and has become known as the "Don't Ever Give Up" speech. Weinandt and Valvano have much in common.

Weinandt and the former North Carolina State basketball coach were, and still are, inspirational to those they taught and coached. The theme of Weinandt's talk was based on Valvano's "never give up" philosophy on life. How ironic that the very night that Valvano's Wolfpack defeated Houston in the NCAA basketball championships, his daughter Nikki was born.


Both were named Jim, both were teachers, both coached sports, both were positive role models to their students and players, both left this world too early due to the scourge of cancer, both were true and loyal friends, and facing insurmountable odds, both refused to give up and fought until the very end. The fact that Nikki was born on the same night as Valvano's championship, sends chills up my spine. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

I could go on forever with Jim Weinandt stories, but there are others who worked and coached with him that can tell you more about the type of person he was.

On Nov. 14, 1998, Northwestern's football team was on its way to Colfax to play Colby in the WIAA Level IV playoff game, with plenty at stake. The winner would compete for the state championship the next week at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. At the pregame meal at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake, coach Ray Kosey read a letter to his team written by Weinandt, who was unable to attend due to his illness.

In the letter, Weinandt gave his regards and encouragement to the team.

Near the end of the letter, he said, "Well, it's just about time for the game. I'd like to make a deal with you. If either one of us loses this battle, let's promise each other that it won't be because we didn't give 100 percent all the time. In a football game, little things can mean a lot. You never know when your opportunity will come to be the difference in the game: one block, one tackle, one tipped ball. Always go 100 percent. Play as a team. It was signed, I love you Tigers. Kick some butt. Coach Weinandt."

The team lost in the last couple of minutes when Colby scored a touchdown. The Tigers never gave up.

Kosey, the current activities director at Superior High School, remembers his time with Weinandt.

"When Jim was finally too weak to coach, I will always remember when he came to me and apologized for not being able to coach anymore," Kosey said. "He felt he was letting the coaches, the team and me down. The way he taught the 1998 Northwestern football team to never give up was so valuable and I feel a part of coach Weinandt lives with everyone who was associated with that team. He was a tremendous motivator."


Northwestern's superintendent of schools, Gregg Lundberg, had the pleasure of working with Weinandt for 17 years.

Of him, he says, "Jim was an excellent teacher, coach and role model that touched the lives of students and staff for 32 years. His passion, dedication and determination to motivate students and athletes were evident throughout his career. He gave unselfishly of his time and talents and taught us all a lesson in courage, compassion and commitment to never give up, no matter the battle. Jim's smile, sense of humor, and daily conversation is missed."

One of his best friends, fellow coach and teacher, Darrel Kaldor, has fond memories of Weinandt and thinks of him daily.

"Jim was a gentle person but firm in what he believed," Kaldor said. "He and I worked together coaching boys basketball, track and ninth grade football the last seven years I taught.

"Jim was a special friend to me. We spent many cold, winter bus rides to Bloomer, Ladysmith, etc."

Bill Weinandt, Jim's younger brother speaks volumes in a few words. He says, "Jim was a great role model, and he became my best friend."

"He basically set a standard by which to live," Mike Weinandt said. "I think about that a lot. I'm trying to reach the bar that he set before me. I will never give up."

Jim Weinandt left us seven years ago this very day, Aug. 15, 2001. It has been said, "A man is judged by the number of friends he has." It's hard to quarrel with that statement.


I would prefer that the measure of a man be based on the number of people he has positively influenced and by how he lived his life, helping and teaching others.

Jim gave us 53 years. A small number for such a great man, but we are thankful he was here that long.

Thank you Jim Weinandt, for who you were and the example you set. Thanks for all you did, and one day, we will see you again.

Boyleing in the Perkolator

On Sept. 6 at Botten's Green Acres the friends of Jim Weinandt will be holding this year's annual golf scramble. For information call Botten's at (715) 374-2567. There will be food, friendship and fun. Come and celebrate Jim's life and tell a few stories about the coach. He was a good friend to all he met. Lance and Billy guarantee a great time. Be There. That's an Order.

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