By DAVE HANNEMAN
Tim Nichols was struck by the saying on the memorial card at Steve Ickes’ viewing.
In his estimation, it was spot on.
“The card had a really notable quote on it,” Nichols said. “It was something about fighting the good fight, about not showing up at your final resting place unscathed. When I read that, I saw the connection in a sporting sense.
“It was perfect for coach.”
A former teacher and coach at Hardin Northern, and principal of Kenton Middle School, Ickes died July 10 following a 10-month battle with cancer.
Ickes was Hardin Northern’s football coach from 1977 through 1979. But he made his greatest impact at the school in track, both as an athlete and coach.
Ickes was the Blanchard Valley Conference shot put champion in 1970 with a throw of 44 feet, 5 inches. That effort helped the Polar Bears win the team title as well.
After earning degrees from both the University of Findlay and the University of Dayton, Ickes returned to Hardin Northern, where he helped rebuild a track and field program that had won four consecutive league crowns and five in one six-year period in the early and mid-70s, but none in the decade from 1975 to 1984.
Ickes was named Hardin Northern’s boys track coach in 1984 and led the Polar Bears to a BVC championship a year later. Hardin Northern defended its BVC boys track title in 1986, then won three straight from 1988-90.
“What I remember is he always had a booming laugh,” said Nichols, a hurdler on the Polar Bears 1985, ’86 and ’88 BVC championship teams.
“Growing up, I really enjoyed playing baseball. But when we got to be freshmen (in high school) a lot of kids gravitated toward track, and a big reason was because coach Ickes was in charge. He was a huge part of why the program did so well.”
Nichols feels Hardin Northern’s success was a direct reflection of the man.
“Coach had a contagious energy,” Nichols said.
“He was pretty excitable, pretty intense at times. But coach had a way about him. Coaches respected him. The athletes respected him. He pushed us, but we also knew that he cared about us. He pushed us to be our best, and he was always getting people to state (competition).
“That was his strength. He was an energizing kind of guy.”
Ickes’ influence, and that of other coaches, made a lasting impression on Nichols.
“I was petty fortunate during my years at Hardin Northern,” Nichols said.
“I had coach (Pete) Brunow in football, coach Ickes for track and coach (Bob) Waldon for basketball, and all of those guys had an impact on me,” Nichols said.
“As I get older and look back, I realize one of the reasons I ended up finishing my education degree and getting into coaching myself was being around those guys.
“Even after I graduated, Coach Ickes stayed in touch. Our paths still crossed every now and then, only now it was more a friendship than a coach/athlete situation.
“You knew he lived life to the fullest because he still had contagious energy of his and that booming laugh.”
That’s why Nichols found the saying on the memorial card so apropos for Ickes, whose family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made in Steve’s name to http://www.mypelotonia.org/donate.jsp?MemberID=790, to help fight the ongoing battle against cancer.
The saying, taken from Hunter Thompson’s “The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967,” goes:
Life should not be a journey
to the grave with the intention of arriving
safely in a pretty and
well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside
in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up,
totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming,
“Wow! What a Ride!”
“When I read that I thought that spoke volumes about the kind of guy was he was,” Nichols said.
“That was coach.”
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