WATERLOO – Last Monday, Waterloo West lost one of its all-time greats with the passing of Ron Sturch, who succumbed to complications from an aneurysm at the age of 84.
In terms of achievements and service, Sturch possibly could be the greatest Wahawk of all-time.
“He was a great Wahawk and was a great supporter right up to the end,” West high athletic director Dr. Anthony Pappas said.
A 1954 West graduate, Sturch was the 1954 Drake Relays and state champion in the pole vault and later went onto a Hall of Fame career at Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa). He starred on the track as an all-event athlete and on the gridiron, where he lettered three times for Clyde Starbeck while rotating as halfback and end and serving as the Panthers’ punter.
His efforts at ISTC saw him inducted into the UNI Hall of Fame in 2006.
After graduating from college in 1958, he joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. In 1959 he competed in the Pan-American Track and Field trials as a decathlete.
He came back to Iowa, beginning a teaching career in Hazleton before moving home to Waterloo in 1963. He taught for 32 years at Edison Middle School, West Junior High and West high school before retiring in 1995.
In addition to teaching, he coached basketball, football and track and was also a basketball and track official for the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
He is a member of the Iowa Track Coaches Hall of Fame and for his work as an a official he was inducted into the Iowa Conference Hall of Fame and the State of Iowa Officials Hall of Fame.
“There are so many stories,” longtime West High track coach and teacher Gordy Yuska said. “Ron, coach Sturch, and coach (Dick) Dotson made coaching so much fun. It didn’t seem like they were serious all the time, but they were great coaches and technicians.
“Those two made it fun. There was never a boring moment when you were coaching with those guys.”
As much as an impact as Sturch made as a coach, Yuska says, he was part of a group of instructors that innovated the way driver’s education was taught.
“He taught me so much when I started teaching driver’s education,” Yuska recalled. “I remember riding along with him learning how to instruct with some students. We came up to some railroad tracks, and the student driver didn’t look both ways. What that driver didn’t know is Ron had a bullhorn under his seat and he blasted that as we were about to cross those railroad tracks.
“Needless to say we probably could peel that student’s hair off the ceiling of the car. But, honestly, he did that stuff in a safe way so they learned to look both ways. I guarantee you those kids never forgot to look both ways again. He was such a great teacher and coach.”
Dave Swick, another retired Waterloo teacher, grew up hanging around with Sturch’s sons, Dean, Douglas and David, in particular, his oldest, Dean.
“I lived on Windsor and they lived on Ridgeway, so all the Sturch boys were my friends,” Swick said. “I first got to know Mr. Sturch when my dad was playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks, and he was a goal judge. Not a lot of people remember he did that at the Hippodrome.
“But we played street hockey all the time. He was the greatest parent. He was like my second dad.”
After living next door, Swick got to work side-by-side with Sturch at West High in the driver’s education department.
“He had a great sense of humor that took him a long ways with everybody,” Swick said. “People just loved to be around him. He took me under his wing when I first started to teach. I couldn’t have had a better mentor than that guy.
“I put him right up there with Walter Cunningham, who I worked with at East High. The community legacy they both have left is just unbelievable. He really cared about the kids. It is cliché, but the kids knew it right away that he cared.”
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