A Park Fan in Heaven
A Tribute to Ed Kerkvliet
A Tribute by Jim Kerkvliet
At the conclusion of the 1999-2000 season, I retired as the coach of the Racine Park Girls Basketball Program after 19 years as the coach. I told my successor, Jim Betker, that I would stay involved by maintaining the Park Girls Basketball web site, acting as the game supervisor at home games, and being the public address announcer at the games.
While I was the coach, my parents travelled the distance from the farm where I grew up near Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Racine to watch a few memorable games. They were able to see victory number 100, an exciting 61 - 60 victory over cross-town rival Racine Horlick; victory number 200, an exciting sectional final win over Janesville Parker to advance to a state tournament; and the opening game of the 25 - 1 season, our State Championship season of 1996-97. It was very special to me to have them travel the distance to be in the stands at those games.
On December 12, 2000, I received a phone call from my mother that she had been contacted by the nursing care facility about a turn for the worse in my dad's condition. I was home from school that day because Racine had received over a foot of snow the previous day and evening and school was cancelled that day. I contacted the nursing care facility in Chippewa Falls and got more information on Dad's condition. I was told his blood pressure had gotten so low that he might not make it through that day. I packed my clothes and headed north to my parent's farm.
When I did get to see him that night he looked very weak. He improved a little the next day. The staff said they would keep giving him his medicine and soft food in an attempt to treat him as normal as possible for as long as they could.
The snow day on December 12th did cancel the Park home game scheduled for that day. My duties as game supervisor and public address announcer were put on hold for the rest of the week. However, the old coach in me was still showing some concern for the team and their game against cross-town rival Horlick on Friday of that week. When I retired, we had won 23 games in a row over Horlick and my 300th win had come against them. Also my last victory, number 303, had come against Horlick in the sectional semifinal of my last season. I knew that the team had some key players out with injuries and was thinking about them - even though my dad was nearing the end.
I faxed a message to Jim Betker at Park High School reminding him that my dad was a true Park Girls Basketball Fan from a distance. I reminded him that he was there for victory 100 and 200. I also reminded him about the 23 games in a row over Horlick.
I was not aware of this until I talked to Coach Betker later that he had read my fax to the team in the locker room before the game against Horlick that night. I guess he gave a type of "Win one for the Gipper" message to the players. He told me that he was afraid of what would happen when the players took the floor for warmups because all of the players were in tears. It ended up that they played remarkably well, even with two starters injured and two key reserves getting into an accident on the way to the game sending one of them to the hospital. They faced adversity that night and came through. Coach Betker had called the voice mail of my cell phone that night to let me know they had pulled it out and that the team's and his prayers were with us. I got teary eyed listening to that message.
I missed another game the next week. The team pulled out another win over another cross-town rival - Racine Case. The team was still missing some players but found a way to win.
I stayed near my dad the remaining days. We received a phone call at the farm at 1:30 a.m. on December 24th that his breathing pattern had changed. We got in the car and drove through falling snow for the 55 mile journey. He had passed 40 minutes before we got there.
I will continue to maintain this web site. I will continue to be a game supervisor. I will continue to be the public address announcer. Only now when I am at the Park Girls Basketball games, I know there is a "Park Fan in Heaven" close by watching the game with me.