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Obituary for Jon Hersch, Hall of Fame track coach at Blaine and Champlin Park

Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 6:06 PM

Youthful and active at age 74, Jon Craig Hersch went home to eternal life on November 21, 2020 after a battle with COVID-19. Cherished and adored by so many, his gentle spirit and selfless character left an indelible mark on those he encountered and will be deeply missed.

Hersch was born to Russell and Irma (Selg) Hersch in 1946. In 1957, the family moved from Cambridge, Minnesota to Osseo, Minnesota, where his father had accepted the position of Junior- Senior High School Principal. As the eldest of four children, Jon was often the babysitter for his three young siblings. The patience and love he demonstrated with his first small team would later be replicated with his own children and grandchildren.

Jon was always "first" - to get a car, to buy records, to go to college, to get married, to have children and grandchildren. His siblings looked up to him and were proud to watch him excel in sports and academics - and to inherit his 1968 seafoam green Ford Mustang! He attended Osseo High School where he was a standout student-athlete, participating in football, basketball, baseball, and track.

Following his graduation in 1964, Hersch attended St. Olaf college where he played football and made many lifelong friends. He graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in English and began his teaching and coaching career in Mt. Morris, Michigan. During the summer of 1968 on a blind date, Jon met the girl of his dreams, Gretchen Asche, who would be his bride of 51 years. They were married in 1969 in Clara City, Minnesota, and returned to Mt. Morris, Michigan, where they both taught.

In the summer of 1970, they found that their rental home would be unavailable for the summer, so they decided to take a trip to Europe. Armed with a guidebook titled, "Europe on $5 a Day," they bought a Volkswagen Beetle from Wolfsburg, Germany and weaved throughout Europe, shipping the car home after their trip. This would be the first of many adventures for Jon and Gretchen in the years to come, including many wonderful years spent enjoying their Disney Vacation Club.

In 1971, Hersch received a teaching position in the Anoka Hennepin School District where he taught English and served as a football coach and head track & field coach at Blaine Senior High. After 14 years, he moved to Champlin Park High School, where he taught and coached for another decade. With abundant joy and profound empathy, he served as educator, encourager, and friend to students and faculty alike. As a close friend said, "He was so kind, it makes one wonder how he had control of the classroom - the answer is that the kids adored and respected him."

As head coach for the boy's track team, Jon - along with two fabulous assistant coaches who stuck together for 25 years - coached 53 all-state individuals, 21 all-state relay teams, and they had teams place in the top 10 at the state meet on six occasions. In 2008, Hersch was inducted into the Minnesota State Track & Field Coaches Hall of Fame. He served as Secretary and Treasurer of both the Minnesota Track and Cross-Country Associations for 21 years, and he served as an official for the XXIII Olympic Games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984.

Most importantly, though, Jon had a meaningful impact on the lives of the many young athletes he coached; they knew they were part of a program that welcomed and challenged them. As one friend wrote, "Jon paid it forward by coaching, teaching, and inspiring generations of young men and women over his distinguished career." Hersch retired in 2003, but he couldn't stay off the field for long. He and fellow coach Dave Nelson reconnected shortly thereafter to coach together at Minnetonka High School. Jon relished the opportunity to coach for five more seasons, staying on as the team's statistician through 2019.

Jon cherished his family. As a husband and father, he unconditionally loved the three women in his life. As a grandfather, Jon was an ever-present light, offering boundless warmth, encouragement, and acceptance. He always obliged when he heard, "Just one more, Papa?" Jon attended a small group at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, MN and held a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ that inspired his children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Jon was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by many who will miss him dearly: wife Gretchen; daughters Jennifer (Andrew) Matysik (Edina, MN) and Sarah Helgeson (Guyton, GA); grandchildren Joey, Maria, Will and Sydney Matysik, and Tait and Ingrid Helgeson; as well as his beloved siblings, Geri (Don) Isaacson, Bobbi (John) Augustine, James (Candy) Hersch, and many adoring nieces and nephews. We will leave a spot at the table for the family games of PIT, UNO and Boggle until we can play together again! We're grateful for the story and example of Jon's life, and the way he showed us how to walk humbly, listen patiently, and love joyfully. The family will hold a small, private service, and a celebration of Jon's life will be held at a later date. Edina Chapel 952-920-3996

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