Sandburg AD remembered as ‘just an overall great man’
BY PAT DISABATO AND TONY BARANEK Staff writers February 11, 2013 2:14PM
Late Sandburg athletic director Bruce Scheidegger (right) is pictured with Sandburg Principal Julia Wheaton and a Sandburg Eagles football doll. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:20AM
As the athletic director at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Bruce Scheidegger arranged many a sporting event to give young athletes a chance to shine.
But in the process, Scheidegger earned many fans of his own, to hear those who knew him tell it.
Scheidegger, 54, died over the weekend in an apparent auto accident near Mount Carroll in northwestern Illinois. He was married and had three children.
School administrators, colleagues and athletes on Monday remembered Scheidegger as caring, efficient and invaluable to the Sandburg community. He was in his sixth year as athletic director after coming to Sandburg from Sterling Community Schools.
“He immediately fit in and became a respected member of the Sandburg family,” retired Sandburg baseball coach and dean of students Doug Sutor said. “If something needed to get done, he figured out a way to get it done. He didn’t HAVE to be at all the sporting events, he wanted to be there. That’s just the type of guy he was.”
“He was without a doubt one of the nicest guys I have ever met,” former Sandburg girls basketball player Jen Pache wrote in a message to the SouthtownStar. “There are very few of my basketball games that I remember where Mr. Scheidegger was not in the stands or at least stopped by to see a bit of the game.
“Every time I saw him in the halls he would go out of his way to say hello and ask how the team and I were doing. He was just an overall great man and he will be deeply missed by me and everyone else who got the pleasure to meet him.”
“Mr. Scheidegger was the most dedicated and compassionate man I have ever met,” Kara Kentner, who played volleyball at Sandburg a couple of years ago, wrote in an email. “During my four years of athletics at Sandburg, he made a tremendous impact each year and would always go out of his way to support his teams. The accomplishments he created were outstanding. His hard work, character and heart made him someone that everyone wanted to be around. I speak for all when saying that Mr. Scheidegger had a life-changing influence not only on his student-athletes, but everyone he knew throughout his journey. He will be missed dearly, and never replaced in our hearts.”
Former Sandburg softball pitcher Brittany Gardner wrote in a message sent to the SouthtownStar that Scheidegger was with the Eagles all the way to their 2010 Class 4A state title.
“Mr. Scheidegger had a huge impact on Sandburg’s athletic department,” Gardner wrote. “He supported all the athletes and could be spotted at all the sporting events. He truly wanted the best for all the athletes and definitely helped the softball team get to state my senior year. He was so excited for us when we won. I’m so grateful for everything he did.”
Carroll County sheriff’s police said Scheidegger was found dead in a vehicle that left Loran Road north of Mount Carroll, drove over a steep embankment and turned over. Police had received a call at 11:07 p.m. Saturday that Scheidegger was missing. He was found Sunday morning, according to Andrew High School athletic director Rich Piatchek, a friend of the family.
Piatchek said Scheidegger, of Orland Park, has a home in Carroll County where he was staying during the weekend. He had left Friday for a state bowling tournament in Rockford, where Sandburg’s girls team was a participant.
Sheriff’s police said Monday the incident remains under investigation. The Carroll County Coroner’s office said an autopsy would be conducted late Monday or Tuesday.
Consolidated High School District 230 officials said counselors would be available at Sandburg throughout the week to assist students and staff.
“Our thoughts are prayers are with all who love Bruce, most especially his wife, Debbie, and their children, Samantha, Kristin and Molly,” Supt. James M. Gay said in a news release. “Bruce will be remembered as a compassionate educator and outstanding administrator. He will be sadly missed by Sandburg, District 230 and the athletic community.”
“I know I will remember Bruce as a kind, compassionate and dedicated friend and colleague who always had the best interest of students and staff at heart,” Sandburg Principal Julia Wheaton said in the release. “He will be deeply missed here at Sandburg and by all he came into contact with through the athletic community.”
But Scheidegger wasn’t all business.
“We had that bond,” Sutor said of their friendship. “Bruce was a baseball guy. He was a baseball junkie. We went to a Cubs game together once, sat down the line by the bullpen.
“Just a fundamentally good man. He was the type of guy I had hoped to stay friends with long after we worked together. He told me when he retired he wanted to buy a Harley(-Davidson motorcycle) but his wife would never let him. I told him that I had four Harleys and he was welcome to use any of them to learn how to drive.
“We never got that opportunity.”
Sutor said when he got a call about Scheidegger’s death, “it was like someone had punched you in the chest and it takes the wind out of you. What a shock.”
Joliet West High School boys varsity basketball coach Luke Yaklich said he owes much of his career to Scheidegger, who was coaching the girls basketball team at Sterling High School when Yaklich was hired as the boys coach.
“Bruce was the first person that called and told me Sterling was a good place to be,” Yaklich said. “My wife (Amy) and I trusted Bruce that it’s a good place to be. I learned early on that trusting him was a good thing.”
Scheidegger also helped Yaklich get an interview at Joliet West.
“He and I shared a lot of our coaching philosophy. We helped each other through the tough times in a season,” Yaklich said. “He taught me the importance of balancing family, teaching and coaching and how to involve your family in your profession. It’s something that I’ve taken with me to this day.
“Bruce became a great friend to me. He did so much to help my wife and me. Three weeks ago we had dinner after the Joliet West-Sandburg game. We caught up on old times, talked about family. I know he was proud of me. That means a lot to me,” Yaklich said before breaking down.
Scheidegger earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1981, and also taught, coached or was an administrator for Tonica, Prophetstown and Dixon schools. He earned master’s degrees in physical education and educational administration from Western Illinois University.
Scheidegger’s family could not be reached for comment Monday. Services were pending.
Contributing: Susan DeMar Lafferty, Dick Goss