Holy Cheese and Crackers!
Now there's one you don't hear every day.
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But according to Jim Rumsa, who would certainly know, that was Jerry Curtright's famous line when he didn't agree with a call or something else went haywire in a football or baseball game.
Curtright, the legendary former Dundee-Crown multisport coach and math teacher, passed away last Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the age of 76. He is survived by three sons, Jay, Todd and Toby, and two daughters, Tracy Reinhard and Terry Truett. A memorial service will be held in Colorado Springs this Saturday.
During his 25 years at Dundee and Dundee-Crown high schools, Curtright was head football coach for eight years, head baseball coach for 12 years and co-head boys golf coach for five years. He taught math his entire career, which began after serving in the Air Force for 12 years. For five years he taught at the Air Force Academy and for seven years he coached football and baseball in France and Germany.
I recall vividly one of my first assignments as a young pup sports writer. My boss, Stan Shalett, sent me to cover a Dundee baseball game, and yes, this was in the pre-Crown days when Dundee was still the Cardunals. Can't remember who it was against, but I do remember arriving at the field and seeing this guy dressed in a baseball uniform that probably should have been battle fatigues based on the way his pregame drills were going. Stan had warned me that Curtright was a gruff disciplinarian, and on that one Stan was right. And after those drills, Curtright's players went straight to the equipment shed, grabbed a rake and prepared the field for the game. In a column I wrote when Curtright retired in 1996, he spoke of how he always had pride in the condition of his field.
I got to know Curtright over the years and I liked him a heck of a lot, both as a coach and a person. Was he gruff? Yes, he was. But did he demand his student-athletes perform to the best of their ability in the classroom and on the field. You bet he did. And he did it with a passion you don't see in enough young coaches today.
"He was a colorful coach and he was from the old school. He was a real disciplinarian," said Rumsa, a legendary former teacher and coach at Dundee in his own right, who still does the public address announcing for D-C football games.
"In all the years I knew him I never heard him use a word of profanity. "Holy Cheese and Crackers! That was his way of saying he wasn't happy about a call or something else that happened in a game."
South Elgin football coach Dale Schabert was just coming out of college in 1979 and got his first teaching job at Dundee. He coached under Curtright in football and baseball.
"Whenever you come out as a first-year teacher you're looking for the ones a little older to mentor you and he gave me the opportunity to coach football and baseball," Schabert said. "He made a huge impact on me as an educator. He and his wife (Jackie) and his family were great to my wife and I. Jerry loved being around the kids. He always had great enthusiasm for the kids he coached. I learned a lot from him. He instilled a really good work ethic into me but his bottom line was to always have fun. I'm sad to hear he's passed."
According to IHSA records, Curtright was 31-50-1 from 1972-80 as Dundee's football coach. His 1976 team made the playoffs. His baseball teams were always competitive. His closest brush with a downstate trip was in 1984 when the Chargers lost to Fremd 1-0 in the sectional finals (there were no supersectionals then). Current South Elgin baseball coach Jim Kating was the starting catcher on that Fremd team and Schabert was a D-C assistant.
Curtright, a Woodstock High School grad whose dad, Guy, played for the White Sox in the 1940s, was also instrumental in developing former D-C great and future major leaguer Juan Acevedo into a pitcher.
"I remember when he took Juan Acevedo under his wing," Rumsa said. "Juan wasn't even a pitcher until his junior year of high school. He got his start as a pitcher under Jerry."
Former Dundee-Crown girls basketball coach Joe Komaromy saw the same qualities in Curtright as many of us did.
"Jerry was very unique," Komaromy said. "He was a colorful individual and coach. He was very disciplined both as a football and baseball coach. He was a good teacher who was always prepared. He was a good man."
"It's a big loss for those of us who knew and worked with him," Rumsa said. "I'll remember him with fond memories."
And a whole lot of Holy Cheese and Crackers!