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updated: 1/16/2014 2:11 PM

Northwest suburban coach preached hard work and dedication

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  • Longtime coach Ted Wissen with his daughter, Jo Ann Jennings.

    Longtime coach Ted Wissen with his daughter, Jo Ann Jennings.

By Eileen O. Daday

A legendary coach, who helped shape basketball and football programs at four different Northwest suburban high schools, has died.

Ted Wissen taught physical education and coached for nearly 40 years, at Prospect, Arlington, Forest View and Rolling Meadows high schools, as well as North Central College in Naperville and South Middle School in Arlington Heights.

Wissen died Tuesday after suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. He was 82.

"Ted touched so many young lives in (Northwest Suburban High School) District 214 -- at four different schools," said Bob Frisk, who covered high school sports for 50 years for the Daily Herald. "He truly played a huge role in the tremendous growth of high school sports in this area."

Wissen grew up in Rockford and played basketball at a small, private school in Woodstock. As a 6-foot 5-inch center, he earned a scholarship to play ball at Purdue University, but back problems eventually curtailed his playing career.

The combined experiences of playing at a small school against much larger rivals, as well as against Big Ten opponents, gave Wissen the foundation for his long coaching career, colleagues said.

"He had the best athletic coaching mind of any coach I ever worked with," said Fred Lussow, a former student of Wissen's who coached with his mentor at Forest View and Rolling Meadows high schools.

Lussow remembers first playing for Wissen as a sixth grader at South Middle School. With no sixth grade team, Wissen worked with students during morning and weekend sessions.

"I remember him pulling me aside one day," says Lussow, who was a three-sport athlete at Prospect and played football at Indiana University.

"He said that if I worked really hard, and dedicated myself to getting better over the summer, that I might have a chance to make the team.

"He didn't promise me anything," Lussow said, "but that simple message of working hard and dedication made an impact on me. They've basically guided me through the rest of my playing and coaching career."

Dick Kinneman, who coached the first basketball team at Prospect High School when it opened in 1957, brought Wissen on as his assistant. During the 1960-1961 season, they coached the varsity team to as high as No. 2 in state polls.

"He was a complete partner in the success of that team," Kinneman says. "He was as good a coach and person as I could have asked for."

In 1973 Wissen reunited with Lussow, at Forest View High School, where they coached basketball and football together. They recorded their best year in 1985, finishing second in Class 5A.

Their careers continued together in 1986, when they moved together to Rolling Meadows High School, where Wissen eventually retired in 1996.

Wissen is survived by his wife, Maria, and children William (Peggy) Wissen and Jo Ann (Scott) Jennings; as well as five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Elaine.

Visitation will take place from 4-7 p.m. Friday at Meadows Funeral Home, 3615 Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows.

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