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updated: 1/18/2014 11:45 PM

Wheaton native remembered as caring coach, inventor

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  • George John Dekan

      George John Dekan


George J. Dekan was a "Renaissance Man" before the term was coined.

A Wheaton native who worked as a guidance counselor at Glenbard East High School and taught electronics at Glenbard West, Dekan was a football player, pole vaulter, inventor, businessman, coach, husband, father and musician.

Dekan, a World War II veteran, invented and patented the Athletic Performance Analyzer, which was more accurate than a stopwatch.

"He was always thinking of the next thing. His mind was always working," recalled Mary Ann Parent, one of Dekan's three children. "His timer -- he just came up with it. Colleges started to use it, and it became popular."

Dekan, who founded Dekan Timing Devices, the Dekan Athletic Equipment Corporation and now has a track scholarship named after him, died Jan. 9 at his home in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 93.

His oldest daughter, Carolyn Hartmann, said Dekan was the only one of his siblings to go to college. He played violin on weekends to help pay this way and also did odd jobs, like repairing radios and washing dishes.

"He taught us to believe in ourselves, to set goals and to achieve those goals," Hartmann said. "He felt he was in charge of himself from the time he was about 10 years old. He helped us prepare for college, but once we got our degrees, we were responsible for our own success."

In more than 35 years of teaching, coaching and officiating, Dekan earned many honors. Hartmann recalled that he was thrilled to be inducted into Athletic Director Presidential Hall of Fame in 2000 -- and he was one of just three honorees who had not been actual athletic directors.

Dekan also was a member of the Northern Illinois Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Illinois Cross Country and Track and Field Officials Hall of Fame,

"He always tried to be very, very fair, whether it was in the classroom or at a track event where he was officiating," Hartman said. "He never gave up. He was very, very positive about everything in life. Believing in people was very, very important to him."

Parent also said her father was a hard worker, trusted others, valued independence, and made his mark as a caring track coach.

"He really was like a personal friend, and they could talk to him and he really cared about what they were doing. To me, that's a big thing," Parent said. "He was interested in them as people, not just athletes."

Dekan and his wife, Mildred, moved from West Chicago to Fort Myers in 1984 and enjoyed playing golf at the San Carlos Golf Club. She died from cancer in 2001.

A memorial service for Dekan will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 at the Estero United Methodist Church, located at Broadway and Hwy. 41, Estero, Florida.

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