Legendary York High School coach Joe Newton was someone the entire community respected and admired, school officials say.
On Saturday afternoon, it seemed like the entire York community was at the Elmhurst school to bid a final farewell to the man who had coached Dukes cross-country and track.
"Today is an extra special day to be a Newton," Tom Newton said to the massive crowd that came to hear stories and remembrances about his dad. "My father used to call these forever moments, and this is definitely one of them. It's because of people like yourselves that have come out here to honor him, respect him and let us know that you do."
Joe Newton, 88, died in December in Arizona. He was 87 when he retired at the end of the 2016 season after 61 years of coaching.
Newton arrived at York as a teacher in 1956 and took over the cross-country and track and field programs in 1960. During his tenure the Dukes won 29 state titles -- 28 in cross-country and another in track and field. He won his first cross-country title in 1962.
Shannon Ebner, president of the Elmhurst Unit District 205 school board, said Newton became a larger than life presence at York, Elmhurst and beyond.
As a student athlete at York in the late 1980s, Ebner said, she had the opportunity to experience the coach's persona.
"He was one of a kind," she said, "and you never forgot the words he spoke. He was a great motivator who always had a story to tell."
Ebner said kids trusted Newton because they knew he cared about all of them.
"He saw greatness in every child and gave each person a role on the team," she said.
DuPage County Board member Pete DiCianni said he was a freshman at York in 1980 when Newton approached him in gym class and asked if he wanted to be a state champion. DiCianni went on to join the Long Green Line and be part of a team that won four consecutive state titles.
DiCianni said Newton helped make him who he is today by teaching him to "reach for the stars" and "be the best that I can be."
George Andrews, who was a cross-country manager for Newton in the mid-1960s, said the coach was "the ultimate team guy."
"He made everybody feel like they're a member of the team," Andrews said. "Mr. Newton always made the last guy feel as important as the No. 1 guy."
While Newton was famous for his influence on young people, Stan Reddel said he did more than develop athletes.
"He wasn't a leader of just kids," said Reddel, a retired York track and field coach. "He was a leader of men."
Judge Ken Popejoy competed against the Dukes as a cross-country runner for Glenbard West High School in the late 1960s.
He said people who knew Newton won't remember him for the trophies, awards and accolades. They will remember his booming voice, presence, and heart and soul.
"They will remain living, breathing and existing in all of you that were fortunate enough to run for him," Popejoy said, "and all of us who were fortunate enough to compete against him."