Longtime Elgin teacher, youth coach remembered for dedication to children

 
By Madhu
Krishnamurthy
mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com
Updated 10/3/2018 6:46 PM
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  • Robert "Bob" L. Pleticha Jr.

    Robert "Bob" L. Pleticha Jr.

  • Bob Pleticha, head coach and founder of the Elgin Sharks Track Club, works with runner Shailey Rodriguez, 8, of Elgin, during practice at Channing Park in Elgin. Pleticha dedicated his life to teaching, coaching and mentoring Elgin-area youth. He died Sept. 27.

      Bob Pleticha, head coach and founder of the Elgin Sharks Track Club, works with runner Shailey Rodriguez, 8, of Elgin, during practice at Channing Park in Elgin. Pleticha dedicated his life to teaching, coaching and mentoring Elgin-area youth. He died Sept. 27. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer, 2005

This story has been updated to state that Robert Pleticha was a Vietnam War-era veteran.

A lifelong teacher, mentor and coach to Elgin-area youth, Robert "Bob" L. Pleticha Jr., 76, of Elgin, died Sept. 27 at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

Pleticha, a Vietnam War-era veteran, taught for 32 years in Elgin Area School District U-46 -- 22 of them at Channing Elementary School in Elgin and 10 at Fox Meadow Elementary School in South Elgin -- before retiring in 2008. He founded the Elgin Sharks Track Club in 1980 and was head coach and mentor to thousands of children.

Pleticha had a rough childhood and "just wanted to be there for the kids," said his wife, Mary Pleticha.

"He just had a desire to give kids what they needed, and possibly things he missed out on in his life," she said. "He just had a huge heart."

In 2015, the city of Elgin declared Nov. 18 "Bob Pleticha Day" to honor his dedication to the community and passion for working with youth.

"He just dedicated his time to kids," Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said. "He wanted to help them ... no matter where they came from or what they looked like."

Kaptain said every year Pleticha would send Christmas cards to the mayor's office on behalf of the children he coached.

"They had sparkles in them ... there were sparkles everywhere, all over my desk, all over my office floor," Kaptain said. "It was from the kids thanking us for helping them out. Those were the kinds of personal touches that Bob did for people that made it special. When he wasn't teaching anymore, he still continued to give back to the kids and the community ... that spoke highly of him, his character as a person."

A proclamation honoring Pleticha's service will be read at the next Elgin City Council meeting, Kaptain added.

A 1963 graduate of Willowbrook High School and later Judson University in Elgin, Pleticha's achievements include being an intercollegiate, national and international powerlifting champion. He was inducted into the Judson University Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and Elgin Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. Pleticha was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago. He found his illness hard to accept because he was used to being strong, Mary Pleticha said.

"Those four years were tough," she said. "He competed in his last powerlifting competition in 2011. He was just shy of 69 years."

Aside from teaching and coaching, Pleticha loved gardening and animals. He spent much time caring for frogs, fish and hamsters in his classroom, and raised squirrels and doves at home.

He is survived by brothers Paul and Mike Pleticha, sisters Susan Falco and Penny Estes, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Visitation for Pleticha is from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at Laird Funeral Home, 310 S. State St., Elgin, and from 1 p.m. Saturday until time of service at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 400 Fulton St., Elgin. Mass will begin at 2 p.m. followed by burial with honors at Lakewood Memorial Park in Elgin.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Elgin Sharks Track Club, Parkinson's Foundation or ASPCA.

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