Aquatics community mourns Lindgren's loss

  • Rob Lindgren stands with his daughters Annie, left, and Katie, at Hersey, during a special event in his honor at Prospect in April. Lindgren, 53, died Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer.

      Rob Lindgren stands with his daughters Annie, left, and Katie, at Hersey, during a special event in his honor at Prospect in April. Lindgren, 53, died Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/16/2018 10:13 PM

Rob Lindgren, a force in Dist. 214 high school aquatics for more than two decades, has died of pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosed in November, Lindgren bravely fought the illness before it claimed him Sunday, leaving his family and the swimming and water polo communities in mourning.


Lindgren, 53, is survived by his wife Jennifer, three children and a legacy of intensely sustained involvement and achievement in aquatics.

In addition to coaching swimming, most recently at Wheeling, he helped bring water polo to prominence in the Mid-Suburban League's East Division. He was Hersey's first girls water polo coach and also coached swimming with the Huskies.

Lindgren had been Dist. 214's aquatics coordinator in recent years and therefore had a key role in dozens of coaches getting their first professional opportunities. He was also extremely active in developing youth programs in both swimming and water polo, and functioned as an official in both sports as well.

"More than all that," summed up Jamie Klotz, formerly Buffalo Grove's boys swimming coach, "he was a great friend who always dreamed big and lived the same way."

"Rob was a fan of swimming -- at all levels," said Rolling Meadows boys and girls swimming coach Monika Chiappetta. "He would do anything to help the aquatics programs of 214, all of them. It wasn't just the schools that he coached, it was all of us.

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"It was an honor to coach against him and by his side for the past 20 years. The legacy of passion, commitment and energy he has left not only on his athletes but also his colleagues will never be forgotten."

Lindgren's effect was not limited to the coaching of athletes. While functioning as a referee for water polo games at the introductory level, he frequently made time to gather parents together in the stands and patiently explain the sometimes confounding rules of the sport.

The Hersey and Prospect water polo programs combined for a fundraiser in support of Lindgren this spring, the PanCan Games, as he continued to undergo treatments. The event drew a who's who of water polo and swimming coaches and officials, along with many of the athletes who'd been influenced by Lindgren.

His loss will be felt especially sharply at Hersey. Megan Brownley followed Lindgren as Hersey's girls water polo coach and credits him with providing the encouragement she needed to make that career choice.


This spring, Brownley coached Lindgren's daughters Katie, a senior, and Annie, a freshman, as the Huskies roared to an unbeaten season in the Mid-Suburban East and an eventual spot in the sectional championship game. By any measure, it was Hersey's best-ever season.

The Lindgren sisters' big brother, Buzz, also excelled as a three-sport athlete at Hersey and graduated in 2016.

"It's just so unfair," Brownley said. "We are so lucky to have been around him."

It wouldn't be surprising if, within the tears now flowing as a result of Lindgren's loss, there was a hint of chlorine.

"He was all about the kids," said Hersey's Dick Mortensen, a Dist. 214 swimming and water polo veteran who's currently in charge of the Hersey boys and girls swim teams. "He didn't care what school the kids went to -- he wanted to put athletes in position to be successful, in and out of the pool.

"Most importantly, he was a friend who was a great family man. He will be sorely missed."

A memorial service for Lindgren has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, July 23, at St. Edna Church, 2525 N. Arlington Heights Rd. in Arlington Heights.

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