|Birth: ||Jan. 25, 1928|
|Death: ||Oct. 6, 1995|
Mr. Slack was coach and teacher at Moore High School in Farmer City, Illinois for three years.
State Journal-Register, The (Springfield, IL) - October 8, 1995
Deceased Name: Former Resident Jerry Slack WHEATON --
Jerry Slack 67, of Wheaton, formerly of Springfield, died Friday at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.
Survivors: wife, Shirley; two daughters, Mrs. Rich (Pat) Vish and Stacy; a son, Tom Slack; five grandchildren; his mother, Frances Slack Thomas; and two brothers, Bob and Jim Slack.
Services: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, Wheaton. Burial: St. Michael Cemetery, Wheaton.
Jerry Slack: Slack put athletes on track to success: Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice
State Journal-Register, The (Springfield, IL) - March 30, 2008
Deceased Name: Jerry Slack: Slack put athletes on track to success
Separating Jerry Slack the star athlete from Jerry Slack the coach and mentor isn't easy because he distinguished himself at very high levels in both endeavors. Whether he was sprinting for touchdowns for Springfield High School or molding student-athletes at Oak Park-River Forest for several decades, he left an impression.
Slack, who died in 1995 after a brief battle with cancer, will be honored posthumously for his accomplishments as athlete and coach when he is inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame on April 14.
"Jerry was truly outstanding; he played halfback and fullback for us and he scored gobs of touchdowns," said Bob Gorham, one of Slack's teammates on Springfield High's unbeaten football team in 1945.
"He was a real inspiration for the team. My gosh, he was faster than greased lightning. The main reason we were ranked (No. 1 statewide) over Oak Park was Jerry."
Slack was a 6-foot-1, 185-pound three-sport performer for SHS, with the old football field on New Street providing his biggest stage. He scored a total of 103 points as a senior star for the 1945 Senators, scoring four touchdowns in two different games and tallying Springfield's lone TD - a 13-yard run - in the season-opening win over East St. Louis.
A member of the football varsity all four years, Slack was the first three-time selection to the Illinois State Register All-City Team. Phil Salzer of Peoria, a track/football-coaching and officiating colleague, recalled Slack's self-analysis of his running style.
"He told me one time, 'Phil, I could run,'" Salzer recalled. "He said, 'I could run with anybody, just running straight. But I should have learned how to zig-zag and how to follow my blockers better.'"
But Slack's speed and athleticism more than sufficed. He also was a state-qualifying sprinter and hurdler in track, and he was a junior starter for the 1944-45 SHS basketball team that reached the Sweet Sixteen in Champaign.
Tom Slack, one of Jerry and Shirley Slack's three children, said some of his father's track times are impressive even today.
"He had a meet where he ran the 220 (-yard dash) in 23.6 (seconds) and the 220 hurdles in 23.9," Tom said, "They ran everything on cinder tracks back then. He might not win with times like that today, but he'd be in the race."
Jerry Slack, the son of a Springfield grocer, was able to keep up in other endeavors, too. He was senior class president at SHS, where he was an early graduate in January 1946. Family members said he was in line to receive a nomination to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, but he wanted to stay closer to home.
World War II had ended, but Shirley said her future husband still was drafted into the U.S. Army immediately after his high school graduation. But he eventually enlisted in the Navy.
"The Army said he didn't pass the physical because he had such high arches in his feet," Shirley said. "They said, 'Oh, you must've been handicapped when you were a child.' They didn't know he was one of the greatest athletes to come out of Springfield High."
After serving in the Navy, Jerry Slack attended the University of Illinois on a combined football/track scholarship.
"He liked football, but he really liked track, too," said Shirley, who attended Harvard Park School and SHS with Jerry and married him in 1948.
"He hurt his knee at Illinois, so he didn't play much football. But he ran track the whole time he was there."
Track later became a major focus for Slack's professional career. After "coaching everything," according to his wife, for three years at Farmer City High School, he moved on to Oak Park-River Forest to start a career than covered four decades.
Slack became a highly respected member of the track-coaching community, so much so that he was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979.
Jerry Parsons, a former Chicago-area track coach and official who now lives in Normal, said Slack used athletics as a moral training ground. He coached several individual state champions and top-10 state teams during his tenure at OP-RF from the mid-1950s though 1986, but Parsons said Slack wasn't the type to keep inventory of the Huskies' medals and trophies.
"The best way I could put it is this," Parsons said. "As a parent, he'd be someone I'd be more than pleased with to coach my child. A coach like Slack influenced more kids than you could count.
"Winning wasn't the No. 1 goal. He was a good coach who got good kids, but he taught kids life lessons."
Tom Slack would attest to that. The family lived in nearby Wheaton, and Tom attended Wheaton Central. Tom, who competed in track, said his father was always supportive - to a point.
"He didn't really coach me," Tom said. "He was a humble person, and he felt I should get guidance from my high school coach and not my dad. He didn't want any conflict of interest."
Tom Slack, a 1975 Wheaton Central graduate, went on to run track at the University of Iowa, where he was a quarter-miler and earned All-America honors on one of the Hawkeyes' relay teams.
Stacy Slack, Tom's sister, said they knew their father had influenced many lives during his time as a coach and physical education teacher at Oak Park. But they didn't realize the extent of his influence until he died.
"When dad passed away, we had to keep the visitation open for three more hours than we'd planned," Stacy said. "The kids - they were men by then - just kept showing up, and they were lined up out to the parking lot.
"He touched a lot of kids in a good way."
* The 18th annual Springfield Sports Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremony will be April 14 at the Crowne Plaza. Roland Hemond, who has spent 57 years in professional baseball, will be the featured speaker. Tickets for the banquet are $30 each and can be reserved by calling Lesa Schaive at 529-0008.
* BORN: Jan. 25, 1928
* DIED: Oct. 6, 1995
* FAMILY MEMBERS: Wife, Shirley; son, Tom Slack (Plano, Texas); daughters Stacy Slack (Wheaton) and Pat Vish (West Chicago). Four grandchildren, one great-grandchild.
* EDUCATION: Springfield High School (1946); University of Illinois (bachelor's and master's degrees)
* SPORTS PARTICIPATED IN: Football, basketball and track at Springfield High; football and track at Illinois
* PROFESSIONALLY: Teacher and coach for 37 years, the last 34 at Oak Park-River Forest High School
* HOW HE IS REMEMBERED: "He was very humble; he wanted to work with young people and teach them the right way of life. He didn't have to be a star to be happy. He was just happy with himself. He was a good man." - Shirley Slack
2008 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Was the star of the 1945 Springfield High Hall of Fame football team and was selected captain of the Illinois All-Star Football Team that year. He played football and ran track for four years at SHS and also was a member of the basketball team as a junior and a senior. After a stint in the United States Navy, he attended the University of Illinois and competed in both football and track. He was a teacher and coach at Farmer City High School for three years after graduating from Illinois, and then he was at Oak Park-River Forest High School as a football and track coach for 34 years. He retired in the 1980s and then was a volunteer assistant coach at West Chicago until his death in 1995.
Saint Michaels Cemetery
Created by: Max Turpin
Record added: Aug 12, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56965271
Thank you for serving our country. Rest in peace.|
Added: Aug. 8, 2011