Like most people who have ever known Dick Duval, Brian Brooks can remember their first-ever meeting.
It happened 17 years ago, during a summer weekday. Brooks, recently hired to become the St. Joseph-Ogden High School boys’ basketball coach, had scheduled a team workout.
Unbeknownst to Brooks, though, Duval had an SJO football workout planned for the same time.
“I went in the gym and half of our basketball guys were in the weight room with football and half of the football guys were in the gym,” Brooks said with a laugh. “I went over and introduced myself to him. As I told him at that time, I think it’s really important that the head basketball coach and the head football coach work together and are on the same page. I think it’s important that our kids are playing both sports if they want to. He agreed. Philosophically, we agreed on a lot of things and hit it off right away. We were not only professional colleagues as head basketball coach and head football coach, but we became really, really good friends.”
The relationship extends to this day. A special day, too, for Duval.
The SJO Board of Education approved at its Tuesday night meeting to name the school’s football field in honor of Duval, who guided the Spartans from 1988 to 2015. From now on, the Spartans will play their home football games on Dick Duval Field.
This is the second athletic facility at SJO to be named. Randy Wolken Field was dedicated in 2016 to honor Wolken, the state’s all-time winningest softball coach.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some really great people at SJO,” Brooks said. “With Dick’s situation, I think people felt the sense that it’s time. The committee that was formed by our board president, they asked me to sit in on it. It was unanimous from the beginning that they wanted to do this. That’s how it came about.”
School Board President Jim Rein said Duval was being honored not just for his excellence on the field but also his dedication to his students in the classroom.
“He was an outstanding teacher,” Rein said.
Rein said Duval is still giving back to the district by volunteering to keep the books for basketball and substituting when the district has a need.
Brooks told the board that when a chemistry teacher left in the middle of the year Duval called him to offer his services.
“He called me and said ‘If you need help I will do anything I can to help SJO,’” Brooks said. “He said ‘I am not a chemistry teacher and if you find a chemistry teacher you should hire a chemistry teacher but if you need me I am willing to help.'”
School Board Member Les Hoveln said Duval was being honored not for his wins and losses but because of what he means to the community and the district.
“There are a lot of people out there who really respect him and would walk on hot coals for him.”
The honor to name the field he spent years roaming the sidelines on comes at a somber time for Duval and his family. Duval is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, recovering at home for the past three weeks after surgery earlier this month at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
“We’re getting good news every day from the doctors,” said Kiel Duval, Dick’s son and SJO’s boys’ basketball coach. “He’s going to start chemo here pretty soon and go through that process. He’s not thrilled about doing it, but we’ve talked about that it’s all a process. He’s just got to stick with it, and he’ll find ways to get through it.”
Duval and his wife, Lynda, the couple’s three children in Kiel and daughters Bobbi and Toni, and their grandchildren were slated to be on hand Tuesday night at Dick and Lynda’s home in Royal.
Brooks, along with SJO school board members Hoveln, Jim Rein and Kevin Taylor and Principal Gary Page, surprised Dick with the announcement.
“I think he’ll be excited, yet humbled at the same time,” Brooks said. “He’ll be a little surprised, probably. I think it’s something he’ll cherish. His whole family is going to be there to see his reaction, so he’ll be able to share that with them. That’s just my sense in knowing Dick for 17 years.”
Duval not only coached football during his time at SJO, but also basketball and baseball along with serving as the school’s athletic director for a stretch, too.
But football is what he is most known for, having compiled a 251-75 record in 28 seasons leading the Spartans. That included 26 playoff appearances and five state-runner up finishes, with SJO finishing second in state in Class 2A in 1989, 1997 and 1999 and second in 3A in 2006 and 2013.
His SJO football teams never finished a season with a losing record, with the two teams that didn’t reach the playoffs both finishing 5-4. The last team he coached in 2015 won its first 12 games before losing in the 3A state semifinals.
To Brooks, though, Duval’s accomplishments go just beyond his impressive coaching accolades.
“I know the attention from this and the focus of this is obviously football, but he did so much more for the school than just that,” Brooks said. “He’s a great teacher. He was a great athletic director. He’s so pro-SJ-O and he cares so much about the three communities that we serve. He’s touched so many different lives, not just football players. I think it’ll mean a ton to his family. I don’t think it’s something their family expects, but I think they’re extremely humbled and very appreciative to get the recognition that he deserves.”
Getting the chance to enjoy the moment with his family is one aspect that makes the moment, especially given the health situation with Dick, extra special.
“Bobbi Busboom has done the legwork on the family side,” Brooks said. “We’re really excited about it. It’ll be a complete surprise to him, but very well-deserved. We talked on the phone, but it almost felt like there were a few tears at the other end. It was pretty neat, actually. Such a great family. I spoke to this at the committee meeting, not just for his sake, but also for anybody that you name a facility after. I personally think it’s important where you can do it a time where that person can not only enjoy it, but also their family.”
Kiel said plenty of emotions have swirled throughout the family in the last month or so after finding out Dick’s cancer diagnosis. Tuesday night just added to it, but in a good way.
“Through the whole COVID-19 process, it’s made it a little bit tougher,” Kiel said. “We didn’t get a chance to see him when he was gone. He’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever met and nothing seems to bother him. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeves very often, but this took a big hit on him. It was tough for him.”
But Kiel said his father’s background in sports, his perseverance and his dedication will all come into play now for perhaps the greatest opponent in Dick Duval’s life.
“He’s been through tough times before, although nothing this tough,” Kiel said. “It is something that he’s had to fight before. He’s going to have to fight again. That’s really the only approach he can take, and that’s the best approach he can take.”