If you want to know who Dick Duval truly was, all you have to do is ask St. Joseph-Ogden Superintendent Brian Brooks for his favorite memory of his long-time friend.
The year: 2013. The setting: Peoria Civic Center.
Brooks had led the SJO boys’ basketball team to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Duval was the school’s athletic director.
“Growing up in Peoria playing basketball and just being a basketball junkie from the time I could walk, I knew how incredible of an accomplishment it was for our players just to make it to the state tournament,” Brooks said. “Dick did as well, as he loved basketball, too.”
Duval made the trip with Brooks and the team.
Brooks was standing on the sidelines by himself watching the players warm up for their Class 2A state semifinal game against Harrisburg on a Friday night in mid-March. Brooks took a moment to think about how proud he was of his players and how happy he was for them to reach the biggest stage of high school basketball in Illinois. With nearly their entire community and entire school in Peoria to support them.
The team was about to go back into the locker room for a final talk as a team when Brooks felt an arm around him.
“I turn and it is Dick, and he says to me, with water in his eyes and his lip quivering, ‘I’m really proud of you’ and walks back down to the end of our bench,” Brooks said. “Caught me completely off guard. I get a big lump in my throat and my eyes start to tear up. I look down at him to say thank you and he nods, still with water in his eyes, too.”
Then, Brooks’ thoughts immediately turned to what was next.
“After I collect myself, I’m thinking, ‘Darn it Dick, I’m live on TV, two minutes away from addressing our team in the biggest basketball game they’ve ever played in, and you’ve got my eyes welling up,’” Brooks recalled. “I’ll never forget that, and I am so thankful he took the opportunity to do that. It meant a lot coming from him.”
The memory of Duval, who passed away in late August after a battle with pancreatic cancer, lives on for those close to him and the SJO community.
Tonight, a fundraiser for the Dick Duval scholarship fund will be held. The scholarship will honor a student-athlete each year.
The event, which starts at 5 p.m. at the high school, will feature a pork chop dinner, a silent auction, t-shirts for sale and a 50/50 raffle.
SJO football coach Shawn Skinner played football for Duval in high school and said what he remembered most was his high standards. Duval compiled a 251-75 record and coached SJO to five state football championship games.
“He expected you to give maximum effort and to do your job,” Skinner said. “He was not very animated, but he was direct and to the point. Football practice was an extension of the classroom to him. It was a place to learn and get better — both as an individual and then as a team.”
Skinner said Duval’s players and students didn’t want to fail him.
“As a teacher he wanted you to be engaged and do your work,” Skinner said. “He was also brutally honest if you failed to live up to being your best. But he was also good at acknowledging when you went above or started to excel due to your efforts and commitment. Disappointing him cut because you didn’t want to fail him, and a compliment from him could make your day or week because he didn’t just hand them out. You truly earned it from him.”
Friend Bob Glazier started coaching with Duval in August 1988 and said the experience was one he would never forget.
“While I knew football, he taught me the subtleties of the game,” he said.
Glazier said Duval taught him how to organize practices, expect the unexpected, prepare during the week, have a solid plan that you believe in and stick with it.
“So many coaches go with the ‘flavor of the day’ constantly switching,” Glazier said. “Coach Duval had a system that he knew would work, and he stuck with it. I can’t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to grow as a football coach. His mentorship and trust in me was so much appreciated.”
SJO assistant coach Don Beckett said Duval taught him many things about coaching, including how important it was to stay focused on the task at hand but also think ahead.
“There is always something to be done in the midst of the job,” he said. “To be busy, to keep working and to not be inefficient with time.”
Beckett said Duval was calm and cool on the sidelines, but then would unleash in a positive way.
Beckett said Duval approached coaching the way he approached teaching: methodically.
“Coach Duval was also a copious note taker,” he said.
The football storage area is full of two and three inch binders filled with yellow notepads covered with notes, plays and concepts.
“There are no rough drafts,” Beckett said. “Things are organized and detailed. That is who Coach Duval was — a professional who thought things out over and over again. He spent the time and was efficient and tried to get things right.”
Beckett said Duval was the favorite of many students because of his calm and cool approach to math.
“He was that way in the classroom,” he said. “He was dedicated to details, going step by step and using a rational approach to solving problems.”
Zack Becker played for Duval at SJO. Becker said growing up in St. Joseph and playing youth football, the high school football players and coaches were larger than life. When Becker started high school, he was intimidated by Duval.
“Was he intense on the football field? Yes. Did he demand your best and let you know when you fell short? Yes. Did he love his players like they were family? Absolutely,” said Becker, who went on to play football at Illinois. “My fondest memories of sports are without a doubt my time as a St. Joseph-Ogden Spartan. To this day, I still get excited on Fridays in the fall thinking of the memories made under those lights. I owe those memories to Coach Duval.”
Becker said that while Duval was always honest with his players and would be waiting with a stern gaze peering over the brim of his glasses if they made a mistake.
“However, the giant smile and high five or hug that he’d give you after a win or big play made all of the hard work worth it,” Becker said. “His years on Earth were far too few, but he made the most of those years changing the lives of his players, students and bringing together an entire community. His legend will live on in St. Joe because of the impact he had on all of us that had the honor to know him. I know I speak for all hundreds of former players when I say I owe a great deal to that man, and I am proud to say he was my Coach.”
Marshall Schacht said Duval wasn’t only an inspiration to players but also his fellow coaches.
Schacht did his student teaching at SJO in 1993 and joined Glazier as a volunteer baseball coach when Duval led the SJO program.
“It was there that I met two of my mentors and best friends,” he said. “I was hired and added to his football staff that summer and the fun began. While I did not attend SJO and did not have a chance to play for Dick, I have learned so much from him. He has been a coach, a teacher, a father, a brother and a father to me over the years. Perhaps no person has influenced me more in my life.”
Schacht said the 23 years he coached with Duval brought about a lifetime of memories.
“So many great wins and haunting losses. After each one, I was fortunate to be at his side. I loved it when I would be suggesting plays and he would yell, ‘I know’ or, ‘Get away from me,’ and I would slap him on the backside,” Schacht said. “I loved the respect he gave me as an assistant, and I worked to earn that trust. I loved the hugs that we shared that bent his reading glasses. I loved holding his hand during the postgame prayer as we gave thanks for the time and life we shared.”
Schacht said Duval fostered a family atmosphere with his coaching staff, from the postgame coaching parties at his house in Royal and the pregame dinners at Dos Reales to the bond Duval forged with the families of his assistants.
“Our lives together were not all about football,” Schacht said, “but the last loss of the year hurt so much because that marked a temporary pause with hopes for the next season.”
“The other thing about Coach Duval from a football standpoint is the theme of family,” he said. “There has never not been, among the wives and the coaches, a sense of family amongst us. We have gone to each others weddings and celebrations. We had get-togethers during football season. This isn’t just a job. We aren’t looking forward to the season just for football but also to be around each other on a regular basis again.”
Schacht said that Duval was an educator first and a coach second.
“I have always said that I am a teacher that coaches rather than a coach that teaches. At first, I wasn’t so sure about Dick,” Schacht said. “He was so good at coaching, perhaps I didn’t consider what else he did. As the stories now come out about him, students that never played for him are sharing memories. He personified integrity in that he did so much good when no one was looking. Somehow, he passed that lesson on to his players, too. He never yelled at players. Never demeaned players. Never celebrated the violence of the sport or the failures of an opponent. He had high expectations and taught the players the necessary skills to achieve them.”
Schacht said Duval had a way of making geometry relevant and was patient and methodical in his approach to teaching. After retirement. he was called back into service to teach AP Chemistry.
“He knew nothing about the subject at first, but he learned as much he could to help the students perform on the test,” Schacht said. “More importantly, he honestly approached the challenge with humility and persistence. The students in that class still talk about the man they learned to love.”