BY Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western JournalFebruary 14, 2023
1 year ago

High School Assistant Football Coach Dies Unexpectedly: 'Spent Over 20 Years Being a Positive Force'

A much-loved football assistant coach in Minnesota has died.

Bemidji High School's Jim McKeon "passed away unexpectedly over the weekend," the Bemidji Pioneer reported Monday.

No cause of death was given for McKeon, whose age was unavailable.

McKeon had been a defensive line coach for the Bemidji Lumberjacks since 2002.

"It is with great sadness and with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of coach Jim McKeon," Bryan Stoffel, head coach at Bemidji High School, said Monday, according to the Pioneer.

Lakeland PBS said McKeon was recently honored with the Butch Nash Award, which recognizes "a select number of assistant coaches across the state who play a prominent role in their football programs."

The Pioneer reported that McKeon was lauded at that 2022 ceremony as "the godfather of Bemidji football."

"He has spent 20 years being a positive force for kids at Bemidji High School," the Pioneer reported. "Through it all, his commitment to his 'boys,' willingness to sacrifice for others and his dedication to our sport has been immeasurable."

The news outlet quoted former assistant coach Steve Thompson as saying McKeon had a rare gift for reaching young people.

“Jim had a very special way of connecting with kids and supporting kids and always making them feel comfortable in any situation,” Thompson said, according to Lakeland PBS.

Mike Fogelson wrote on Facebook that "God broke the mold when Jim McKeon’s parents brought Jim into this world.

"The positive impact he had on so many people’s lives is beyond measure. He was such a wonderful husband, father, son, coach, mentor, leader and great friend and the list goes on and on. There was nobody quite like him.

"Words are not enough to describe what he has meant to all of us. He was so loved and will be missed by so many. Please keep his family in your prayers and as a community wrap our arms around them. We love you Jim McKeon!

Stoffel said McKeon was known to some as "the coach who always wears shorts," the Pioneer reported.

He added, "Jim will be remembered by those that had the pleasure to know him as a kind-hearted friend."

"As devastated as we are, we take comfort knowing he's with his daughter, Gianna, and will be looking over us all. We love and will miss our dear friend."

Gianna was McKeon's daughter, who died in 2022 of a rare form of bone cancer, the Pioneer reported.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western Journal

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