Reporting John Lauritsen
ORONO, Minn. (WCCO) — Students at Orono are mourning the death of a beloved football and track coach.
Bob Perry, 51, collapsed and died Thursday afternoon during middle school track practice.
On Friday, football players wore their jerseys to school and said a prayer in memory of the coach.
Coach Perry had been a middle school track coach for four years and an assistant football coach for six years.
“He was always a positive guy and just made everyone laugh and had a great time,” senior Paul Morse said. “He just loved life.”
But while walking with the team to the practice field, coach Perry collapsed. Paramedics were called and arrived quickly, but were unable to revive the 51-year-old coach.
“They worked on him for about 15 to 20 minutes and then they gave me the news,” stepson Nate Seward said.
Nate, a senior at Orono and a football captain, had been practicing nearby. He took the news hard.
“Great stepdad,” he said. “He was there for me when nobody else was.”
Coach Perry married Seward’s mom a few years ago. As fate would have it, they had been high school sweethearts who reunited after previous marriages.
“It was one of those cases where you knew they were supposed to be together all along, but things kept getting in the way,” Seward said. “But it all worked out for the best.”
Upon hearing about coach Perry, students at Orono did the only thing that made sense. They painted the “school rock” in his memory.
On Friday afternoon, the entire football team gathered around the rock and said the prayer they say before every football game.
“He never gave up,” sophomore Dakota Machgan said. “He was great coach.”
And that’s how they want to remember him. A great coach who was also a great friend.
“It was just shocking,” senior Nick Adzick said. “It shook me to the bone knowing that we’re never going to see him again. He’s gone.”
There were grief counselors on hand at both the middle school and high school on Friday.
The family is still waiting to learn the cause of death.