Former West Coach Stevens Passes Away
MADISON -
Jim Stevens, age 81, beloved coach and teacher, died on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, at University Hospital after a long illness. He was born in Indianapolis, Ind., Nov. 5, 1925, to Samuel and Mildred Stevens. His family moved to Wisconsin in 1930. Jim graduated from East High School in December 1942 and immediately enlisted in the Marines. They sent him to the V-12 program at U.W. Michigan hoping to train him as an officer. Jim refused as he wanted to "join the fight Now". The reply, "Then join the Marines!" He did just that. Jim was in the first wave of Marines to land on Iwo Jima, and was wounded twice. All those in Jim's battalion were either wounded or killed. Recently, when the film "Flags of Ours Fathers" was released in Madison, WISC-T.V. interviewed Jim remembering his personal witnessing of the historic flag raising. Jim said, "they didn't take just one picture of the ceremony - they shot it three times to make sure it looked right!" After the war ended, Jim married Jane Rakestraw and earned his degree at UW-Madison. Jim taught and coached football and basketball at New Glarus and Mauston, before moving to Madison in 1957. Jim followed Don Page as basketball coach at West High School. After Jane passed away, Jim continued teaching and coaching at West. On June 8, 1974, Jim married Kathleen Schuette, who was the chairman of Physical Education. They enjoyed 32 wonderful years together. Jim and Kathy had close and personal relationships with all their players. They hosted parties at their home, attended the players' weddings and greeted each new baby as they came along. This last summer, the West High Class of 76 had their 30th reunion, and invited the Stevens as their honored guests. Another special event for Coach, was last fall, when West High School celebrated its 75th anniversary. Coach was persuaded to ride in a convertible, in the first Homecoming parade in 25 years. He was later introduced as "The Man" for whom the "James Stevens Gymnasium" is named. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, a last public thank you for his years of devotion to coaching and inspiring his teams. Jim had a 523-296 record during his 38-year high school basketball-coaching career. Coach Stevens led West to six state tournament appearances, 15 regional championships, and won or shared 10 Big Eight Conference titles. He was inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1989. Jim's beloved wife, Kathleen, passed away on Aug. 20th of this year. Jim is survived by his son, Jace; his brother, Tom (Betty); five nieces and nephews; and his sister-in-law, Margaret Ann (Otto) Jeske of Ripon. Following Jim's wishes, there will be no funeral service. A memorial service is being planned for a later date.
Cress Funeral and Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road
(608) 238-3434
www.cressfuneralservice.com

 

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