Jerry “Coach” Roelke, age 77, passed away peacefully on October 8, 2019, at his home in Sun City Center, FL. Jerry was born February 27, 1942, in Madison, WI, the son of Marvin & Catherine (Loper) Roelke. Jerry married his high school sweetheart Jean Markgraf on August 22, 1964 and was able to celebrate 55 years of marriage with his loving wife. Although Jerry’s passion was football, family was the most important to him. Jean has always said, “Jerry is a natural born leader.”
Jerry was a gifted athlete, and following high school, he played football at UW-Platteville, lettering all four years. He continued to play semi-professional football for an additional four years with the Madison Mustangs. Jerry became the first coach for the UW-Platteville freshman football team and went on to coach as the head coach of the baseball and freshman basketball teams at Prairie du Chien in addition to teaching high school Social Studies. All his hard work and coaching skills landed him in the position most people remember him by….Coach of the Deforest Football team. “Coach” clocked in 50 years with the Deforest Norski’s Football program, and nothing (aside from his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandson) made him as proud as the players on his teams and the students he taught. Jerry was not just a great football coach (also coach to basketball, wrestling & baseball teams) he was a teacher, a mentor and a father figure for 1000’s of kids throughout his career and life. He never turned away from any of his students or players for any reason, even if his off the cusp input was not always something they would want to hear! Jerry was a stickler for giving your best; also, reminding you that you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Throughout the past year, Jerry unfortunately had many medical appointments and doctors were often late. Jerry reminded everyone at those appointments that “if MY football players were ever late, they wouldn’t practice!”
Jerry shared his love of boating with anyone who wanted a ride. Jerry and Jean would have everyone over to B & J Sandcastle (his home he named on the Wisconsin River) and spent many weekends teaching kids how to waterski, while making sure everyone understood how deadly the river current was. Even though he told his girls Bonnie and Julie, their friends and all the others who visited the same lecture, 9 times out of 10 he was rescuing someone from being swept away and giving everyone that Jerry look of “I told you,” but you could always see the smirk in his eyes once everyone was safe.
Once retired, Jerry and Jean split their time between Florida and Wisconsin. He would stay to serve as an assistant DeForest football coach and after the football season, was an official “snowbird” until Spring. Jerry loved golfing and driving his RV and they went many places, including taking multiple trips to California to spend invaluable time with their grandchildren Zach and Stella. Jerry had a special relationship with his grandson Alex and spent a lot of time teaching him things like removing fishing hooks from his foot and also spending time with his great grandson Keagan.
Jerry’s athletic accomplishments were beyond the norm. Some of his most notable accomplishments include serving as the DeForest Athletic Director from 1974-1992 (developing all the girls sports and expanding all sports programs to 16 different sports), recipient of 8 WFCA Conference Championship Awards, 8 John Barth Foundation Championship Awards, Champion Knitt Wear Upper Midwest Coach of the Year (1982), Madison Pen and Mike Club Achievement Award, Award from John Barth Foundation for 100 wins (1984), Conference win streak of 41 football games (1980-1983), WFCA Service Award for 20, 25 and 30 years, 3 CSFL League Championships, and in 2017, began his 50th consecutive year as the DeForest Norski Football Coach (his teams won eight conference titles). One of Jerry’s favorite moments came when he was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001.
Although the last year was a tough one for Coach, he maintained his dignity, never waivered from the man everyone has loved and known, and even shined in situations where many would crumble. With his daughter Julie by his side, and his loving wife Jean, they took the medical world by storm and fought against the odds. Just three short weeks ago, he drove from Florida to Wisconsin to watch his last Deforest Football game where his team crushed their opponent 61-0. We know that he will be looking down on his players this Friday when his team takes on the friendly rivalry between DeForest and Waunakee, a game he always looked forward to!
Jerry has passed on his legacy and is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jean; daughter Bonnie (Scott) Robinson of California; daughter Julie Roelke of Florida, grandsons Alex Roelke and Zachary Robinson and granddaughter Stella Robinson, great-grandson Keagan Lord-Roelke; siblings Joanne Buchanan- Rounds, Nada (Joe) Zeimet, and Tony (Barbara) Roelke. Jerry was met in heaven by his parents and brothers Gene and Jack Roelke.
Please join his family Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 at the DeForest High School, 815 Jefferson Street, DeForest, WI for a celebration of his life. Visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., immediately followed by a funeral service officiated by Pastor Jason Andersen, Christian Faith Moravian Church. A private burial will be held at a later date.
The family would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Pamela J. Hodul, Surgical Oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com.
Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services
6924 Lake Road