Inspirational coach Charlie Wedemeyer dies from ALS
June 4, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO – Charlie Wedemeyer, a Northern California high school football coach who inspired athletes and others with his long-term battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease, died Thursday. He was 64.
His wife, Lucy, said he passed away at a San Jose hospital after developing pneumonia following surgery. He was surrounded by family and friends.
Wedemeyer grew up in Hawaii, where he earned nine varsity letters in high school, a football scholarship to Michigan State University, then spots on the East-West Shrine Classic and the Hula Bowl.
After the marrying Lucy, his high school sweetheart, the couple moved to Northern California where Wedemeyer took a job as a teacher and football coach at Los Gatos High School.
While working at the school, Wedemeyer was diagnosed at age 30 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. At the time, according to family members, he was given one to three years to live.
When the disease started taking its toll, Wedemeyer worked out an arrangement with the school where he coached the team from a golf cart and relayed play calls through Lucy to the field.
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“In the beginning we didn’t see anything positive about it, but then we renewed our faith in God and realized we are a tool that can be used to help other people,” Lucy said in a 2005 interview with the Honolulu Advertiser. “I think Charlie realized what an awesome responsibility he had been given, that there is a plan and purpose for everything.”
Despite the disease, Wedemeyer was still able to lead Los Gatos to seven league championships, while posting a 78-18-1 record.
His inspirational life story has been chronicled in the PBS documentary “One More Season,” the CBS movie “Quiet Victory The Charlie Wedemeyer Story,” and a book he and his wife Lucy wrote, “Charlie’s Victory.”
“Pain and suffering are inevitable we all experience it. But misery is an option,” Wedemeyer said in 2005. “We do get to make that choice.”