By J. Thomas McNamara
Tribune Sports Editor
Joe Doolin played halfback and served as captain on Lakeview’s 1965 undefeated football team that Ron Wisher coached. “I played for him for three years, and the thing I remember most about Coach Ron is his compassion. He coached everyone differently; each one of us had different personalities, I had a different one than the late Bob Bender…He adjusted his way of talking to and coaching us to our different personalities to make us better players,” recalled Doolin about his coach, who passed April 20, at the age of 83.
“I remember going to Mount Zion for a game and when our bus pulled into the lot we were pelted with tomatoes and eggs and Coach Wisher looked at me and said, ‘Doolin not a word when you get off this bus, the only sounds I want to hear are our helmets and shoulder pads hitting there’s. It was a scary quiet,'” said Doolin about that game in Braves country that the Spartans won, 29-0. Doolin went on to play four years of football at Millikin which, he says, would not have happened without what Wisher and Coach Steve Hengst did.
“I told them my family cannot afford to send me to Millikin to play football,” said Doolin, adding that Hengst and Wisher put him in the car and drove him out to Millikin. “As they say the rest is history,” said Doolin about that experience. “Coach was an X’s and O’s guys, he had it down to a science, we knew what they were going to do better than they do,” said Doolin about how prepared Wisher, Hengst and Dave Rayhill had them.
“He also had a philosophy of no hitting during the week if we won the Friday night before which we did all nine weeks, the only hitting we did was on Friday night games,” said Doolin. Obviously, Wisher was a successful football coach at Lakeview and later as an administrator, but many forget how good a baseball player he was. He coached his 1965 Lakeview Spartans to an undefeated 9-0 season. It’s too bad that came nine years before the Illinois High School Association began its first football playoffs in 1974. Wisher coached football there five seasons–1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 where he compiled an overall 24-18 record with three ties. His 1965 Lakeview team was one of the best teams to ever take the field in DPS 61 history.
Ron played baseball and football at Decatur High School and went on to Millikin where he again played baseball and football and completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Upon graduation, he signed a contract to play baseball for the San Francisco Giants in Artesia, New Mexico. That minor league baseball experience stemmed from his successful playing days for the Big Blue which is among the reasons why he’s enshrined in the Millikin Hall of Fame. He taught elementary students in Rantoul and Mattoon. He went to Lakeview where he taught social studies and coached baseball and football. After his career at Lakeview, Ron became principal at Mound Middle School.
He then became principal and superintendent of the Warrensburg-Latham School District. He also was Assistant Regional Superintendent of Macon and Piatt Counties for five years. Ron was inducted into the Millikin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and the now defunct Decatur Athletic Council Hall of Fame in 2000. He and his ’65 team were also inducted in August 2016 into the DPS61 Hall of Fame. Earline and family, we extend our deepest sympathies.
We will be praying for Ron and you as you cope with your loss. Rest assured he and his achievements will live on forever.