Weede remembered fondly

For many, Ed Weede was more than a hall of fame wrestling coach, football coach and athletic director at Niles High School.

He was a motivator, father figure and friend.

Weede, 87, died June 19 at home in Traverse City.

He lived a full life even before he arrived in Niles, where he spent 36 years coaching football and wrestling, as well as serving as the AD.

While he was credited with graduating from Traverse City Central High School in 1945, he was granted permission to join the Marines in 1944 and served in the Pacific war zone (Guam, Okinawa and China).

Weede received a medical discharge from the military and went to Central Michigan University on the G.I. Bill. He graduated from CMU in 1950 and taught at St. Johns and Mt. Pleasant before coming to Niles.

“I was a senior in high school and I had him during lunch time for typing,” recalled Mary Lou Grathwohl. “I went to college at Central with either his wife or with Ed who was taking additional classes.”

While teaching and coaching at Niles, Weede touched the lives of many student-athletes, including Roger Hargreaves, who would not only be a student of his, but played two years of football for Weede and followed him as athletic director.

“My father died when I was 12,” Hargreaves, who now lives in South Bend, said. “So adult male coaches were very important to me. He was very important as that father figure and I needed that at that time.”

Hargreaves said that Weede was stern, but fair and despite having to make tough decisions, including disciplining students. “You didn’t hear many people say anything negative about Ed Weede.”

Weede never wrestled on a high school or college level. He picked up an interest in the sport from a couple of his buddies while a Marine. The first match he saw was the one he coached at Niles.
Niles’ football coach Al Lewis had acquired a wrestling mat for conditioning of the football players.

“We started using it, and pretty soon we had a team,” Weede said in a July 2008 article in the Niles Daily Star.

Sturgis was the only area school that had a team at the time, but Buchanan quickly initiated wrestling as a varsity sport.

Weede continued to coach football, wrestling and golf for 15 years, but he left the golf team for three years to coach track.

In 1964, the year after Weede went to the track program, his golf team won the state championship. His golf teams had a record of 62-32-5 during his 13 years. Several of those squads placed in the top 10.

After coaching football as line coach, Weede took over as head coach in 1958. His teams became a powerhouse, compiling a 65-32-5 record during his 11 years at the helm.

After a perfect 9-0 season in 1969, Weede resigned to become Niles’ athletic director.

Weede was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1989.

He replaced Joe Whitwam in 1968 and was later appointed assistant principal in 1983. Weede retired from Niles in 1986 and returned to Traverse City.

Former Niles basketball coach Bud Magrane worked with Weede while he was the AD at Ballard and then for Weede as the boys basketball coach.

“He was a great guy, who was easy to work for and very personable,” Magrane said. “He and the principal were the ones who hired me to be basketball coach. We had a great working relationship.”

Magrane remembers how the students liked Weede.

“I know the kids who went through the system liked him and that many thought of him as a father figure.”

“We had two athletic directors, one at Ballard (Bud Magrane) and one at Ring Lardner (Don Bender),” former Niles teacher and basketball coach Jim Arnold said. “Ed was the overall athletic director and he did a fantastic job organizing everything. He was just a super guy, but more importantly, he was an excellent human being. He did just an outstanding job with athletics in Niles.”

A former wrestling manager remembers Weede fondly.

“I was a wrestling manager at Niles my junior and senior years (1983-84),” Muffy Flick-Jungenberg said. “One time I was keeping score and it should always be like a story ‘two, takedown, one escape, two takedown, three near-fall, one escape…’ I noticed that they had forgotten to give our wrestler one point that made the difference in the match. Mr. Weede was proud of me and that meant the world to me.

“Traveling for wrestling tournaments on the weekends; practices and seeing the payoff for all the hard work; just being around someone who naturally commanded respect without asking for it. Those are the best memories from high school that I have.”

Dave Wideman played for Weede and remembers that he demanded sportsmanship.

“He was old school,” he said. “You wrestled hard and in the end, win or lose, you better show sportsmanship or you would hear it from him. You hear how coaches have their ways, and with coach he had his way also. If your grades were not there or you got into any kind of trouble at school, it did not matter, if you were the best or worst wrestler on the team you were in trouble with coach.

“He was the fairest man I was ever coached by. It did not matter your skin color, if you were rich or poor or who your parents were. He treated everyone the same. There are not enough good things that can be said about coach. Everyone who came into contact with him are better people because of it.”

Wideman added that the recent loss of Weede’s assistant coach Ernie Becker, brings an end to an era at Niles High School.

“Coach Becker was his assistant coach for many years for wrestling and together they made a great team,” Wideman said.

Wendra Johnson was a student of Weede’s. She said he taught her much more than what was in the textbooks.

“Ed Weede was generous with his time and his teachings,” she said. “He taught me that your word should mean something and a positive attitude will get you far in life. From him, I learned self-acceptance and as a 15-year-old trying to figure out how to navigate the emotions and realities of high school friendships and that ‘not everyone was going to love me’ and that’s OK. He demonstrated a strong work ethic, confidence and compassion as well as tough-love every day.

“When he retired in 1986, I gave him a copy of a poem that reminded me of what he had taught me and he went on to read it as part of his speech at our graduation ceremony.”

Weede was cremated. No funeral or visitation was held as were his wishes. A daytime wake on West Grand Traverse Bay in September will celebrate his life.

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