Remembering Ken Geiger
Hall of fame member Kenneth R. Geiger passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 21st, while surrounded by his loving family in the tranquility of his own home at the age of 89. Ken was instrumental to the growth of our organization and his contributions and help over the years were invaluable to the continued success of our mission and charitable cause. Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame president Charles Carey said, “Not all of our members are nationally recognized names and Ken Geiger epitomized what makes our fraternity of members so special as his character, contributions and career as a Chicago area educator and coach are a great example of what we look for each year as we consider each new class of inductees. He was a great help to us and he will be greatly missed.”
Born and raised in Berwyn, Illinois, Ken graduated from Fenwick High School in 1949. He was a high school teammate and lifelong friend of fellow Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famer Johnny Lattner and he often credited Fenwick High School and his coach Tony Lawless for instilling his very best knowledge of the game of Football in him. Post Fenwick, Ken became an All-Conference guard at Monmouth College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree and then went on to serve with the United States Army in the 101st Airborne Division during the Korean War. Post war he continued his education at the University of Illinois, earning a master’s degree and working as the freshman football offensive line coach. He then moved on to the University of Missouri where he obtained a doctorate in education and was the assistant varsity line coach. Returning to his alma mater Monmouth College in 1972, he helped lead the Fighting Scots to an undefeated conference championship as the varsity line coach. Following that magical season, he left Monmouth for his old hometown of Berwyn, IL to teach and coach at Morton East and West High Schools. He coached and taught at Morton for 34 years, as head football coach, wrestling coach, athletic director and department chair. Together with other Chicago suburban highs school coaches, Ken was instrumental in bringing about the IHSA football playoff system in 1974.
After retiring as an educator in 1982, Ken joined the Chicago Bears as a Player Personal Assistant. That position launched an 11-year career in professional football that also took him to the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints as a college scout and pro player evaluator. In the early ’90s, he served as one of the NFL’s first advance scouts. He also was a moving force in bringing American football to Europe, teaching the game to European youths and representing the National Football League as a clinician.
In addition to our Hall of Fame Ken is in the Monmouth College, Chicago Catholic League and IHSA Halls of Fame and is an emeritus member of the American Association of Football Coaches.
Former student and player Dennis Deegan said, “What a great man; who lived a great life; always giving of himself. Coach Geiger introduced me to Monmouth College, and coached me in High School Football at Morton West High, Berwyn, Illinois. He opened the door at Monmouth College for so many athletes and I credit him for earning my BA at Monmouth. You will always be a winner in my heart, Coach.”
Jimmy Gray played quarterback at Morton for Geiger. “Back in the "good 'old days" we had total respect for our all our coaches, Coach Geiger also was responsible for the Letterman's club which gave us more time with him and learn even more than sports. Coach was definitely a man you looked up to and was also a father figure for many. We were High School Team of the Week on WLS radio after beating our rival Willowbrook team. A TD run by John Parpet and TD receptions by Gary Zmrhal capped our victory. In one series I threw an 89-yard touchdown to Rich Brom. It was a 10 yd down and out pattern as Rich ran down our sideline. Coach Geiger was screaming at him "Brom, you better score!” I'm still not sure if Rich was that fast in his high-top cleats or if the fear of letting coach Geiger down took him to the end zone. Some of our linemen said Coach always was looking for his 5 blocks of granite. A phrase he repeated throughout his career. I was fortunate to live in the Chicagoland area when Coach arranged for the Bears to practice in the Morton East field house. Coach Geiger called me and offered to put mine and my son’s name on the pass list to watch them. What a thrill for my son! Not only did he get to watch, but Bob Thomas, the kicker, asked my son to catch his practice kicks and pass back the ball to the snapper. By far, this moment made my son a Chicago Bear fan for life! I am truly going to miss coach Geiger. A total class act and legend. I am forever grateful to have had him as a coach.”
Ken was the Beloved Husband of Sheryl J. nee Johnson for a loving 67 years. Devoted Father of Gary (Ana Maria), Kevin (Jeane Gentile), Joni (James) Russo, Susan, and Eric (Amy).
Family and friends are to gather for the visitation Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 from 3:00 PM until 9:00 PM. Words of Remembrance Service to be celebrated promptly at 7:00 PM at Russo’s Hillside Chapels, 4500 Roosevelt Road, Hillside, IL 60162 (Located between Mannheim and Wolf Road). Funeral to follow Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from Russo’s Hillside Chapels at 8:30 AM proceeding to St. Leonard Parish, 3318 S. Clarence Ave., Berwyn, IL. Mass of Christian Burial celebrated promptly at 10:00 AM. Interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. For additional information call (708) 449-5300. Please visit Kenneth’s personal tribute website at www.russohillsidechapels.com and sign his guestbook.