Archdeacon: “He gave his life to everyone around him’ — Longtime coach, educator Ron Coleman leaves lasting legacy

RIVERSIDE — While the Stebbins High School football team had its hands full Friday with West Carrollton — before edging the winless, but not compliant, Pirates, 23-20, at Edmundson Stadium — the biggest challenge of the night may have come just before kickoff.

Folks were trying to find pink T-shirts that were largest enough for some of Indians’ most substantial coaches to wear on the sideline during the game and not end up looking like undercooked, overstuffed pink sausages.

Not that the coaches cared. Even if they had to wear mediums and larges, this was the night to be in the pink.

And almost everone was, from fans in the stands to players who accessorized their red uniforms with pink wrist wraps, gloves, towels and rubber bracelets.

It was all being done to honor Ron Coleman, the longtime and much-beloved Stebbins teacher, coach, and administrator who, in years past, had also mentored students at Middletown, Bellbrook and in the mid-1980s at Central State.

Before that, he was a four-sport athlete himself at Wilmington College and after he got his degree there, he went on to Antioch College and got his masters. Along the way he also teamed with the late Greg Garhris and did the radio broadcasts of Wright State basketball games for nearly a decade.

Some 17 years ago, he was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a left mastectomy. Later, there was a bout with the early stages of prostate cancer and then, after so many years of being cancer-free, he had a recurrence of breast cancer a month and a half ago.

This time he had a right mastectomy and afterwards was pronounced cancer-free said his son Kurt, who was a football standout at Northmont, was a first team All American at Ohio State and played 10 years in the NFL.

Ron Coleman died Thursday night from other medical issues. He was 72 and still a full-time teacher at Stebbins, where he was involved in a career-based intervention program for at-risk students,

His visitation will be Monday at Routsong Funeral Home (2100 E. Stroop) from 5 to 9 p.m.

His funeral service will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Fairhaven Church (637 E. Whipp Road in Kettering.)

His death hit a lot of people hard, not just Joanne, his wife of 29 years; his three children, Susan, Kyle and Kurt and their spouses; his three stepchildren and their families; the combined 14 grandchildren he and his wife have; and his two remaining brothers, Daniel and James.

The Stebbins family was especially saddened by his passing. Although the Indians finally won Friday, a sense of loss hung over the stadium much of the night.,

The video board continually flashed two memorial tributes to Coleman in the hour before kickoff.

The front railing of the student section was affixed with a homemade sign that read: “Fight Like Coleman.”

Before the game, Indians running back/defensive back Cadan Keller wrote “Long Live Coach Coleman, RIP “on his back pad. He had a black decal — with white initials RC topped by a halo — pasted onto the back of his helmet.

After the national anthem, the crowd remained standing for a moment of silence in Coleman’s honor.

And Coleman did fight, not only to conquer his own cancer, but to make it easier for others who would be diagnosed with breast cancer after him.

“The first time he was diagnosed and began treatment there hadn’t been that much research done on men with (breast cancer),” Kurt said. “Although he was very vulnerable about a situation that not many other people would ever share, he wanted to help be as spokesperson to save someone else’s life.

“I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere. He did a thing in the Dayton Daily News and they ran a picture of him lifting his shirt up and showing his left breast with the mastectomy.

“And he wasn’t doing it for any special recognition. He wanted to help.

“The day after his surgery he was back to work, teaching school.”

One thing that especially drew him back — both to the classroom and into the gym with his basketball team that season — was his love of kids and seeing them get the most out of themselves said his daughter Susan:

“He always had a huge love for life and everybody. It didn’t matter to him what you looked like or where you came from. He’d say, you can do anything if you believe you can.”

Kurt said he saw his father’s love of others expressed in many ways:

“He’d take some extra time and visit people in the hospital or just stop by and check if he thought you were having a bad day. Other times he’d just remember you with a Happy Birthday wish.

“He gave his life to everyone around him. That’s the legacy he left.

“He lived by a phrase: ‘I’m blessed every day.’ And he was blessed. Very, very blessed.”

Susan agreed:

“He would say, ‘If I wake up tomorrow, I’m blessed. And if I die today, I’m blessed.”

Multi-sports star to coach

Coleman grew up in Greenfield, the youngest of 14 kids.

This spring, around Easter, Kurt and his wife, Laura, brought their four children up here from their home in Charlotte to spend time with “Papaw.:”

“This year he was telling stories about his own childhood and growing up in a big family like that,” Kurt said.

Coleman was a multi-sports star at McClain and then went to Wilmington, where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track. After getting his teaching degree, he went to Antioch College for his masters.

Over the years, he was an assistant football coach at Middletown, the head baseball coach and a basketball assistant at Bellbrook and from 1983 to 1985 he coached basketball at Central State.

At Stebbins he coached basketball and baseball.

Although he had retired from the coaching ranks, he still had family members to tutor Susan said with a laugh.

“When my brother played at Ohio State, I remember my dad telling him ‘We need to talk about what you did.’ Never mind that Kurt had a bunch of good college coaches looking after him.”

Susan, who lives in Worthington, has identical twin daughters who are 11. They play on a travel basketball team and she said they’ve received pointers from Papaw more than once:

“He’d say something like, ‘Let me show you how to box somebody out.’ He’d talk about getting back on defense, all different parts of the game.

“He was still a coach, through and through.”

Leaving a legacy

A decade ago, Coleman, with the help of Kurt, who was then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, launched the Coleman 4 A Cure Foundation to help develop a keen awareness and understanding of the need for early detection — for men and women – when it comes to breast cancer.

Kurt retired from pro football four seasons ago.

He was the color commentator for Carolina Panther radio broadcasts in 2020 and still does the preseason games. He’s also the stewardship and scholarship administrator of Charlotte Latin, a college prep school that has over 1,500 students.

When his father died, he and Laura had been in the process of helping launch a new breast cancer imaging center in Charlotte, as well as an accompanying “peace garden” for cancer patients and their families to find some serenity.

The garden and possibly one area of the imaging center, which Kurt had not yet told his father about, will hopefully carry his dad’s name.

It would be part of the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.

To donate you can go to the PMC Novant Health Agnes Binder Weisiger Breast Cancer Health Center website.

Kurt talked about conversations he’d had with his dad, who told him about sitting in a room full of women, all of then awaiting mammograms. Sometimes they were uncomfortable in each other’s presence.

“The new imaging center will have three separate areas,” Kurt said. “One will be one for people getting yearly checkups. One’s for people who have reoccurring cancer and need further analysis and one’s for men.

“And the garden, if you knew my dad, you know he loved gardens and this would be a place people could just feel at ease.”

It all plays into Ron Coleman’s continual quest to make people feel better and achieve their best.

He was especially known for that at Stebbins and even though he’d passed away the night before, his presence still was felt at Edmundson Stadium on Friday night.

West Carrolton opened the second half with an 80-yard touchdown play to go up 20-10 and it held that advantage going into the fourth quarter.

That’s when that message on the student section behind the Stebbins’ bench took hold:

“Fight Like Coleman”

The Indians scored twice in the fourth quarter, with running back Lavell Lyles scampering 24 yards for the winning score with just 50 seconds left,

When he did, the Stebbins sideline erupted in a jumping, cheering, high-fiving swirl of pink.

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