Dave Imber, a larger-than-life and inspirational figure who coached multiple sports at Alter High School, including football for 41 years, died on Tuesday.
Afflicted with muscular dystrophy as a youth, advanced complications and related ailments forced his hospitalization in mid November. Until then, he was a familiar sideline sight at Alter football games and practices while confined to a motorized scooter.
“We have been blessed over the years with legendary coaches,” Alter head coach Ed Domsitz said on Wednesday, “and Dave is one of them.”
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The neuromuscular disease robbed Mr. Imber of playing sports where he graduated at Columbus Bishop Watterson High School. That didn’t prevent him from pursuing a love of football at Ohio State University, where he was a student manager for the Buckeyes and then-head coach Woody Hayes from 1973-76.
He landed his first – and only – teaching job at Alter in 1977 and quickly established himself as a formidable coaching presence and in the classroom teaching English.
“He believed in Catholic education and once he came to Alter, he felt like this was home,” Alter athletic director Chris Hart said. “We were very honored to have him here for the last 40-plus years.”
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Unable to walk more than a decade ago, Mr. Imber retired from teaching six years ago. He remained an Alter assistant football coach through this past season, coordinating Knights’ shotgun offense with assistants Jason Freshwater and Tom Meyer. Alter (13-2) lost in the Division III state championship.
Although disabled, Mr. Imber was a large-and-in-charge football personality at 6 feet 7 and about 290 pounds. Knights players through the eras respected and responded to him, as did his English students.
“He was a Knight for life,” Hart said. “He was such an example for everyone, students and fellow faculty members, on a daily basis, because he handled his situation with such grace and class and courage. It was amazing.”
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In addition to football, Mr. Imber also served as Alter’s boys tennis coach and the boys freshman and JV basketball coach under then-head coach Joe Petrocelli.
Mr. Imber was inducted into the inaugural Knights of Gold Football Hall of Fame and the Alter school hall of fame in 2018. The Miami Valley Football Coaches Association awarded him as an assistant coach of the year in 2007.
Domsitz anointed Mr. Imber as an invaluable asset.
“In terms of football, he’s one of the two or three most brilliant football minds I ever worked with,” said Domsitz, who has been a head coach for 44 years. “There was never anyone any better who could break down film as quickly and completely as Dave Imber.
“His memory just stunned me. He would say, don’t you remember Carroll ran that play against us in 2002 for two touchdowns? I’d say, yeah, sure Dave. I remember that. There was no way I could remember that, but he sure could.”
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Mr. Imber is survived by a sister, Jane Imber, and was proceeded in death by his parents and a brother. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“He’ll be missed,” Domsitz said. “He was just a genuinely good man.”
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