Football community mourns Van Loon

A titan of football in Red Deer — as a coach, referee and league founder — Ken Van Loon died late last week. The long time volunteer wore many hats coaching Grade 9 basketball and junior football at Lindsay Thurber as well as the Red Deer Packers, a former Alberta Junior Football League team. A teacher, Van Loon, 71 at the time of his death, started at Eastview Middle School and taught at Lindsay Thurber.

A titan of football in Red Deer — as a coach, referee and league founder — Ken Van Loon died late last week.

The long time volunteer wore many hats coaching Grade 9 basketball and junior football at Lindsay Thurber as well as the Red Deer Packers, a former Alberta Junior Football League team. A teacher, Van Loon, 71 at the time of his death, started at Eastview Middle School and taught at Lindsay Thurber.

While at Eastview Middle School he also coached track and field and basketball.

He officiated football and basketball games and founded and became president of the Central Alberta Football Officials Association.

He, Jay Hetherington and Gino Castellan helped found three football leagues in Central Alberta at the bantam, pee wee and atom levels. They rearranged the bantam program to get two of the high schools involved and founded the pee wee and atom leagues that still run today.

“Ken, above all, was a good citizen,” said Hetherington. “He was passionate about kids and sports and the good it can do for them.

Hetherington, president of Football Alberta, collaborated with Ken as both a colleague, Hetherington was the guidance counsellor at Lindsay Thurber, and a shared passion for football.

“He loved to organize things and see things happen,” said Hetherington. “He loved to take a concept and make it happen.”

Hetherington described Ken’s referee style as “a little bit different.” Ken was never able to shed his coaching mentality as he would always teach, even as a referee.

“He would throw a flag and then say ‘I’m not throwing the flag this time. But it’s because you did this and I could have thrown the flag. If you do that again I will.’”

His son Roger spent some of his childhood on the sidelines as a ball boy.

“He took me to games and practices all the time,” said Roger. “When he was the assistant coach for Lindsay Thurber, I remember being on the sidelines with him as a ball boy. I got to be there watching, going to practices and even close road games.

“It was like an extended family, the players look after you.”

Roger said Ken has battled to stay alive for the last four months. He died on March 18.

Roger described Ken as “very passionate” when it came to football. Ken taught physical education.

“He cared for his kids too,” said Roger. “He loved us.”

In 2011, Ken was given a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to sport in the community by the Sports Council of Red Deer. He was also awarded a lifetime membership to Football Alberta in recognition of his contribution to the sport and officiating.

While a student at the University of Alberta, he was on the 1967 Vanier Cup winning Golden Bears football team.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a media availability in Ottawa on November 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals told to think beyond child care in work to craft ‘shecession’ recovery plan

Liberals told to think beyond child care in work to craft ‘shecession’ recovery plan

A helicopter passes over excavation equipment at the Mary River exploration camp, the site of a proposed expansion to an iron mine on northern Baffin Island, on August 17, 2006. The board of the organization that represents Inuit in Nunavut's Baffin Island region says it does not support the proposed expansionnear Pond Inlet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vinne Karetak
Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

A couple walks past a vandalized mural depicting world's first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 8, 2021. At least two street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science have appeared covered in black paint over the weekend. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis following protests near the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

This image provided by The Alexandria (Va.) Sheriff's Office shows Jacob Chansley. A judge ordered corrections authorities to provide organic food to the Arizona man who is accused of participating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns. He was moved from the Washington jail to the Virginia facility. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)
Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Most Read