Geauga County loses coaching legend.

Ken ‘Coach’ Janssen built winners at both Burton and Thompson

Anonymous Star Beacon The Star Beacon Mon Jan 10, 2011, 01:05 AM EST

Kenneth Ries “Coach” Janssen of Burton passed away Wednesday at age of 85.

Ken left an ongoing legacy as a devoted husband, wonderful father and much loved grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a very giving person to anyone who needed his help. He touched many lives as a teacher and coach at Berkshire High School and Thompson High School, now Ledgemont.

He was born in Cleveland in 1925 to the late Laura (Ries) Janssen and Hans T. Janssen and shortly thereafter moved to Burton, growing up in the George H. Ford Century Home on the East Side of the park.

In 1943 he graduated from Burton High School, where he excelled in basketball earning four varsity letters, helping his teammates win Geauga County League championships.

He also met his future wife Jenelyn “Denny” Cobb of Claridon while attending Burton high school when both were 15 years old.

Just after graduation Ken enlisted in the United States Navy on June 17, 1943, the day after his 18th birthday and was a member of the United States Naval Medical Corps spending much of his time at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland and on Naval Bases in New Orleans and San Diego.

He married his high school sweetheart, Denny in San Diego on Sept. 7, 1945. The couple moved back to Burton after he was honorably discharged in May 1946.

Ken began his college education at Kent State University but after a few years moved to Tucson, Arizona to build houses with Epstein Builders. At the same time he would come home from his job and work on building his own house while still finding some time to attend the University of Arizona to further his education.

While living in Tucson Kenny and Denny had two sons, Hans T. (Ted) in 1951 and Charles W. in 1954.

The family moved back to Ohio, where Ken finished his degree at Kent State, receiving degrees in Sanitary Engineering, Health and Physical Education and Industrial Arts.

The family then moved to Ashland, where Ken worked for the State of Ohio Health Department.

In 1956, Ken was visited in Ashland by former Burton High School Superintendent and then Geauga County Superintendent Denver Jividen to personally ask Ken to come back to Geauga County to teach industrial arts and coach at Thompson. Ken made the move and was hired to teach and become head basketball coach, head baseball coach, assistant football coach, and athletic director.

Ken turned around a basketball program which hadn’t won a game in several years, winning 40 games in five years. One fond recollection of his experience at Thompson included coaching the football team, which had only 13 players, and going to Kenston and winning, 13-12. Coaching basketball in the tiny Thompson gym he once put a basket on the side of the court to simulate West Geauga’s huge new gym. The team practiced side court all week and won that game at West Geauga.

After five years, Ken answered the call to come back to his alma mater to teach and coach basketball at Burton. In 19 seasons at Burton (Berkshire), he compiled 202 wins, three league championships, four sectional championships and one district runner-up. He was three times named East Suburban Conference Coach of the Year and a one time Northeast Ohio Coach of the year. In 1975, he was named Regional Press Coach of the Year and in 1974, Cuyahoga County Basketcall Coaches Association Coach of the year.

In his last year, 1979-80, his team was 18-4, ESC champs and sectional Champs before losing a one-point decision to Badger in a district game in Canton. He received many honors his last year, including Ohio NEO District Coach of the Year, along with Regional Press, Geauga County, and league coach of the year honors.

Upon his resignation in 1980, he was honored by the Burton Chamber of Commerce as Citizen of the Year at a banquet in his honor. He was also honored with a plaque from the Ohio School Board Association for Exemplary Service in Education.

Ken did not stay “retired” for long, utilizing his woodworking talents at Geauga Hospital as a maintenance carpenter. He retired from the Hospital in 1990. He also served on the Berkshire Board of Education.

Ken’s main interest was his family. He also loved to travel, play golf, and work in his woodworking shop.

Ken is survived by his wife of 65 years Jenelyn (Cobb), his sons Ted (Sue Rose) of Burton and Chuck (Shelley Adams) of Mesopotamia, grandsons Kenneth, Matthew, Paul and Daniel and granddaughters Lisa and Jenna. He also had two great-grandsons, Maxwell, and Myles. He is also survived by his nieces Jan, Sharon, and Laurie.

He was preceded in death by his father Hans. T., mother Laura , sister Marilyn (Casteel) and brother-in-law Larry Casteel.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 at 3 p.m. in the Berkshire High School Gymnasium. There will be a reception in the cafeteria following the service.

The gym was chosen because it was a large part of Ken and his family’s life. He also helped to design the gym, making sure it had a full college-size court and glass backboards on all six baskets.

Ken always had a special interest in veterans and in helping kids with problems so in lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either Fisher House Foundation, Inc. 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850-5168, or the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Attn: Contributions, One Intrepid Square, West 46th Street & 12th Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10036.

Both charities help veterans and their families. Donations can also be made on their websites and donation forms are also available online and should be made in memory of Kenneth R. Janssen.

Donations can also be made to the Geauga Youth Center c/o Ravenwood Mental Health Center, 12557 Ravenwood Drive, Chardon, Ohio, 44024 and must include “In memory of Kenneth R. Janssen.”

The family would like to thank the nurses and aides at Burton Health Care and Care Core Hospice for their loving attention they provided during his illness.

Video Produced by: Matt, Paul, Ted and Chuck Janssen.

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