It never seemed to amaze Kiel High School athletic director Pat Geigel how many people at the school knew longtime Raiders boys soccer coach John Adema despite him not teaching at the school.
Adema, who began coaching the Raiders in 1998 after a nine-year stint as head men’s soccer coach at St. Norbert College, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. He coached the Raiders up until his passing at age 76 and left his mark not only on the Manitowoc County soccer scene for generations to come, but on those he came into contact with off the field as well.
“It didn’t matter where he went in the school, everybody knew him. They would stop and say hello and chat with him,” said Geigel, whose two sons were coached by Adema. “Everyone respected him because of his knowledge of the game.”
In addition to being the longest-tenured men’s soccer coach in St. Norbert’s history, Adema also coached at Marian University as well as New Holstein, Stockbridge and Cedar Grove-Belgium high schools. He was voted Coach of the Year in 1984, 1994 and 2007, was a coach for the Olympic Player Development Program and was inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame in 1989 and 2007. He played soccer with the Sheboygan Sports Club and with the Appleton Bombers, and retired from playing at 55. He was also active in youth soccer programs, and was still currently a referee, with Geigel saying he was instrumental in building the foundation for the Kiel soccer scene.
“Coach Adema not only was our high school coach, but he was very involved in the (Kiel) youth program from its infancy,” Geigel said, adding that Adema coached several youth teams in the spring and summer. “His concern was two fold. While he was developing players, he knew soccer is a lifelong skill and he wanted to make sure students who learned soccer at a young age would carry it with them well past their high school years.”
Adema was born in The Netherlands and emigrated to the United States at the age of 19. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Helen, and three children: Diane Apkarian, Debbra Cleveland and Therese Smith, as well as eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by one son, Cliff. He worked at Kohler Company for 10 years and Lee Reality for six years prior to starting his own construction business, A and A Builders.
“(Those coached by Adema) will miss him because of those lifelong skills and lifelong friendships they developed under him,” Geigel said.
Those wishing to pay their respects may call the Meiselwitz-Vollestedt Funeral Home, 815 Sixth St., in Kiel from 3-7 p.m. Friday and Shepherd of the Hills Catholic Church, W1562 County Trunk B, in Eden from 9-11:15 a.m. on Saturday. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the church, with Revs. Joseph Juknialis and Charlie Wester officiating. Burial will be in St. Ann Catholic Cemetery in St. Anna. To send online condolences, visit http://www.meiselwitzfh.com.
“John was dedicated to the sport, and it showed in the relationships he had with his players,” longtime St. Norbert athletics trainer Russ Schmelzer said in a press release. “He was well-respected, and outstanding person, and he will be missed.”