Sheyenne, West Fargo co-head coach Chuck Gad retires
Chuck Gad still couldn't read the message on his plaque.
The longtime West Fargo and West Fargo Sheyenne boys golf co-head coach felt uncomfortable at his retirement party at Sheyenne last Thursday when students he coached all the way back to the 1970s came back to congratulate him. The parents and kids gave him a plaque with a message Gad knows is touching but feels he'll start crying if he were to read the whole thing.
Gad has faced enough tears for more than a lifetime. His wife, Janice—"the perfect coach's wife"—died of ovarian cancer eight years ago and his son CJ died at 49 years old in a car accident earlier this spring.
After 41 years of coaching West Fargo golf teams, Gad knew his wife would be disappointed whenever he decided to quit coaching. Through all the turmoil in his recent years, Gad's teams were worth finishing the season out. Gad turned in his retirement last week.
"Those kids really got me through that," Gad said. "They didn't know that, but I knew."
Voicemails left for West Fargo activities director Jay DeCann and Sheyenne activities director Ross Richards were not immediately returned.
Sheyenne and West Fargo co-head coach Dan Wolf said he's not sure what the coaching plan is for the future. He couldn't see coaching both programs by himself as he does for the girls because the boys are on the road for tournaments more often. If he were to be solo head coach for one team and a replacement was hired for the other, the varsity teams might also split home golf courses and one could go to another course like Maple River Golf Course in Mapleton.
Wolf has known Gad as a fellow coach since 2001 and as a business law teacher in high school. Wolf said Gad is tough to replace and that the teams' successes have been no accident.
"He's probably forgotten more about golf than I've learned," Wolf said. "I think he handled (CJ's death) far better than I could've imagined myself handling it. You should never outlive your kid. He handled it really well."
Under Gad, the Packers won two state championships in 2015 and 2012. Gad also coached Riley Johnson, who individually won the state meet in 2012 and 2014. The Mustangs have been state runner-ups the last two seasons at the state meet. Gad also coached three of the last six North Dakota senior athletes of the year, including Sheyenne's Cole Johnson this year. Gad, a two-time state coach of the year and four-time Eastern Dakota Conference coach of the year, also coached four EDC champion teams.
Gad is from Minot, went to high school in Jamestown and played golf for Minot State and went to two national tournaments before graduating with a degree in physical education and business education. He retired from business education teaching at West Fargo in 2006. Gad also coached boys and girls basketball, boys track and field and boys and girls golf during his 50-year coaching tenure.
"Those first golf teams were in last place, but we kept plugging along," Gad said. "I would say we've gotten as good of a program as anybody and would selfishly say it's better than anyone."
Gad knew his eventual wife in high school but didn't start dating her until he was in college. Janice, a chiropractor in West Fargo, wanted her husband to coach until he dropped if he had to. When she died of ovarian cancer at 62 years old, Gad knew his wife, who loved going to the games, would be ashamed of him if he ever quit coaching until now.
"I really married up, I'll tell you that," Gad said. "We never parted from (the day they met) until she died."
Gad and his wife were married 45 years and were about to both retire. On her deathbed, Gad's last memories of his wife are her grabbing his arm and telling her to take care of their five grandchildren.
When he thought about retiring, Gad said the cliche "all good things must come to an end" rang true when he woke up to turn in his resignation letter and didn't regret it.
"I loved the relationships with the kids and love what I was doing," Gad said. "I did 50 years (of coaching). How frickin' lucky is that for a guy? How many guys can say that?"