Elmer found his place in Geneseo

Chris Steele
Elmer Reedy teaches campers at the Geneseo Youth Football camp.

Elmer Reedy found a place his passion could blossom in Geneseo.

With his passing on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, those who knew him remembered his unwavering loyalty, dedication and enthusiasm for Geneseo sports.

Growing up, Reedy was so desperate to play football that he ran away from home to chase his dream at age 14.

“I worked for room and board at a restaurant below my apartment,” Reedy said to the Geneseo Republic in a 2008 interview. “I also worked at a drugstore and bus station.”

He bounced around during his youth. He spent time in a children’s home in Champaign, attended Rantoul High School, played football for three years at Illinois State and entered the Navy at the age of 17.

However, football was the constant.

He graduated with a degree in physical education from Illinois State and decided he wanted to coach.

When he came to Geneseo in 1953, he found what he had always been looking for.

“I think he just found a home in Geneseo,” Geneseo football coach Larry Johnsen Jr. said. “His work ethic, the way he carried himself, the way that he did things — I think it was a good fit for Geneseo and a good fit for Elmer. He never asked for anything and was always willing to help you out. I think he found a perfect match and a lot of people benefited from Elmer being here.”

He was a member of the Green Machine football staff for 65 years and coached for 69 seasons overall.

After taking his first teaching job a few years after Reedy, Larry Johnsen Sr. began working with him coaching football, basketball and track at the middle school.

“He always put the kids first,” Johnsen Sr. said. “He had a heart of gold. The kids were most important to him — seeing them succeed and working to help them succeed.”

Reedy didn’t worry about his role or credit, he was just always willing to help.

“I coached wherever I was needed,” said Reedy to the Geneseo Republic in 2008. “I thought I wanted to be a head coach, but (by not being a head coach) I don’t have all the pressure and I get to work with the younger kids.”

He helped build a foundation as a sophomore and freshmen coach for a generation during Geneseo’s historic run.

“His loyalty to the program and Geneseo High School football was immeasurable,” said Bob Reade, an IHSFCA Hall of Fame coach. “There’s probably nobody who has ever been around Geneseo High School football who was more dedicated to it than Elmer Reedy.”

He was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

“Another reason I was surprised about being chosen was the fact that I have never been a head varsity football coach,” Reedy said to the Geneseo Republic in 1993. “It must have been because I’ve hung around for so many years.”

Reedy retired from his position as athletic director at the Geneseo Middle School after 58 years.

Geneseo High School principal and former athletic director Travis Mackey was coached by Reedy.

He found the passage of time added a new level of respect for Reedy.

“As we become parents ourselves and grow older, we respect the work ethic he put in,” Mackey said. “The time, the energy, the devotion and dedication those are the great qualities you are just hoping to pass along to your kids and our students. If they do that, they are going to be on the road to success.”

Reedy was a member of Geneseo High School’s second Hall of Fame Class.

“Football meant everything to him,” Mackey said. “That’s why it was a real treat when he was inducted into our hall of fame. It was a no-brainer.”

Reedy was always willing to help because it was more than a job: it was a way of life in a place where he had found a home.

“He was happiest of all when he was out on the practice field,” Johnsen Sr. said. “I can remember him in his 70s still jogging over to the blocking sleds. He had that enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm was contagious.”