Great athletes make those around them better. Great men do the same. Ken Lein was both, always seeing the best in all and helping them see the best in themselves.
Kenneth Lein, a native of Roland, Iowa died while resting comfortably December 5th, 2013, at his home in San Clemente, CA.
A teacher, coach, father and friend, Ken was born July 14th, 1934 to Knute (d. 1981) and Aletta (d. 1975) Lein. His early years were filled with hard work and sports, in particular basketball, baseball and swimming.
Ken starred on the 1951 Roland Rocket High School basketball team. With a school population of around 50, the Roland team played Davenport High School, with a school population of over 2000, losing 50-40 in the Iowa state championship game. Ken and friend Gary Thompson put on a memorable show in the David and Goliath-like state final.
Although Ken had many offers to continue playing either basketball or baseball at the collegiate level, he instead chose to serve his country, joining the Coast Guard immediately after high school. He traveled to Ellis Island, Cape May, NJ and then Burlington, VT where he met his first wife Patricia Lavoie(Dominski).
After the service, Ken went to Ellsworth Junior College in Iowa Falls on a basketball scholarship and following a terrific two-year career, Ken attended and played ball at Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, MO. He gradated in 1958 with a degree in Social Science Education.
Ken’s first teaching job was in Riverton, IA. Ken was a popular teacher and coach in the Redfield, IA(Dexfield), Port Byron, IL(Riverdale), Hinesburg, VT(Champlain Valley), Manly, IA (North Central), Postville, IA, Hampton, IA school districts in a 23-year span. He coached basketball, baseball, track, softball, golf and football in that time period. Ken accumulated over 250 wins as a basketball coach in four states. At each stop along his storied career, he also ran the local swimming pools and instructed Red Cross lifesaving. Ken saved a man’s life in the Vergennes, VT pool, pulling the drowning man from the deep end and providing resuscitation. Ken saved this life literally, and many others during his years in the classrooms and on the floor and fields. His optimism and belief in the human spirit continues to reside in so many he touched.
Ken’s athletic teams were known for contrasting styles and innovation. His Riverdale team held the ball and left one man back on the defensive end, upsetting a powerful Rock Island squad in the district championship that featured future Boston Celtics star Steve Kuberski. His Postville team was known for being up-tempo, setting a national record at the time for points by two teams, losing to Central Elkader in 1972, 117-101. Ken’s teams were perennially in the top ten rankings in the state of Iowa with numerous conference, sectional and district titles. His teams were flamboyant, he rolled out a red carpet for timeouts and the boys laid on the floor. He had
each of his teams wear high, "target"-striped socks so they could better identify their teammates for fast-breaks. He had several all-state players go on to great collegiate careers in all of the athletics he led.
After Ken’s teaching and coaching career, he entered the business world, first working his way up from sales representative to regional manager for DeVry Institutes of Technology. He then worked for a series of companies in the education industry, finally retiring to substitute teach, and enjoy family and a California lifestyle. His passion was still sports and he loved the Chicago Cubs and the Iowa college teams that he followed religiously. His dog Buddy, who was at his side at the time of his death, was his constant companion.
Ken is survived by his sister Arlene(Mangold) of Fullerton, CA; his first wife Patricia Dominski(Mitch) of Sebastian, FL; second wife Joette Wattier of San Clemente, CA: son Kevin(Amy) Lein of Harrisburg, SD; daughters Kim(Bernie)Peine of Underhill, VT and Kamela(John) Behrendt of Dunlap, IA; step-sons Brian(Leah)Wattier of Sacramento, CA, and Jason(Holly) Wattier of Philadelphia, PA and step-daughter Jocelyn(John) White of San Clemente, CA; grandchildren Kyle and Megan Behrendt of Dunlap, IA: Kodi Lein of Brulington, VT; Karter and Kennedy Lein of Harrisburg, SD; Madison, Thomas and Alex White of San Clemente, CA; Ella and Sophia Wattier of Morgantown, PA.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Don and Stanley and his sister Marjorie(Absher).
A celebration of Ken’s life was held December 13th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Soderstrum Funeral Home in Story City, IA. The funeral service took place at the Bergen Lutheran Church in Roland, IA on December 14th at 10:30 a.m. with subsequent burial at the Roland Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any memorial contributions be given to the Ken Lein Memorial Scholarship, which will be established to assist Roland-Story high school student-athletes with post-high school pursuits. Those contributions can be given by contacting Kevin Lein (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.