FREMONT — Don Watchorn, one of Schuyler High School's greatest football coaches, passed away on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. He was 91.
Watchorn came to Schuyler in 1954. He was instrumental in getting the football field and track moved to their current locations. Before he took over as head coach, football games were played in the baseball park, and track meets were held on the west side of the Schuyler Hospital. By 1957, his football team ended the season with only one loss and was ranked as one of the best in the state. The following year, during his final season at Schuyler in 1958, his undefeated Warriors captured the Class B state championship, the school's first since 1931. That year Watchorn's team scored 257 offensive points. The total points scored against Schuyler by all opponents that season added up to only 20 points. The underclassmen he coached remained undefeated during the 1959 and 1960 seasons, giving Schuyler one of the longest winning streaks in the nation at that time.
Donald C. Watchorn was born in North Bend on July 10, 1926. He was raised in Ponca. The United States was still fighting World War II when he graduated from high school. On the day after graduation he joined the U.S. Navy. A short time later he was serving aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Windham Bay. The Windham Bay participated in the battles for Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Saipan and Guadalcanal. During the Guadalcanal campaign the U.S. Navy lost more ships and men than any other single naval battle in U.S. history. At Guadalcanal, the U.S.S. Windham Bay was involved in the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater during World War II. During this assault the U.S.S. Windham and U.S. fleet were subjected to 10 mass kamikaze attacks. Watchorn, at only 18 years old, served as an anti-aircraft gunner, one of the most dangerous positions on the carrier. Located in the open on the side of the carrier, his job was to shoot down attacking enemy aircraft consisting mostly of Japanese kamikaze suicide planes. During the time he served on the U.S.S. Windham Bay the ship was awarded three battle stars.
He married Joan Tooley on Aug. 4, 1947. After leaving his coaching job at Schuyler, he coached at the University of Nebraska at Omaha before serving 21 years as head football coach and athletic director at Midland University in Fremont. At Midland, Watchorn won 116 games and nine conference championship titles. The Watchorn Football Complex at Midland is named after the hall of fame coach and his wife Joan. Don and Joan were both legendary for the relationships they developed and fostered with student-athletes.
After 64 years of marriage, Joan passed away in 2011.
Don is survived by his daughter Carolee Cronin and son-in-law Patrick Cronin of Fremont, four grandchildren, three great-grandsons and one sister Donna Eslick of Atlantic, Iowa.
A service was held Tuesday, Oct. 24, at First Lutheran Church in Fremont. Burial was in Memorial Cemetery with military honors.