Dalton was AD, football coach, took care of community

Don Dalton poses with wife Barb after his halftime speech in 2014, when the BHS field was named Don Dalton Stadium. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

The game-changing effects left by “Demon Don” Dalton on not only his former players but also community members will be felt in Burlington forever.

One of the most influential educators and coaches in Burlington High School history passed away back in June, and the stories of Dalton’s tireless commitment to his community shined light on a life full of helping others and motivating greatness.

Dalton’s death is the Burlington Standard Press No. 2 sports story of the year.

Here’s the original article, which appeared in the Standard Press in June.

 

The news sent shockwaves through the Burlington community back in June.

Don Dalton, the winningest coach in Burlington High School football history, died at the age of 75.

With more than 200 career victories and only 57 losses, Dalton was about winning and dominating the opponent.

He wanted to get the best out of each and every one of his players in his coaching career, which spanned from 1968 to 1995, and he was always looking to help those kids who needed guidance the most.

Active off the field, Dalton helped start an initiative at BHS about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and helped educate about the athletic code of conduct.

“A compliment from Demon Don made you walk 3 inches taller, and you’d try so hard not to disappoint him,” said former player Don Jacobson. “A great man who taught us so much more than football. So much of who I am was built on the practice field between Wainwright and Market, so proud to have played for him. Rest in peace coach, and thank you.”

Comments like this make you realize why the BHS athletic field was named “Don Dalton Stadium” in August 2014.

Dalton, center, hugs John Koballa, left, after achieving his 200th victory as the Demons beat Westosha High School 40-0 Thursday, Oct. 19, 1995. Less than 15 high school coaches are said to have reached that milestone in Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg)

The warm summer night honored the living legend in a beautiful way, with a halftime dedication and a speech from Dalton.

His six kids and 10 grandchildren all showed up for Don, the first time they were all in the same place in 20 years.

Around 100 players came out to honor Dalton, who gave football lessons but turned into a “life coach,” according to former player Todd Terry.

Dalton was humbled to see the outcry of support.

“I don’t get to see all of my kids very often,” he said in August 2014. “I have a lot of connections with former players. I was very proud to see everyone. You never know if you’re making a difference. That always makes you feel good.”

Chris Weidert, 55, of Burlington, a 1980 BHS graduate and former player under Dalton, said Dalton’s death was a sad day for the community.

Dalton was recently in town doing some work at BHS and reached out to Weidert. The two caught up on old times with lunch at Lucky Star.

“The last time I saw him, I could tell he was slowing down, but he always was upbeat no matter what,” Weidert said. “Our relationship grew closer as the years went on. He was always a great listener and always willing to help you through tough struggles.”

Weidert was a defensive back and running back on several conference championship teams, and Burlington’s dominance caused typical resentment from rival teams. But Dalton made sure his players never boasted about their success.

In the late 80s, Terry was an all-state and all-conference linebacker and guard.

“I’m going to try not to cry, I’m pretty emotional,” Terry said.

The 44-year-old attorney remembers a coach that always believed in him. Terry would see Dalton at the annual BHS Athletic Association golf outing in the summer.

Like Weidert, Terry heard the news from another former Dalton player and one of Dalton’s coaching successors, Hans Block.

“There was certainly sorrow when I found out,” Terry said. “There was a strong sense of appreciation talking with friends about Don. He had a keen memory of the good times and always asked about my family. He was so personable.”

“I loved what he stood for, what he instilled in generations of young men. He approached everything in a straightforward manner. There were no frills, he was all about winning and domination.”

During the dedication of Don Dalton Stadium in 2014, Dalton gave a passionate speech about education and the importance of the student-athlete.

He was just as proud to help a kid stay on the right path and away from drugs as he was to win a conference championship.

“It’s not just me,” Dalton said. “It’s the program and all the kids that come back. It’s never one person. I have a soft spot in my heart for all the kids I’ve coached.”

“I put as much value on a backup as I do a starter. It didn’t matter where kids came from, we all had common goals. We always wanted to make the program a team-type atmosphere.”

Don Dalton and former player Hans Block share a moment as Dalton’s family cheers him on during the dedication of Don Dalton Stadium in 2014. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

 

 

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