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Pinckneyville celebrates life of Glen Hamilton, teacher, coach and 'great guy'

  • The family all turned out for the inaugural Glen Hamilton met. From left they are son Scott, daughter-in-law Marie, granddaughter Megan Kindle, son Dwight "Dike" and daughter-in-law Nancy, Glen, daughter Gwen and son-in-law Michael Fox.

    The family all turned out for the inaugural Glen Hamilton met. From left they are son Scott, daughter-in-law Marie, granddaughter Megan Kindle, son Dwight "Dike" and daughter-in-law Nancy, Glen, daughter Gwen and son-in-law Michael Fox.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Glen Hamilton fires the starter's pistol and gets 'em going at the frosh-soph meet that bears his name.

    Glen Hamilton fires the starter's pistol and gets 'em going at the frosh-soph meet that bears his name.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Glen Hamilton with Coach Tod Rushing.

    Glen Hamilton with Coach Tod Rushing.
    Daniel Herbst photo

 
By Daniel Herbst
Contributing writer
updated: 9/16/2021 12:00 AM

"Great guy," "one of a kind," "my favorite teacher" and more are being heard at the passing of Glen Hamilton, whose positive influence extended deep within and far beyond his community of Pinckneyville. Hamilton died on Sept. 3 at age 93.

Born and raised in Pinckneyville, Glen graduated from PCHS in 1945, and after earning a degree at SIU he returned to PCHS for a 48-year teaching and coaching career.

He taught woodworking, drafting, electronics and photography classes. Old students say their love of photography started in Hamilton's classes or on the yearbook staff.

Other students say they learned from him how to read blueprints, do drafting, and complete building projects. Glen's son Scott said former students told him about his dad's sense of humor, "and how he made learning fun and interesting."

Glen's positive approach impacted his colleagues as well. I shared sponsorship of the PCHS Pyramid yearbook with Glen Hamilton for 20 years. Glen led the photography staff and I handled the layout and design production. His photos were always top-notch and in high demand for the yearbook, for individuals, and for local newspapers as well.

So many remember his contributions to Panther sports. A distance runner, Hamilton was also a football player at PCHS and for his first two years at SIU. Later, as head Panther football coach, he coached the only future professional football player to come out of Pinckneyville, Marion Rushing.

Early in his tenure, Glen was an assistant basketball coach under Duster Thomas. Later in his career, Glen was head coach in track and cross country, which he handed off to Dick Corn in the 1980s.

It wasn't enough to be a coach. Glen became a basketball referee, football official, baseball umpire, and track and cross country official/starter. He encouraged former football players to become officials as well.

Glen also became the voice of Panther football as public address announcer, adding his unique commentary to Friday nights. A Panther ball carrier might have been brought down by "a flock of Herrin Tigers."

Hamilton worked his way up through the ranks of track and field officials to the state level, serving as an assistant starter for a number of state meets. He became the official starter for three state track meets, then continued in IHSA track leadership thereafter.

Glen's outstanding contributions were the reason Coach Tod Rushing led PCHS to name the Fresh-Soph Track Invitational after Glen Hamilton.

"In over 30 years of coaching track, Glen was one of only a few official starters in southern Illinois," Rushing said. "Coaches would be asked to rank their top 10 or 12 starters to determine which officials would go to the state meet each year. I'd have to explain that I only saw three different ones all year in southern Illinois."

The experience gained from starting so many meets also showed in the inaugural Glen Hamilton Fresh-Soph Invitational meet, when Coach Rushing called on Glen to be the "honorary starter" for the first race, the 3200-meter run.

Nearing his 90th birthday, Glen had not started a race for many years, but when he took his place on the curve in front of the runners, he was back in charge.

The Panthers' current cross country Head Coach Ryan Bruns also would call on Hamilton to start the Pinckneyville Invitational Cross Country meet at Lake Sallateeska.

"I probably had him start the race for about 10 years, and he'd done that for Coach Corn for years before that," Bruns said. "I'd call him up to ask about the cross country meet. We'd talk about some of the runners he had in the 80s, but he would always want to tell me about his family," he said with a smile.

PCHS Superintendent Keith Hagene says Glen Hamilton encouraged him as a freshman (1979) to grab a camera and join the yearbook staff. He was in the darkroom one day when Fred Bruno visited his Architectural Drafting class, to recruit students into the Architectural Tech program at Rend Lake College.

Hagene got to class late, just as Bruno was asking Hamilton if any other students might be interested in going to Rend Lake. Hamilton said, "This one needs to sign up," handed young Hagene the already filled-in application, pointed to the bottom line and said, "sign here."

Hagene said he went home to tell his parents that he was going to college at Rend Lake. When they asked "What for?" Hagene simply replied, "Because Mr. Hamilton said so." And as he worked through the program at Rend Lake, he realized he was on the path to the classroom. He graduated from Rend Lake, transferred to SEMO, and completed his BS in Education.

Scott Hamilton said he and his sister Gwen "can both say that our father was a very big influence on our decision to follow in his footsteps and make our life's work in education."

Beyond education, his dad used "hard work and ingenuity to provide a pleasant home for his family," making the most of building and carpentry skills that he learned from his father to stretch a teacher's salary. Hamilton also introduced his sons to fishing and hunting, that has provided many memories through their lives.

Hamilton's shop classes worked with Carl Marlow to play a major role in building the iconic Santa Claus that greets visitors to Pinckneyville from the courthouse lawn each season. He also performed in the Southern Illinois Madrigals at Christmas and in community choirs at Easter.

As well, he oversaw the construction of First United Presbyterian Church in which he married the love of his life, Marjorie Templeton, on Nov. 11, 1949 and where his funeral would be held many years later. Glen and Marge shared 55 years of marriage before her passing, and supported their three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren in their activities throughout the years.

Longtime PCHS colleague Jeanette Hoeinghaus shared on social media: "From working with (Glen) for many years at PCHS, I learned he could do anything but was modest about his accomplishments and skills. He loved his family. He loved his students, and he loved Pinckneyville. A wonderful role model."

Scott concluded his eulogy, "As we celebrate Glen Hamilton's life, let us remember the enduring legacy he has built; a legacy of love for his family, dedication to helping others, and a deep reservoir of respect in the community from all those who knew him." Truly, Glen Hamilton has represented a life well-lived: for his family, for PCHS, for Pinckneyville and beyond.