Leo GrosJacques
Leo Henry GrosJacques

July 15, 1924 - February 4, 2014

Leo GrosJacques was born in the family home on the Mt. Angel Abbey property. Dad was one of nine children from a family that immigrated from Europe in the early 1900's. He graduated from Mt. Angel Prep School where he was an all-state basketball player. Recently, he was their first Hall of Fame inductee.

Dad enlisted in the Navy and was a trained bombardier and bow gunner finishing second in his class. He was on a ship heading towards Japan for potential combat when the atomic bomb was dropped.

Before entering the Navy, dad met a shy and timid beauty named Ruth. They married on September 13, 1947 and were infamously together for 51 years. They raised 5 children between Portland and Salem. He was completely devoted to his wife and kids first and foremost.

Dad graduated with a degree in education from the University of Portland on the G.I. bill. Once again, he excelled in basketball and baseball becoming their only two sport Hall of Fame inductee. His four year career batting average was an astonishing .431.

His teaching/ coaching career started in 1954 at Sacred Heart in Salem then on to Serra Catholic High School. He taught history, biology and religion. His teams won 80% of their basketball games. He finished his career at Cascade High School.

Dad was intelligent (nearly had his doctorate in U.S. history), humble, disciplined, generous and prideful. He enjoyed the beach, golf, hunting, fishing, poker and hiking.

He had a positive and lasting effect on many a student and athlete, embracing and teaching hard work, discipline and success.

Dad was a highly respected member of his community and was simply a great man.

He was preceded in death by his wife in 1998. He is survived by his children (spouses), Carol Patterson, David GrosJacques (Sally), Sue Marion (Al), Janet GrosJacques (Jay Howe) and Steve GrosJacques (Glenna DeSouza). Dad had an extended family that all deeply cared for him. This included 12 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren along with stepchildren and grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mt. Angel on Monday February 10th at 11:00 a.m. Rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday the 9th. Visitation on Sunday from 1-6 at Unger in Mt. Angel.

The family requests in lieu of flowers that donations be made to St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Bank or Meals on Wheels in Salem.



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Published by The Statesman Journal on Feb. 7, 2014.
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14 Entries
Leo played a very important role in my life both as a coach, teacher and person. After graduation I had the opportunity to get to know Leo even better as we lived about 2 blocks from Leo and Ruth and their growing family. Drove past their house at least twice a day and would stop wherever possible to just check in. the one thing I rarely saw when in high school was Leo's great sense of humor always delivered with a wry smile. As others have said Leo was a "all in" guy and inspired many of us to accomplish far more than we ever thought possible. Leo will be missed greatly by all who knew him. One of the most principled men I ever knew.
Dick Carney
February 3, 2015
Leo GrosJacques was my basketball coach from 1960-63. He was a huge influence on my life, and a lot of who I am today is because of Leo.
He was an incredible athlete, probably better than any of the thousands that he coached.
He was a Man's Man.
It can't be stressed highly enough how vital it is for young men to have models like Leo.
He wasn't 'all hat and no cattle.' He lived what he taught.
He taught the work ethic - 'Fatigue makes cowards of us all.'
He taught fair play, and modesty - no boasting nor showboating.
He taught loyalty. At a sacrifice in pay he remained at Serra, believing in its principles.
He taught generosity. Steve Ritchie (above) provides an excellent example.
Leo wasn't a gladhander and a big extrovert which at times didn't work in his favor. He could be aloof, and he tended to be quieter. But for those of us who got to know him, it was apparent that this was a straight shooter, a man who kept his word, did his homework, and gave greatly of himself.
The great Hall of Fame Pro Basketball Coach, of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach, paid the ultimate compliment to his Hall of Fame player, Larry Bird, upon Bird's retirement. Auerbach said of Bird, "He didn't leave anything in the locker room." Meaning he gave it all on the floor.
This same tribute could be applied to Leo, as we look back on his life.
Thankyou Leo!
What a Gamer you were!
Steve Schreiner
February 16, 2014
I had Leo as a teacher while at Cascade HS. Wonderful teacher and will be thinking of him.
Brian Reed
February 13, 2014
Leo was my track and basketball coach during my four years at Serra Catholic, as well as my teacher in freshman religion, modern problems and other courses at Serra. He was, as stated in the obituary, a great man. He was thoughtful, stern but very fair, dedicated to his family and his work, a tremendously gifted coach, modest, and an all-around great guy.

I remember how he would work out after our basketball and track practices, running laps or lines in the gym so that he could stay in shape for officiating football games. This was in an era when people in their 40s did not run or work out. That in itself had a tremendous impact on me.

When a group of us (scrawny distance runners) told him we wanted to start a cross country team at Serra, he told us he couldn't coach us due to officiating football games (to supplement his meager teaching salary), but he would drive us to the meets. What a great time we had driving to meets in his old red station wagon and hearing stories about his logging exploits in the summer, and talking about the issues of the day (during the tumultuous 60s).

Although we had no track at Serra - and only primitive throwing and jumping areas - Leo's teams won 7 consecutive district championships in track & field. Another amazing accomplishment.

When I was a freshman, Leo gave me and our other distance underclassmen a nickname - "little tigers." We joked about it, but were secretly as proud as could be about that. He didn't give out praise lightly so that meant the world to us!
Steve Ritchie
February 10, 2014
I played basketball with Leo at the University of Portland and what a pleasure it was. I was a freshman, he had been there two years and was the captain of the team. I found him to be a remarkable person,a great athlete and a leader. It doesn't surprise me that he was so successful in his career. He was certainly respected by his teammates. Leo will be remembered. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.
Ray Foleen,teammate,class of 1952
February 10, 2014
please excuse my typing error. Leo's first year as football coach was during the 1951-1952 school year.
Robert Lange
February 10, 2014
Hey you guys, I loved your dad. First memories were of him and Dad hunting deer. They took me. Other memories included Dad taking me out of grade school to go fishing for steelhead on the Siletz and Nestucca rivers. They both told me I would learn more with them than I would in school that day. Obviously as a 10 year old boy skipping school, I agreed. As the years went on, dad broke me in falling timber, uncle Leo was on the crew. I learned lots from Uncle Leo ( in his quiet, uncomplicated way) about how to stay alive in that occupation.
What I remember most about Leo is how he was interested in me, how I knew if I needed help, I could call him, and all this without any great big deal. He was relaxing. I just knew he was there.
All the athletic accomplishments of his, I can't remember him mentioning. I know you guys are really proud of your Dad, and you should be, because what an example of how to be.

Jim Neal
jim neal
February 9, 2014
UNCLE Leo, my mother, your sister Agnes' was always so proud of You!! I will always remember her Bragging about your successes and saving all the newspaper clippings of you. May God Bless the GrosJacques Family and Uncle Leo. We will miss you.
Clint and Leslie Uselman Family
February 9, 2014
Coach Grosjacques taught one of my classes during my Jr. year at SHA. The best picture of him in the 1991-1992 Sacred Heart yearbook was with his 6 league football all stars. He was a good coach.
Robert Lange
February 9, 2014
Below is a letter I unsuccessfully tried to get to Coach GrosJaques in 2009. My most sincere condolences to Coach GrosJaques' family.
Paul Kennedy, Serra class of 1959

April 20, 2009

Dear Coach GrosJaques,

I just want to thank you for making room for me on the Serra football team in the years of 1957 and 1958. There is no reason for you to remember who I am after all these years as my prospects of being any kind of a meaningful football player for your team weren't much. There wasn't much of a killer instinct in me as I had spent my freshman and sophomore years at Mt. Angel Seminary. Also, my dad passed away while I was in grade school so the manly rough and tumble part of our family life wasn't in my background either. When I showed up for my first football practice you must have wondered if I was going to be worth the laundry cost of my uniform. I didn't even know how to put my uniform on so that couldn't have been a very convincing either. Without Dick Carney and Jim MacDonald to help me with the pads and buckles I would have spent my first practice in the field house doing a Buster Keaton scene. It would have been easy and understandable for you to cut me from the team but you didn't and it made a big difference in a young man's life, mine.

Playing football for you gave me a lot of confidence that I didn't have then, and it also helped tremendously in helping me make friends at a new school. You put me in just often enough to earn letters in both years which meant a lot to me. I even have a memory of a good block that I made, that no one else would notice, to protect a Maury Doerfler run that gave credibility to me at least. It also meant something to say “Yes” when guys later in life asked if I ever played football. There's something manly in being able to say that because no one ever asks how good I was, thankfully.

I have been married to Susan for 42 years and she seems to be a happy wife without knowing much about my unimpressive football career. I retired in 1997 and started a nonprofit, after school drop-in center for teenagers in a low income area of Spokane, which I operated for ten years. You crossed my mind several times at the teen center as we had a basketball gym. We encouraged kids to get into the game and at least try to play. Most of the time the encouragement got them to keep trying until they had the ability to compete. What you did for me worked for them. I'm sure your technique will make the same difference in their lives too.

So thank you again for taking the chance on me. You made a difference in a lot of young men's lives in your coaching career, evidenced by mine. I hope you reflect back well on all that you did for the lives of so many young men. I also enjoyed your war stories in our history class so I also thank you for your service to our country. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Paul M. Kennedy
Serra Class of 1959
Paul Kennedy
February 8, 2014
Many fond memories of you Coach GrosJacques.

Serra class of '65
Christopher Schiess
February 7, 2014
We at Salem Family & Cosmetic Dentistry will miss our long time friend, Leo. We know he is happy to be with his Ruth again. Rest in Peace. Our prayers are with you, his family.
February 7, 2014
I would like to extend my most sincere regrets to the family of Coach GrosJacques. I respected him greatly as both a teacher and a coach during my years at Serra (1962-66).
Leo Woods
February 7, 2014
Our thoughts and prayers for Leo, his family and those who knew him. I was fortunate to have him as a teacher and respected him as our coach. Serra '60.
Mike Gallagher
February 6, 2014