Obituary for Jack M. Thurnblad
Former long-time Carleton College athletic director and men’s basketball coach, Jack Thurnblad passed away Monday, February 12, 2018, at his residence in Northfield. He was 96. Jack was born the son of John (Jake} and Carmel (Burke) Thurnblad on September 29, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from St. Mels High School in Chicago and was inducted into the Chicago City Catholic High School Hall of Fame for his athletic prowess. He then attended Illinois Wesleyan College in Bloomington, Illinois for one year. Jack then served in the United States Navy during WWII. He also was at spring training with […]
Former long-time Carleton College athletic director and men’s basketball coach, Jack Thurnblad passed away Monday, February 12, 2018, at his residence in Northfield. He was 96.
Jack was born the son of John (Jake} and Carmel (Burke) Thurnblad on September 29, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from St. Mels High School in Chicago and was inducted into the Chicago City Catholic High School Hall of Fame for his athletic prowess. He then attended Illinois Wesleyan College in Bloomington, Illinois for one year. Jack then served in the United States Navy during WWII. He also was at spring training with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1946 and played in the NBA under an assumed name. After receiving his honorable discharge, Jack continued his college studies at Carleton where he excelled in basketball and baseball. At the time he graduated Jack held the all-time Carleton scoring record for a single game and a 3-year career and was the Matteson award winner his senior year. He was united in marriage to Virginia “Jinny” White on June 5, 1948, whom he had met in college. Jack earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Carleton College in 1949 and completed the master’s program at the University of Minnesota receiving his degree in psychology.
Jack and Jinny moved to Hastings where he taught history and coached basketball and baseball. Jack played shortstop for Minnesota’s AA State Champion Litchfield baseball team in the Southern Minnie league in 1952. They moved to Wayzata where he continued his teaching and coaching career. In 1959, Jack guided the Wayzata boys’ basketball team to the State High School Championship.
He was hired by Carleton College president Larry Gould as the men’s basketball coach at his alma mater in 1960. “COACH” Jack guided his 1965-66 Knights basketball team to the Midwest Conference Championship. Jack was appointed Athletic director in 1970, served on the NCAA Rules Committee from 1973-1979 and attended 50 NCAA Final Fours. He took sabbaticals in Australia in 1974 and 1984 giving basketballs clinics throughout that nation, and he served as an assistant coach for the 1979 U.S.A. basketball team at the Spartakiade games in Russia. Also in 1979 he helped form the Carleton “C” Club Hall of Fame and was also named a charter member. Jack also served as golf coach for years and retired in 1989 with more wins than any other Carleton basketball coach in history. The couple continued to make their home in Northfield.
Also, in 1989, Jack was named a director on the board for the Minnesota Golf Association (MGA), serving on that board for 13 years. He was awarded the Carleton Alumni Association Exceptional Service Award for 1999 and in 2001 was presented with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) outstanding service award. In the early 2000’s, he spent time giving Basketball Clinics in Jalisco, Mexico. On February 2, 2008, a dedication ceremony was held in honor of Jinny and Jack and the basketball court in Carleton’s West gym was renamed Jack Thurnblad court and to this day the scoreboard reads, “IN HONOR OF COACH JACK AND JINNY THURNBLAD.” Jinny passed away in 2009.
Jack leaves a legacy of love for all he touched and from all he touched. As any great leader, he helped make those around him better. “COACH” has positively influenced people around the world who are and/or were leaders in their communities. Friends were family and family was everything.
He is survived by four children, Marty (Georgia) of Apple Valley, Tim of Apple Valley, Ted (Carleen) of Northfield, Ann Marie (David) Zirbes of Corcoran; six grandchildren, Tessie (Mark) Kingsbury, Jack (Paige) Thurnblad, Sidney, Virginia “Gigi”, Paul and D’Artagnan Zirbes; two great-grandchildren, Georgia and Julia Kingsbury; a niece, Leslie Thurnblad Lilla and a great-niece Haley Lilla. He was preceded in death by his wife Jinny; his parents; and a brother Les.
Great thanks also go out to the staff and fellow residents at Millstream Commons in Northfield.
Funeral services for Jack will be at Church of St. Dominic, 104 Linden St. N., Northfield on Saturday, February 17, 2018, beginning at 1 PM. Visitation will be on Friday, February 16, 2018, from 4 PM to 8 PM at the Skinner Memorial Chapel on the campus of Carleton College and one hour prior to the service in the church. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Northfield. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the Jack Thurnblad Memorial Fund to benefit the Carleton Athletic Department. A celebration of his life will also be held in the spring TBA. Arrangements by Bierman Funeral Home. biermanfuneralhome.com.