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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 […]

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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.

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Funeral

1:00 PM - February 17, 2018


Visitation One Hour Before Service
Church of St. Dominic - Northfield
104 Linden St N Northfield, 55057 Get Directions

Visitation

4:00 PM - February 16, 2018 - 8:00 PM

Skinner Memorial Chapel on the Campus of Carleton College
, Get Directions

Burial

Burial: 2:15 PM - February 17, 2018

Calvary Cemetery
Calvary Cemetery Northfield, 55057 Get Directions

15 Comments

  1. Linda and Dan Stadler

    We were lucky that God gave us Jack. Such a wonderful man—he will be missed by many.

    Reply
  2. Lou Patrick

    Rest in Peace Jack, You will be missed by many, I will always remember our talks at Millstream. I loved your baseball bat cane as well…

    Reply
  3. Jim Simpson

    To my classmate Marty – So sorry to hear about the loss of your dad Jack – Looks like he led a very full filling and distinguished career. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family – Take Care

    Reply
  4. Leon Lunder

    There are great coaches, some of whom are great teachers. Jack was was definitely the latter. He was a true gentleman, who used his incredible humanity to help young people reach their full potential athletically, academically and personally. He was tough without being mean and knowledgeable beyond compare. I was so lucky to have observed him in my formative years and to have been fortunate enough to call him boss, colleague and friend. Although I will miss him, I am so gratefull to have known him. His memory will live in my heart forever.

    Reply
  5. Annie Mattson ( Roseanne James)

    Thurnblad family, What a truly great man your dad was. I knew Jack as a friend of my parents, and a friend of my brother Dan. He was a true “people person” and the times I saw him (the most recently about four years ago), we had a nice “catch up” conversation. What a wonderful life he had, and what a wonderful impact he had on so many people.

    Reply
  6. Howard Deichen

    I will miss Coach. He made a real impact on my life…….not just on the court. I got to see him one last time and spent an hour with him at his apartment late last year and later we saw the Carl’s easily defeat the Olies one more time. Following his lead In life I have tried to “make myself big”, tried not to “kill any varnish” and later in life actually lived “Big Cigars and Motor Cars”. Jack touched a lot of people in his long rich life and I was lucky to be one of them.

    Howie Deichen. Class of 1975

    Reply
  7. Jay Kernan

    Marty, Tim, Anne Marie, Ted,

    Your Dad is the reason I went to Carleton, and I’m sure you know what he meant to the thousands of lives he touched.

    Some people leave holes when they pass……Jack left a mountain.

    Reply
  8. Emmett Terwilliger '66

    When you played on a Thurnblad coached team, you soon felt like you were part of the Thurnblad family. Getting to sleep in Marty’s bed, speaking at Tim’s basketball banquet, stuffing Ted in a locker and getting a hug from Ann Marie at the gym dedication demonstrate how you could feel like part of this special family.

    Jack and Jinny Thurnblad were wonderful people. I miss them.

    Reply
  9. Emmett Terwilliger '66

    When you played on a Thurnblad coached team, you soon felt like you were part of the Thurnblad family. Getting to sleep in Marty’s bed, speaking at Tim’s basketball banquet, stuffing Ted in a locker and getting a hug from Ann Marie at the gym dedication demonstrate how you could feel like part of the special Thurnblad family.

    Jack and Jinny Thurnblad were wonderful people. I miss them.

    Reply
  10. Ron Wolff

    Wonderful man, the people who knew him we’re lucky indeed. He helped so many young people!! Myself included!! Ron Wolff ‘74’

    Reply
  11. Mark Gordon

    What a Great Man and a fantastic life. I remember talking to him while delivering papers or at the golf course. Always fun and interested. Rest in Peice Jack.

    Reply
  12. Rick Chap '66

    Coach was one of the finest people I have ever known. Playing for him at Carleton is a special memory. As a coach, he was always calm and in control even during the most tense moments of a game. As a person he was even better in so many ways, always supportive and encouraging.

    Reply
  13. Frederick Haas

    Even though Mr Thurnblad was never a formal coach of mine he influenced me and so many of us young athletes in Northfield in the 60’s and 70’s, through his teaching style his concern and his respect for each one of us. And I loved watching him coach with intensity and fairness . He brought out the best in those he touched. I’m so grateful to have known him and his terrific family

    Reply
  14. jim lindsay

    I attended the Wayzata, Mn, schools thru 6th grade and was very lucky to spend time with him (golf team coach at Carleton). I was in the Class of 1965 at Carleton. I played golf with him a few times at the LaFayette Country Club in Mtka Beach, Minnesota. Jim Lindsay 612-968-0897

    Reply
  15. Mary Duggan Philbin

    I knew Jack in high school when he was at St. Mel and I was at Trinity. We had many mutual friends. He was a great guy then and obviously never changed. I was able to keep up with him a bit in later years when my daughter went to Carleton. His many awards and honors don’t surprise me; it fits the man I knew.

    Reply

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