By Ray Hamill — The local sports community lost one of its true legends on Saturday, when long-time Humboldt State head coach Frank Cheek passed away.
He was 82.
The legendary coach built two national championship caliber sports programs at Humboldt State — wrestling and softball — and coached the Lumberjacks for almost half a century before retiring seven years ago.
He led the HSU women to national championships in softball in 1999 and 2008 and is the winningest coach in Lumberjacks history with 1,418 victories, 1,148 in softball and 270 in wrestling.
Including his two national championship winning squads, 15 of Cheek’s teams finished the season in the nation’s top 10.
“I’m not worried about dying,” Cheek recently said. “I’m going to a better place. I won’t have any pain. I’ll see some friends. I may see my mother and father. I’m kind of looking forward to it in a way. If I go tonight, don’t weep for me. Say, ‘Hey, he had a great run.’ I love to sit in my den where I have team pictures from all my teams hanging on the wall. I remember when all these pictures were taken. I have a story about each face on each picture. My life is in the pictures in this room. I wonder if they will let me have this room in heaven?”
Cheek was well known for his loyalty to his family, coaches and players, as well as his competitiveness, and his ability to find humor in even the most difficult circumstances.
He passed away peacefully in his chair while sleeping, surrounded by family.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Lou, his daughter Teresa and his grandson Sean.
Cheek, who coached over 50 All-Americans and over 155 All-Conference honorees at HSU, led the Jacks softball program to 13 seasons of at least 50 victories, including a school-record 60 wins in both 1998 and 2005.
He retired after a 2013 national championship game appearance.
A Celebration of Coach Frank Cheek’s Life will be held on June 27 with a site to be determined.