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Harold Lynn

Teacher, coach, loving father

Harold L. Lynn, a longtime teacher and coach with the Claremont Unified School District, died at his home in Claremont on September 5, 2015. He was 88.

He was born on January 18, 1927 in Brookings, South Dakota to Minnie and W.H. Lynn. As a boy, he would travel three miles each morning to drop off his father’s lunch at work, then head to school. In the winter, when the snow was piled deep, he jogged the entire way to keep warm. While he would later relate his childhood routine to his kids as a “you think you had it tough” story, he fell in love with running. 

He attended Brookings High School where he was on the basketball, football and track teams. He was particularly gifted in the latter sport, and this past August was one of five Brookings alumni inducted to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduating in 1945, he earned a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University where he was three-time state champion on the Jackrabbits track team. In 1947, he broke the South Dakota State record for the mile run with a time of 4:34.4.

Mr. Lynn next enlisted in the US Army, serving as second lieutenant before being honorably discharged in 1952. After earning a Master of Education from USC, he embarked on a long career with the Claremont Unified School District where he was known as “Happy Hal” for his jovial and positive spirit. Beginning in 1959, he taught history, government, driver’s ed and PE at Claremont High School as well as at San Antonio High. He also coached track, football and cross-country at CHS.

Coach Lynn taught an old-fashioned sense of teamwork and sportsmanship, and was thoroughly excited when kids would give 100 percent and improve their personal best. He taught all that sport was just sport, even as it taught life lessons of self-discipline, hard work and perseverance. He emphasized that his athletes should handle winning with gratitude and with respect for the other team, and handle losing with hopeful determination. Most of all he wanted kids to enjoy themselves and have fun. At his retirement celebration in 1993, someone figured that Hal had taught or coached 60,000 kids in Claremont.

Several of his student athletes, including Class of ’60 graduate David Kriezel, have posted tributes to Coach Lynn on the Claremont High School Alumni Society website. Mr. Kriezel shared that, having just moved to California from Nebraska, he was shy and very quiet when he started as a freshman at Claremont High School.

As his PE teacher, Mr. Lynn recognized athletic potential in young David, recruiting him to join the CHS track and basketball teams. He ended up winning MVP awards in track and basketball that year, and managed to set school and league records in the pole vault and shot put. He spent the next three years active in a variety of sports. Whenever David broke his record, Coach Lynn would give him an Archie’s Little Black Book, an annual collection of trivia and inspiration aimed at track athletes.

“After I got at least six of them, Coach Lynn told me his supply was depleted,” Mr. Kriezel wrote. “He spent many hours working with me, even weekends. I have many memories of CHS, and knowing Coach Lynn is at the top of my list. Rest in peace, Coach, and maybe we’ll meet again in that pole vault pit in the sky.”

Life was also busy for Mr. Lynn off campus. He met his future wife Marjorie at a dance and in 1962 the couple was married. Mr. Lynn welcomed Marjorie’s four children from a previous marriage, Gail, Doug, Vicki and Sonya, with open arms and even coached Doug and Sonya in track. In 1963, the Lynns added a son named Max to their growing family, followed by their daughter Sherry. Hal was an active dad and delighted in taking his brood on excursions to places like Mt. Baldy, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm and on an annual sojourn to the Rose Parade. 

Above all, Hal loved teaching, kids and sports. For many years he helped run the Boys Club, and he was known as the dad who took all the neighborhood kids everywhere. He loved coaching all ages, and for the little kids around the neighborhood set up miniature hurdles and a mattress for high jump and pole vault, and went to the hills of Claremont to cut bamboo for vaulting poles.

Faith was a big part of Mr. Lynn’s life. He was a longtime member of Claremont Presbyterian Church, serving in many areas of church leadership over the years. After retirement, he and Marjorie moved to Phoenix where Hal split his pro-football loyalty between the old LA Rams and the Arizona Cardinals. He sent letters of advice to the coaches, particularly on line play. Five years ago, after it appeared he would die following a heart attack, one of the Cardinals coaches came by to pay his respects.

Mr. Lynn was a very active member of the Mission committee of Sun Lakes United Methodist Church. He spent hours most days driving older members to doctor appointments and shopping trips. He was instrumental in the support of a health clinic in a Quiche Mayan village in Guatemala and in the organization of a large veterans fair offering health care, mental health support, food, clothing and employment and housing resources.

Mr. Lynn loved dancing and traveling with his wife Marjorie. They traveled and danced their way around much of the world. After his wife died five years ago, Hal moved back to Claremont where he enjoyed attending church and virtually every Claremont High sporting event he could get to. He may have been Claremont High sports’ best fan. 

“When the Saints Come Marching in, Hal and Marge will instead be dancing, grateful for a great and blessed life,” his family expressed. “We would expect a football game to follow soon behind.”

Mr. Lynn was preceded in death by his wife Marjorie Lynn, his daughter Gail Bowe and his sister Irene Lynn. He is survived by his sister Janet Wibben; by his children, Max Lynn, Sherry Lynn, Doug Bowe, Vicki Bowe and Sonya Wrisley; his grandchildren, Janine Nielson, Wayne Bowe, Nick Lynn, Kevin Lynn, Amy Anderson, Sara Lynn, John Lynn, LaShawna Powers, Chris Wrisley, Elizabeth Wilson and Alexandra Blanset; and his great-grandchildren, Hanna Nielson, Jordan, Brook, Ryan and Josh Bowe Mcloud.

A memorial service was held on September 11 at Claremont Presbyterian Church.

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