Effort and dedication. Two traits Jo Forman demanded. Two traits for which he will be remembered.
“If it meant losing and having 100 per cent commitment from his students, that was the victory,” said Forman’s son, Murray.
Saturday, the legendary Sir James Dunn track and field coach died at the age of 91.
“He didn’t care how good you were or how good you were not. He cared when you didn’t try,” said Bill Siegman, Forman’s record-breaking hurdler, who landed a track scholarship at the University of South Dakota.
Forman left a teaching position in Leamington, Ont., and arrived in Sault Ste. Marie in 1952. He took a job as a commercial teacher at Tech (later named Lakeway).
When SJD opened in 1956, Forman became the school’s first head of physical education and he coached basketball and football. He later added track and field to the sports available not only at SJD, but in Sault Ste. Marie.
Forman and his Eagles won the first 13 consecutive city track championships and went to five straight NOSSA meets. The boys team won 22 consecutive city championships from 1957 to 1978, inclusive.
Forman, who taught at the Dunn for 38 years, also laid the groundwork for the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association athletic constitution.
“That constitution is all Jo Forman,” said John Kovich, who worked with Forman. “He was just a tireless worker. He spent hours and hours after school working on coaching.”
That meant time away from family.
“There are a lot of times the family sacrificed for his level of dedication to the students and athletes,” Murray said. “At the time I didn’t understand it. But over time, as I meet people he coached and trained, I think I finally understand what that dedication meant. I see what he meant to other people.”
Twice in the 1970s, Forman crossed the picket line in order to drive Dunn athletes to out-of-town to NOSSA championships in his own car.
According to Linda Vetrie, who first ran track for Forman and later taught with him, Forman “was like a second father.
“He was my mentor,” Vetrie said, fighting back tears. “I just know it was a privilege having been coached by him.”
Vetrie last saw Forman at the Sir James Dunn 50th reunion four weeks ago. At the event’s wine and cheese night, Forman was one of the more popular guests.
“He had been looking forward to the reunion for a long time. There was such a smile on his face,” Vetrie said. “There were so many there that wanted to see him.”
Because there were so many he touched.
“Us older ones remember everything about him,” Siegman said.
“We probably have 80 million stories about him.”
Forman won the H.P Broughton Memorial Trophy as the Sault’s sportsman of the year in 1977. In 1980 the Jo Forman Track officially opened.
“He was a real good person, I just have a lot of respect for him,” Kovich said.
“He had loads of integrity, and that’s something you might not see as often today.”
Friends may call at the Arthur Funeral home Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral service takes place Wednesday at 11 a.m.