Theodore Hedstrand

by Vernoy Johnson and Phil Johnson

October 3, 1921 to September 8, 1999

We canoed the boundary waters together. We went cross-country skiing together. We flew on the last flight into Bass Lake before the government declared it a wilderness, confiscated all the cabins there, and burned them to the ground. It is the only time I saw Ted cry. We split a cord of birch to fire up the sauna to 180 degrees and then rolled in the powdery snow. I drove him back and forth from Eagle River to the hospital in Woodruff, and although he could sometimes not say a word for the 40 miles, other times we talked about very important and personal things. He was a man of integrity. He was a dedicated coach, the best. His high school record still stands in the State of Illinois: ten and zero in both football and basketball in the same season. Ted helped Bob Mattox get into Oklahoma University, and when his school career was over, Bob played with the Pros for several seasons.

Ted was the first one on the North Park Academy faculty to buy a TV set. On Saturday nights there might be 23 of us in the Hedstrand living room watching Sid Caesar, while grandmother Hedstrand was in the kitchen making caramel rolls and babysitting our kids, already asleep in the big bed.

I learned only about a month ago that, when North Park Academy closed its doors in 1969, when my youngest son was a sophomore and my oldest son was hospitalized, and I hardly had a dime to my name, Ted privately and silently paid my youngest son’s tuition for two years at one of the local Lutheran high schools.

Ted talked me into coaching the freshmen basketball team one season. I was a disaster! Zero and ten, as I recall. Our power forward was a skinny kid who maybe weighed in at 143. When I got frustrated with him, I’d holler "Drive left, Art," or just "Come on, Nelson!"*

Ted was a gentleman at all times. The boys from Minnehaha played football here once and were behind 15 to 12. They had the ball about mid-field with three minutes to go. There was no fencing around the playing field, so bench-warmers, coaches, and on-lookers were free to wander up and down the sideline. Minnehaha had one play in their play-book which they knew was illegal under the field agreements, but this was the time to call it, legal or illegal. They sent their left tight end right down the sideline for a long pass. Surrounding the legitimate receiver, who was on the field, were five or six identically uniformed Minnehaha boys who were not playing just then. But they kept abreast of the legitimate man who was just inside the field. Our right defensive back had 5 or 6 or 7 Minnehaha players to keep his eye on, any one of whom appeared to him to be an eligible receiver. The legitimate receiver caught the pass, and subsequently scored a touchdown. The referees didn’t catch the situation, signaled a touchdown, and Minnehaha won. Ted walked slowly and quietly over to the opponent’s coach, said "You knew that play was illegal," and went silently to the locker room.

So, good-bye, good friend. No more volleyball with you, Bob Williams, Bibs Anderson, Val Erickson, Paul Roehl, and me. We took on the best and beat all comers, including college teams. No more of those wonderful steaks from the Golden Ox that Lenny provided. No more needing to kiss the ground after sailing with me.

Ted, you showed your Christian personality to so many from so many places, and you truly didn’t know their color or background. You drove the van to pick up food for the church pantry. You went camping with the boys from the Hyde Park YMCA. There are many girls—now young ladies and young mothers—who will never forget the outdoor experiences that you made possible for them. So let North Park’s Hedstrand Field be marked with a brass plaque saying "TO HONOR TED HEDSTRAND - HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, COUNSELOR, FRIEND, AND COACH EXTRAORDINAIRE." And let it act as an incentive to the present staff to emulate this simple, extraordinary man.

Peace to the memory of a truly good man.

The moving finger writes,
And having writ moves on.
Nor all your wit nor piety
Can lure it back to
Cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears
Wash out a word of it.
—vjohnson, 8 September 1999

*That kid is now Senior Pastor of North Park Covenant Church, Chicago. -Ed.]

A Tribute to Ted, the College Coach

Ted Hedstrand was North Park College Men’s Basketball Coach from 1956 through 1960. Ted was a good coach; he stressed defense, fundamentals, and condition. He believed that a team could have a bad night offensively—a night when the shots would not drop, but a team could play good defense regardless. Ted was always straight with his players. He was respectful and determined, and he remembered that we were in college to learn and to have a little fun. I played for Ted those years and I know that basketball with Coach Hedstrand was fun.

Coach Hedstrand’s record as a college coach is an enviable 66 wins and 28 losses—just over seventy percent. He took North Park from Junior College competition, in which they were 1958 runner-up in the Regional JC playoffs, to four-year college competition—the first year of which he had no seniors. His Junior College record was 36 and 13. Against four-year competition, he was 30 and 15. In Ted’s last year, the Vikings played on their own new home court.

So, I join Vernoy Johnson in calling for a plaque, but the plaque should reflect Ted Hedstrand’s outstanding contributions to North Park College, too. — Ed.