ELMHURST — Everyone that met Jack Tosh has a story about him.
A role model, mentor and friend to so many in the Elmhurst and York High School communities, Tosh died Monday at 79. His passing gave the people he influenced a chance to reflect on his life and tell the stories that made him special.
Current York wrestling coach Terry Clarke is in his 33rd year at the school and remembers when Tosh offered him a coaching job at the school.
Clarke graduated from Elmhurst College and moved back to Taylorville, where he grew up. He had been a student teacher at York, but wasn't sure what was next for him.
Tosh called Clarke in July of 1980 and told him to come up for an interview for a position that would involve coaching freshman football, assisting with varsity wrestling and assisting with girls track. Clarke liked the idea, but didn't know much about girls track.
"He said, 'Let me rephrase this. You’re going to drive four hours up here and we’re going to offer you the job and you’re going to be the best damn girls track coach we’ve ever had,'" Clarke recalled with a laugh.
Clarke described Tosh, who is survived by his wife Bee, son Stephen and daughters Lisa and Linda, as a down to earth guy that was easy to talk to for the coaches.
“He was really a father figure for me because he came from a hard-working coaching background and was a very successful coach," Clarke said. "He was just a great mentor for me. My first 10 years it was just wonderful working for him.”
John Jevitz shared a similar story to Clarke's from his first days working at York.
Starting out as an athletic trainer at York soon after graduating from Augustana College in 1982, Jevitz remembers trying to quit during his first week on the job. The demands of seeing close to 100 athletes a day were too difficult, the pressure just too much.
Stepping in to add clarity to the situation, as he would do countless times throughout his life, was Tosh.
Jevitz recalled Tosh's words: "All I can ask of you is to do the best you can, just be the best you can be in whatever you do. And if something did occur, I will always back you 100 percent." Jevitz would work at York for the next 24 years.
The loss "crushed" Jevitz, who last saw Tosh in the fall.
"I idolized him and learned so much from him, not just by what he said but what he did and how he treated people," Jevitz said. "He would treat the coach of a state championship basketball team the exact same way he treated the janitor at York, with courtesy and loyalty. He legitimately loved people. What a great guy, a true legend."
Tim Feigh took over as athletic director at York after Tosh retired in 1990 and had known him for a couple of years prior while working at Morton.
"As a young AD, I looked up to Jack," said the Elmhurst resident who is in his first year of retirement. "He was my mentor and taught me the ropes. I'd go to those AD meetings and be awestruck.
"Any time we had an AD's meeting, we would vote on bylaw changes for the conference. One thing Jack always told me is it's not what is best for your individual school, it is what's best for the West Suburban Conference. That is how Jack always voted, for the conference. On some issues, there would be 13 yeses and one no and that no was Jack."
One of the first things Feigh did as AD at York, along with the late-Tom Allen, was rename the York Holiday Tournament as the Jack Tosh Tournament. Even after he retired, Tosh would attend and present the trophies.
"He was a great man," Feigh said. "Jack was a great storyteller. He always had words of wisdom and something to say that you would want to learn from."
Even people like current York boys basketball coach Vince Doran, who met Tosh upon accepting the position at York, were in awe of Tosh.
Doran led the Dukes to the title at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic in December to end a 32-year drought. After the win, he said that the best part of winning was getting to call Tosh to tell him the news.
“The best thing about the York job was getting to meet Jack Tosh," said Doran, who checked in weekly with Tosh during this season. "I’ll always remember our conversations of basketball. It was a short period of time, but it was a person that left an indelible mark on Elmhurst.”