River Cities’ Reader
• Vol. 19 No. 805 • May 24 - June 6, 2012
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
incredible good fortune to find their fold. I could not love them more, andlosing Merv is a blow that no amount of time will ever completely heal.I continue to marvel at how muchtrust both Merv and Evelyn couldengender in teens, many of whom
Weighing in on Bettendorf Coach Merv Habenicht (1935-2012)
by Kathleen McCarthykm@rcreader.com
ur community lost one of itstreasures, former Bettendorf football coach Merv Habenicht,on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, after aprolonged battle with pulmonary fibro-sis. For many of us, we lost a surrogatefather and/or lifelong friend.
Nearly 45 years ago, when I left private school to attend Bettendorf Middle School, I was befriended byits most popular cheerleader, NanHabenicht – Merv’s and Eveyln’sfirstborn – and was unconditionallyinducted into the Habenicht family fromday one. I wish I had a nickel for eachtime I bravely huffed out on my ownfamily to brave the cold, cruel world for the several blocks to the Habenichts,where I nestled in until I wore out mywelcome.Most of the time, I had to get in line,literally, because Merv and Evelyn hadan open-door policy for their children’sfriends, and Merv’s students and teammembers. It has remained so until thisday. They truly are like second parentsto me and to many others who had the
WORDS FROM THE EDITOR
Continued On Page 46
hailed from categorically different backgrounds. There were no sacredcows, other than football, and their engagement with kids went well beyond the superficial. Some of uswere taken into their home for extended periods. While my family had its problems, my parents were loving andcommitted, but many of Merv’s teammembers thrived primarily because theHabenichts provided the only stabilityand daily concern these kids knew.Whether tutoring at the kitchen table or providing countless meals or weekendactivities, the list of special attentionsis exhaustive, continuing throughoutMerv’s 40-year career of teaching andcoaching.Besides coaching, Merv also taughthistory and driver’s education as part of his tenure at Bettendorf High School.I can personally attest to learning theimportance of combining driving skillswith the concept of “errands.” Mervdemonstrated how proper driving canalmost always coincide with picking updry-cleaning and grocery items, and theoccasional stop at A&W, equating nicelywith function and purpose as necessarylife skills in the bigger scheme of things.In retrospect, both Merv’s andEvelyn’s recurring attribute for dealingwith so many and varied teens was anuncanny blend of listening, humor, anddiscipline achieved through mutualrespect. Of all the things I remember about Merv and the Habenichthousehold, the laughter stands out.It was constant. Even navigating themost troubled waters of life, there wasalways humor peeking in and out,escaping the confines of the storms. I believe that humor is one of highestforms of intelligence, so that makesthe Habenichts a family of geniuses.Anyone who knows Merv and Evelynwill attest to the easy laughter thatmarks their company. Not only is suchhumor balm for the soul at the time; itmakes for the best possible memories.It is hard to qualify a stellar 40-year coaching career, adoring oneIrish beauty (Evelyn Halligan) for
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Merv Habenicht (1935-2012)