I was visiting with my friend and classmate, Mark Rowedder, who along with his wife recently made a trip back to Manning from out east.
We talked a lot about Manning's past and some of our school teachers' names came up...Mark shocked me when he told me that he read that Phil Lawler had passed away - some time ago already.
So I searched the Internet and was surprised to see he died 11 years ago.
Phil was one of my teachers during my junior and senior years and I have very fond memories of him. He was very well-liked by pretty much everyone as I recall and he had a great and silly sense of humor.
I don't remember which year or the exact event at school - probably Homecoming week where each day had a different theme, when he came to school wearing a huge sombrero and I mean this hat was huge.
I thought there was a picture of him with the hat in the yearbook but I did not find one.
If anyone has a picture of Phil with his sombrero - please let me know.

The only original picture I had in my database of Phil at Manning

Just below is Philip's obituary and other information I found on the Internet.
Below this online information are some scans I made from the school yearbooks.

Again, I put out the plea if anyone knows about the passing of any of our school teachers - or anyone who lived in Manning and then moved away.
They are a part of Manning's great history and I want to add those obits to my memorial page...

Philip R. Lawler

Philip R. Lawler a resident of Naperville Visitation for Philip Lawler, 60, will be from 3 to 8 p.m., with a Rosary at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29, at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, 2220 Lisson Road, Naperville, IL 60565. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, April 30, at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church. Interment will follow in Naperville Cemetery, Naperville.

On April 23, 2010, Philip R. Lawler passed away at his home in Naperville, with his family surrounding him. Phil will be remembered as a great husband, father, respected educator, coach and great communicator.

Philip Lawler was born on February 18, 1950, in Carroll, Iowa. He graduated from Wall Lake High School in Wall Lake, Iowa, in 1968. Phil graduated from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, in 1972. He later received his master's degree in education from Northern Illinois University. While attending Buena Vista, Phil met his wife, Denise Mascari, who also graduated from Buena Vista College. They were married August 11, 1973.

After college Phil taught in Iowa for three years (1973 through 1975 at Manning, Iowa High School). In 1976, he joined Naperville School District 203 as a physical education instructor at Madison Junior High School. In the 29 years Phil taught at Madison Junior High School, he went from being a "gym teacher" to a world renowned advocate of a fitness for life program that was developed and implemented at Madison. This new physical education program was recognized as one of six model P.E. programs by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

In USA Today 2002, Phil was selected as a member of the First Team All American teaching Team. Uniquely, Phil was the first P.E. teacher ever selected on the USA Today First Team. Phil's "New P.E." philosophy and hard work led to the beginning of the PE4Life organization. He quickly established a PE4Life training institute at Madison Junior High School, where he has since trained over 1700 educators, administrators and community leaders from 42 states and 10 countries. Phil's passion for spreading the message of healthy kids, families and community has reached over 2400 schools and has affected more than 2 million children.

Phil also worked as the Naperville District Coordinator of Physical Education from 1985 until 2003. In this capacity, he and his friend, Paul Zientarski, established the DuPage County Institute for Physical Education Teachers that included speakers from throughout the country and had more than 2000 in attendance yearly. Phil's commitment to improving physical education never went unnoticed. Phil was very pleased when the Naperville Junior High community of parents and students rated the new physical education curriculum the number one curriculum above all academic subjects. Parents realized the program increased results in all academic areas and Naperville began to set the standard for physical education across the country.

Phil's inspiration and dedication to physical education was equally matched by his love for baseball. Phil was an assistant head coach for over 30 years at Naperville Central High School under head coach Bill Seiple. As best friends they had many winnings seasons, highlighted by their 2006 Illinois State Championship. Phil was recognized for his achievements in baseball in 1999. He was the first assistant high school baseball coach inducted into the Illinois High School Coaches Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was again recognized by the association by honoring him with the President's Award for his contributions to Illinois high school baseball. On May 9, 2010, Phil Lawler's number 29 was retired at Naperville Central's Varsity Field.

Phil's life is summed up best by a fellow District 203 educator, "I know your spirit will live on in everyone who knows and loves you. Your positive impact, like a ripple in a pond, on thousands of students, teachers, administrators and unnamed others on this planet earth." With all his passion for his work, his first passion and love was for his family.

Phil is survived by his loving wife of 36 years, Denise Lawler; and his children, Scott and Kim Lawler, Vince and Kim Marino, and Todd and Kathryn Lawler.

He is also survived by his brothers and sisters, Pat and Sue Lawler, Dick and Jo Lynch, Maureen Lawler, Dan and Fern Lawler, and Jim and Trish Lawler.

Phil was also blessed with five grandchildren, Lucas Lawler, Alexa Lawler, Brady Marino, Hawke Lawler and Tucker Lawler.

Memorial contributions can be made to Naperville Central Booster Club for baseball. Arrangements were handled by Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, Naperville, IL, www.friedrich-jones.com.

Naperville coach, gym pioneer Lawler remembered as a winner

The procession for Phil Lawler leaves St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Naperville following the funeral Mass. Lawler was a longtime baseball coach and PE teacher in Naperville.


Family and friends leave St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Naperville following the funeral of longtime physical education teacher and baseball coach Phil Lawler. Lawler died of cancer at the age of 60.

Pallbearers bring out the casket of Phil Lawler during his funeral at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Naperville on Friday.

It was one of the last words longtime physical education teacher and baseball coach Phil Lawler bestowed upon his adult son Todd before his death.

"That's all he did his whole life is win," Todd said. "Whether it be physical education, whether it be baseball or with our family, he won. He won all the time."

The proof was at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Naperville on Friday where several hundred family members, friends, colleagues and baseball players gathered to say goodbye to a man many say inspired them with his passion and commitment.

Phil was 60 when he died on April 23 after a long battle with cancer.

"I'm the luckiest kid alive to be able to call this great man my hero and my dad," Todd said, asking those in attendance to tell the people in their lives how much they love them.

Phil spent 30 years teaching at Madison Junior High in Naperville where he revolutionized the school's physical education program, turning the focus to promoting lifelong healthy habits. It became a model for districts around the country.

Paul Zientarski, physical education, health and driver education coordinator at Naperville Central High School and one of Phil's close friends, said it was hard not to get caught up in Phil's excitement over his latest projects or lessons. He called his friend a motivator, an advocate and a competitor who did everything with class.

"If there's one legacy I can say about Phil it is if you can leave this world a better place than when you came in then you've done a good job," he said. "Phil, you did a good job."

For nearly three decades Phil could also be found in the dugout of Naperville Central High School where he was an assistant coach alongside head coach Bill Seiple.

Together they led the team to a Class AA state championship in 2006.

Lawler is also a member of the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has a summer baseball tournament named after him and had his "29" jersey retired at Central.

Seiple on Friday said anyone who came into contact with Phil went away "enriched by his conversation, his encouragement, his support and his love."

"Some people see things for what they are," Seiple said. "Phillip had the gift of seeing things for what they could be."

During his retirement, Phil put his energy into working with PE4life, a not-for-profit group that develops fitness programs for children. Working with the group brought him international recognition and respect. He even appeared in the 2004 documentary film, "Super Size Me."

Despite his many professional endeavors, Phil's family was always a priority.

Daughter Kim Marino on Friday spoke of the "legacy of love" Phil and his wife of 36 years, Denise, gave their three children.

"My father loved unconditionally," Marino said. "It didn't matter what you did or you didn't do. It didn't matter what color you were or how old you were; it didn't matter the opinion you held. It didn't even matter if you played baseball or not."

Oldest son Scott emphasized the strength of his father's faith even during a six-year battle with cancer.

"He never complained, he never asked why, he just kept accomplishing goals and being with family," Scott said.

When he was younger, Scott remembers telling people he had no plans to become a baseball coach like his father and uncle, thinking he would try his hand at something different. But baseball is in his blood and he is now an associate head coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Phil's favorite movie - "Field of Dreams" - is now Scott's, he said. Not because it took place in Phil's birthplace of Iowa or even because it is about baseball. But for the final scene showing a father and son playing catch.

"I can't wait to play catch with you in heaven," Scott said. "I'll do my best to be a good person and make sure I see you there."

Lawler's legacy grows as foundation hits links again
February 2009 Naperville District 203 celebrates the career of longtime P.E. instructor Phil Lawler at Madison Junior High. Lawler reacts after speech by Naperville Central baseball coach Bill Seiple.

We can all hope to leave a legacy as rich and as lasting as Phil Lawler.

Memories of the late educator and Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame pitching coach -- who succumbed to cancer in April 2010, a rallying point for the Naperville Central Redhawks to win that spring's Class 4A title -- continue to motivate those he served.

The latest proof is the third annual Phil Lawler Batting 4 A Cure Foundation golf outing this Saturday at Tamarack Golf Course in Naperville. Registration for the event opened on July 15. All 36 foursomes sold out within a month, just like the two previous years.

"It's amazing to me but it's also a great thing that dad's spirit is still alive within the community," said Kim Marino, Lawler's daughter and the president of the foundation. She started Batting 4 A Cure in 2013 with brothers Todd and Scott Lawler who, not surprisingly, are youth baseball coaches. Scott heads the Benet varsity, Todd heads 29ers Baseball, named after his father's Naperville Central uniform number, since retired.

Vice president Marc Sweda, Ann Dana, Alyse Bergmann and Nick DiGiovanni are co-founders because this type of undertaking takes a village.

"You never think of what it all encompasses," Marino said. "It's a ton of work."

It's work worth doing.
Through two years Batting 4 A Cure has provided $30,000 to the Edward Foundation of the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Additionally, the foundation board selects families in Naperville who have been affected by cancer, and have given them about $15,000.

Fittingly for a man who sought to curb childhood obesity through the PE4Life organization as well as at Madison Junior High -- Lawler was featured in the Academy Award-nominated 2004 documentary, "Super Size Me" -- some of the funds helped children attend the Edward Foundation's Camp Hope this summer at the Naper Settlement.

"It's come full circle for us," Marino said. "It's a great opportunity for these kids to be able to grow and learn and have a week for them to feel normal and not to feel they're so awkward because they have cancer or a parent has cancer."

Although the golf outing is sold out, donations are always welcome. Information on how to donate is available at the website, batting4acure.com.

Running a charitable organization is basically Marino's full-time job. She said people often ask her what she gets out of it.

"Honestly, when we lost him five years ago it was a major void for me. It helped kind of fill up that hole that's left when a loved one passes," she said.

"And, for my dad, we felt like he was such an instrumental part of the Naperville community. Year after year we sell out (the golf outing) within a month. Teachers, athletes and students want to come back and relive the spirit of his life each year. It's a great day for us -- a great day for my family and my extended family."

On September 12 IC Catholic beat Walther Christian 4-0 in boys soccer. A first-year program coached by Javier Andrade, it was the Knights' first boys soccer victory.

That same day Naperville North beat Naperville Central 1-0. It was the Huskies' 600th win in program history. Jim Konrad's squad won its next three matches as well entering Thursday's home game against Lake Park.

Homegrown Hope
Metea Valley junior Angie Lee has beaten the odds. Now she's hoping her classmates can beat their teachers.

At 7 p.m. Saturday players from the Mustangs girls and boys soccer programs will play Metea faculty in the featured match of the Angie's Hope SMA Big Ball Soccer Tournament at Players Indoor Sports Center in Naperville.

The whole tournament, from 5-9 p.m., draws about 30 teams and 250 people playing soccer with a wheelchair-friendly sphere Metea boys soccer coach Josh Robinson describes as a "yoga ball wrapped in felt."

The purpose of this recreational soccer spectacular is to raise funds for Angie's Hope, which supports research toward an eventual cure for spinal muscular atrophy.

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, SMA is a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls muscle movement. The Cure SMA website says the disease affects one in 10,000 babies -- another online source says one in 6,000 -- and is the leading genetic killer of children under 2.

SMA patient Angie Lee is 16. In 2006 with her friend Kyra, the pair decided to raise money to help find a cure, starting with a penny drive. With the help of their parents things got serious pretty quickly. Angie's Hope has since raised $152,528 toward the cause, including $32,000 at last year's Big Ball Soccer Tournament.

"She's a pretty amazing young woman we have in the building," Robinson said.

In addition to the teacher-student throwdown, Saturday's event offers other fun things like an opportunity to bid on a soccer ball -- regulation size -- autographed by the Chicago Fire. There is a small $5 door charge.

Robinson, on board with girls soccer coach Chris Whaley, likes the "hyperlocal" aspect of Lee's tournament.

"We're super-excited to be able to help out, it's something kind of local. We're always looking to promote opportunities for citizenship for our kids, we want to be able to help out with things within our school building," he said.

"One of the biggest things is this is a student-driven initiative. We know directly where it's going and it's something created by a young woman in the building."

The Century Club
On Monday, Downers Grove South's Melissa Weidner, Mary Eterno and Megan Wicklein were the first three runners to give the Mustangs the West Suburban Gold cross country victory over Addison Trail and Proviso East at O'Brien Park in Downers Grove.

In fact Downers South placed the first 11 girls across the line to become Illinois' first girls program to record 100 consecutive dual-meet victories. (Tri-meets are scored separately against each opponent)

Reaching the century mark, Downers South holds the state record well ahead of Downers Grove North's 69 straight wins. Rockford Guilford holds the boys mark with 104 consecutive dual-meet victories from 1981 through September 1994, according to IHSA records.

Downers South's string started in 1999 and has persisted under two head coaches -- Michael Arenberg for the first six seasons and current Mustangs coach Doug Plunkett these past 11.

"I think it's a combination of having lots of really talented girls come through the program and their dedication and willingness to put in the work, especially over the summer," said Plunkett, who recalled one meet where the streak nearly snapped, a 27-28 win over Hinsdale South in 2004.

Plunkett concedes that the Gold is not the strongest conference and that "many other area schools" may have achieved a similar streak where they in Downers South's place. But hey, 100 is 100, and the Mustangs can only compete against who they're up against.

"Over the years," he said, "the girls have come to expect to win each dual meet and find a way to make it happen."

1973-74 MHS yearbook

Not since the 1930s did MHS have girls' sports.
It was brought back when the new high school was built in 1972.
I wonder if Phil realized how he helped trail-blaze at Manning being one of the first girls' coaches since the '30s.
The first couple of years, the girls played JV level ball and then as they were able to build their individual and team skills the varsity level was added.

Oh how times have changed!!!

Phil during state FB playoffs against Mt. Vernon to fire up everyone - but not the sombrero picture I'm looking for...IF anyone has such a snapshot - please let me know!

1974-75 MHS yearbook

Unfortunately, when I worked on the Manning Schools history book, no one from this era of girls' sports brought me any team or sports photos to scan, so if anyone is willing, I'd sure like to scan your school pictures from that time frame...

Original prints of actual photos will scan much better than from the yearbook or a newspaper!!!

Back to Dave Kusel's main page