Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson assistant basketball coach and head golf coach Cole Johansen passed away over the weekend. This is the obituary that will appear in Tuesday morning’s Cedar Rapids Gazette:
Cole Burton Johansen, Cedar Rapids, fondly known as CJ, “Coach J”, and Papa, died peacefully at home surrounded by his wife and loved ones after losing his 4th heroic and courageous battle with cancer on Saturday, February 8 at the age of 67.
The Celebration of Life service with Pastor Steve Knudson officiating will be held at noon on Saturday, February 15 at First Lutheran Church, 1000 Third Avenue SE followed by a lunch. Visitation will be from 3-8 Friday, February 14 at Murdoch Funeral Home & Cremation Center in Marion with a time of remembrance and sharing starting at 7. Visitation at the church will be one hour prior to the service. Burial will be in Pioneer Cemetery, Woodstock, Illinois, next to his parents and grandparents at a later date.
Left to cherish Cole’s memory are his wife and best friend, Trudy; his sons, Jay, Derek(Valerie), and step-son, Colin Harms(Rachael Pritchard); his grandchildren, Zachery, Cora, Sophie, and Audrianna; his brother, Charles Johansen(Mary), his sister, Charla Johansen Pierce(Clifford), his nephews, Barry Pierce(Jamie), Michael Blazier(Melonie), his nieces, Shawn Anderson(Curtis), Charla Lynn Pierce, Alyssa Whiting, and their children; his sisters and brothers-in-laws, Kristi Neerman(Bob), Jodi Moore(Michael), Jon Lee(Colleen), Mary Meacham(Jay), and their children; his best friend from high school, Don Anderson(Ellie); his beloved yellow lab grand dog, Bella, and his amazing Jefferson faculty family.
Memories and condolences for Cole’s family may be left at www.murdochfuneralhome.com under obituaries. We have lost way too soon the greatest husband and my best friend, dad, step-dad, papa, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, coach, teacher, and true friend to many. We all love you, Cole, and will miss you deeply but vow to carry on your legacy.
Memorials may be directed to The Cole Johansen Foundation. If you wish, you can specify Jefferson Boys’ Basketball Scholarship or Cedar Bike Trail Memorial for a bench/tree to be placed along the trail in your memo line. Both basketball and biking played huge rolls in Cole’s life. He loved being active and always tried to eat well and be physically fit.
Cole was born on May 20, 1946 in Woodstock, Illinois, the third child of Charles and Evalyn Peterson Johansen. He graduated from Woodstock High School in 1964 where he played football, basketball, and participated in track. His senior year he was the leading scorer and his best friend, Don Anderson, was #2 basketball scorer in their conference. Cole was selected to first Team All-conference and the Chicago Tribune all area team. He was in the Hall of Fame at Woodstock as the top scorer prior to the 3 point shot being recognized. He received a full ride scholarship to play basketball at ISU where he played in the old Armory with Coach Glenn Anderson. He received the Frosh Free Throw Champ award for 1964-65, and he lettered his junior and senior years. One of his favorite memories of basketball was playing UCLA in California. He graduated in the fall of 1968 with a degree in physical education and entered the Army in January 1969 at Fort Polk, GA. It was during that time when Cole bravely fought his first cancer, nasal pharynx. He was treated at Lack land Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, and medically discharged from the Army. He returned to ISU and completed his masters in counseling in May 1972.
Cole taught at Lake Park and Parkersburg, IA, where he taught with the legendary Ed Thomas, before moving to Cedar Rapids in 1979. For a few years he worked with his former father-in-law, Dan Schwitters, in the John Deere business. In 1987 he returned to education when Dr. Jacobson hired him for counseling at Jefferson high School. Kids always seemed to want to see him. They found a guy with an open mind and a big heart. That may have been his greatest strength with students—listening and understanding how to get them through their issues. He transitioned from counseling to the classroom and taught US History and Economics. His lessons were extremely well organized, his classrooms very engaged, and the respect he earned from students and fellow staff off the charts!! Cole remained there for 20 years until his retirement in 2007 after his second and third bouts with cancer.
“Coach J” was a basketball and golf coach for 20 years at Jefferson. He was the top assistant for 3 head coaches, Bob Landis, Rick Williams, and Stuart Ordman as well as freshman coach during his last years. His knowledge and support enabled the J-Hawk program to make smooth and successful transitions with each coaching change. While serving as varsity assistant, he had a key role in helping Jefferson make five state basketball appearances. He was the ultimate stat man with his spreadsheets! He earned the respect of every Jefferson basketball coach he served alongside, and he was a great mentor for all the young coaches he worked with. Cole had that calm demeanor that kept the kids calm and improving as the season wore on. His former players remarked that he was the only coach with D1 playing experience! Cole was inducted into the Jefferson Basketball Hall-of-Fame in 2004. Cole and Trudy met as teachers at Jefferson in 1990-1991, and when they again started dating in February 2003, it was common for them to be at four to five boys/girls games a week between Jefferson and Washington. They both loved basketball.
Cole and Trudy were married July 2, 2006, in a garden wedding in the backyard of their home. For nearly 11 years they shared their love of biking on trails in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and the last 2 winters in Panama City Beach, Florida. Last year they returned home in late March with 450 miles and completed their goal of 1,000 miles for the year Sunday, August 18, before his scheduled lung surgery. That’s like biking from CR to the Florida Panhandle!! Cole also enjoyed watching FB (Chicago Bears), basketball (ISU), and baseball (Cubs). He was a voracious reader. He and Trudy enjoyed going for coffee, lunch, or dinner and in the morning taking Bella along to Starbucks for a “puppa-chino” and then for a walk along the trail. Trudy’s lemon poppy seed bread and grilled meals were his favorites. He enjoyed watching his grandchildren in their activities and was very proud of them. Cole was a gentle man and always the ultimate “gentleman”. He was loving and loyal to all his family and many friends who touched him and were touched by Cole. Since his diagnosis he was an amazingly pleasant, positive, and peaceful man, and every day he thanked his loving and caring wife, Trudy, who throughout his battle honored his wish to stay at home and their vows of “In sickness and in health”.
He was preceded in death by his parents and grandparents, and his beloved dogs, Brandy and Maggie.
A special thanks to his amazing medical team, providing him with nearly 10 months making memories with his loving family and friends : St. Luke’s ICU, Dr. Cowden, Katie Kavanaugh, and Dr. Paynter; Iowa City VA ICU, Dr. Torres, Dr. Geist, Dr. Lanaghan , Maureen, Linda, Dr. Abu-Hejleh and Melissa Jacobson PA-C, VA anestisiology and respiratory teams; Dr. Dove and Dr. Matthews and St. Luke’s 6th floor rehab team; Kaitlyn, Robert, Lexi, and Kandy UnityPoint at Home; Beth, Melissa, Pamela, and Bobbi Jo UnityPoint Hospice; and Dr. Gosch.
Very, very sincere thanks to our families, pastors, and wonderful neighbors: Joyce, Don, Marilyn, Dennis, and Rose.