Community Members Honor “Coach” Bob Van Cleave

Published: May 9, 2017 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Bob Van Cleave came to Eastern Iowa in 1955 as a newly-minted teacher. After a successful career as an athlete in college, he settled in the Amana Colonies and became a teacher at Amana Middle School. He maintained his reputation as a great athlete, competing in adult league baseball and coaching baseball and basketball at the school. It wasn’t long before he became known by the nickname “Coach;” and when he passed in 2013, the loss was felt by many who had been affected by his presence in Amana.

Inspired by the effect Coach had on their lives, Tim Meyer and Terry Trimpe established a fund in his honor at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. So that the fund can support a scholarship for an aspiring educator from the Amana district, they are raising funds by reaching out to follow Amana alum; the hundreds of individuals who were impacted by Coach during his life.

Bob Van Cleave

Tim and Terry first met Coach when they joined his little league team as children. They were immediately impressed by his steady demeanor and his affability. “It was the message as much as the messenger,” reflects Tim. Terry agrees, “he was a great coach, a greater teacher, and overall a great person.”

Both Tim and Terry attribute their success, at least in part, to the lessons that Coach taught them – both on the baseball field and off.

Terry recounts a story from his first years as a young ball player. “I was having a really hard time hitting,” he remembers. “And Coach told me – take the bat to bed with you and hold it in your arms. Envision yourself hitting the ball and winning the game. It’s one of those lessons – you can do a lot of things that you ordinarily wouldn’t think that you could do, with lots of practice. Refine your talents. Work hard. And that will pay off.”

Terry says that the ability to visualize success and to keep working towards it are skills that he has used throughout his life. “He taught us a lot more than baseball,” he recalls. “Coach was patient in the classroom and on the field. He had that intangible that some coaches have where they get you to perform well but, it’s a positive and motivating experience.”

“He was also a talented teacher,” Tim remembers. “Everyone called him ‘Coach,’ even if they weren’t athletes; even if he was just their teacher. He was ‘Coach’ to everyone. It was a term of respect.”

Bob Van Cleave stayed in Iowa after retiring from teaching; he remained a fixture in the Amana community. Following his death, and after the fund was established, an all-volunteer board has been working to reach out to Amana alumni to raise funds in Coach’s honor. So far, the response has been very positive – they’ve raised nearly $23,000.

Both Tim and Terry hope that the fund can continue on as evidence of Coach’s influence on the community. “We know that so many people look back on their lives and see the positive and unique impact Coach had,” says Tim. “This is such a positive way to keep his memory alive.”

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