John (Tom) Stokes, 86, Elk Rapids, Michigan

Tom StokesHall of Fame football coach , John (Tom) Stokes , who coached Jasper High School to three winning seasons in 1956, 1957 and 1958, died August 1 in Elk Rapids, Michigan. He was 86 years old. He was born April 14, 1928, in Calumet City, Illinois.

Tom, who compiled Jasper High School’s best winning percentage in football with a career mark of 20 wins, four losses and one tie, was the second football coach in Jasper High history. He replaced Bob Fell and was succeeded by Jerry Brewer.

He was a 1946 graduate of Thornton Fractional High School in Calumet City where he earned all-state football honors in 1945. He earned three varsity letters in football and and track and two in football. After playing football and graduating from Drake University, he coached football for one season in Scranton, Iowa, and served four years in the U.S. Air Force before coming to Jasper. After creating Jasper’s winning tradition in football, he moved to Dyer High School for three years, and then to Valparaiso High School, where he earned his greatest fame. From 1962 through 1976, his Viking teams compiled a 158-50-6 record and won the 1975 Class 3A state championship, defeating Carmel, 14 to 13, in the championship game to finish undefeated at 12 and 0. His 1969 and 1970 teams were also undefeated. He also had five one-loss seasons. He was inducted into the Indiana High School Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Mark Hoffman, who served as an assistant to Stokes, replaced Stokes as head coach at Valparaiso when he retired after the 1976 season at the age of 49. Hoffman, son of Jasper native and Wildcats basketball standout Tom Hoffman, told the Valparaiso Post-Tribune Stokes was offensive-minded. His teams either outscored the opposition or held the ball long enough that the other teams wouldn’t get a chance to score. “He really was tenacious about the single wing,” Hoffman said. “He was just a caring person.”

Longtime Jasper High School assistant coach Joe Rohleder, who played for Stokes in 1957 and 1958, says, “Tom Stokes was one of the biggest influences in my life. If it weren’t for him I probably would not have a college education and would not have taught and coached for 36 years.”

Tom Stokes is survived by his wife, Pat Stokes, two daughters, Leigh and Joanna, and one son, Gus. Private services were held in Elk Rapids.

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