ROCHELLE – Joel John Colbert, 86, of Rochelle, passed away Oct. 5, 2019 at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford of natural causes.
Joel was born April 13, 1933, in Iowa City, Iowa, the son of John and Delphine (Rummelhart) Colbert.
He attended Iowa City High there and later graduated from the University of Iowa physical education department. He also held a masters degree from Northern Illinois University.
Between high school and college, Joel enlisted and served from 1952-56 in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, assigned to the Pacific atoll of Enewetak during nuclear testing operations. On June 25, 1955, Joel and Eleanor (Bobbie) Goettle were united in marriage in Iowa City and recently celebrated 64 years.
Joel began a teaching and coaching career at St. Joseph-Ogden in 1960, with moves to Galva and then Rochelle. Known primarily as a football coach, Joel also was a head coach in wrestling, basketball, baseball and track. In 1984, he was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall-of-Fame. His love of sports also led to officiating baseball and basketball. Joel was also on a committee that helped initiate the IHSA football playoffs in 1974. Another quirk about him was being an area baseball scout for the Montreal Expos. In his younger days, he was an avid fast-pitch softball player, later transitioning into a golf enthusiast. While at college, he played one year on the Hawkeye football team.
Joel was a man of many interests and he took special pride in being a vociferous reader, crossword puzzle solver and a theatre devotee. He intently studied current events and was not shy about pontificating on them.
As a father, he made a point to expose his children to various viewpoints, philosophies and learning experiences. As an educator, he was a strict disciplinarian with a knack for relating to students of all backgrounds.
Growing up in a family of nine children with a single parent, Joel developed a heart for people in need and devoted much of his life to helping those less fortunate.
He was a member of St. Patrick’s and the Presbyterian churches in Rochelle. After retiring from teaching at Rochelle, he was elected to the Ogle County Board.
Joel is survived by wife, Bobbie; their children, Jodi (Brett) Kemp, Stevensville, Montana, and children, Matt, Ryan and Lindsey, Andy (Kathy) Colbert of Oregon, and children, Blair and Jorie, and twin granddaughters, Alexandria and Liliya; Bo (Cindy) Colbert of Trinity, North Carolina, and children, Anthony and Mallory, Suzie Colbert of Arlington, Virgina, and Tony (Catherine) Colbert of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and children, Mia and Madi; his brother, Conrad (Joanne) Colbert and his dog, Gracie, who was constantly at his side.
Brothers, Donald, Clayton, Edward, David and sisters, Virginia, Mary Ellen and Geniveve, preceded him in death.
The visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. Sixth St., Rochelle. The memorial funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 11 at the First Presbyterian Church, 1100 Calvin Road, Rochelle, with Pastor Doug Forsberg officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Joel’s memory to the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library.
Cremation care has been provided by the Unger-Horner Funeral Home.
Visit www.ungerhorner.com to sign the online guest book.