Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Dave Tucker

ONTONAGON, Mich. — Dave Tucker, 88, of Ontonagon, long time teacher and basketball coach, died on Oct. 29, 2023, at the Aspirus Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff, Wisconsin, after a lengthy illness.

He was born in Superior, Wisconsin, on Aug. 10, 1935, the 10th child and seventh son to Joseph and Bridget (Manley) Tucker. He attended the Superior Cathedral Schools, where he was a star athlete and altar boy. The football team his senior year was undefeated and not scored upon, and his basketball team lost in the State Final. He was named a High School All-American basketball player and was chosen to play in the North-South All-Star Game in Murray, Kentucky (a forerunner of the McDonald’s All-American Game). A number of schools offered him scholarships in football and basketball including Notre Dame, but he chose to play basketball at the University of Minnesota on a Williams Athletic Scholarship, becoming the first in his family to attend college. He was a three-year starter for the Golden Gophers and was captain of the 1956-57 team. He averaged a double-double (points and rebounds) while at Minnesota and is still fifth all-time in rebounds per game in a career. The St. Louis Hawks of the NBA wanted to draft him in the fifth round, but he was called to walk a different path.

He married his high school sweetheart Janis Connolly, and the young couple moved to Ontonagon to raise their family. Dave initially coached all sports and taught high school math while Jan was a reporter for regional newspapers and became a local radio personality. He coached for 38 years, his basketball teams won 326 games and nine conference titles, and he only had three losing seasons. He was known as “the Gentleman Coach” for his demeanor and grace while coaching. In 1971, along with Jim White, he volunteered to restart the long-dormant junior varsity football program. He retired after more than 40 years of teaching. He is a member of the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Basketball Hall of Fame, and is a two-time inductee to the Superior/Douglas County Sports Hall of Fame.

In his retirement, he enjoyed fishing, golfing, and playing euchre with his grandchildren. He especially enjoyed school reunions and Labor Day festivals, where he could reminisce with many of his former players and students.

He was a member of the Holy Family Catholic Church of Ontonagon, where he served as a lector for many years. He was a devout Catholic and enjoyed being able to attend daily Mass in his retirement. He prayed the rosary three times daily and read his family Bible frequently.

Dave was preceded in death by his parents; his young son, Tim; seven brothers, Joseph, James, Francis, Patrick, Thomas “Butch,” John and Charles; three sisters, Margaret White, Patricia “Smarty” Tucker and Mary Ann Van Damme; and several nieces and nephews.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jan of Ontonagon; two sons, Dr. David (Kelly) of Gravette, Arkansas, and Patrick (Karen) of Ontonagon; three daughters, Katherine Hernandez (Jose) of Ft. Worth, Texas, Mary Tucker of Billings, Montana, and Sara Dore (Chris) of Long Lake, Minnesota; one brother, Michael of Superior, Wisconsin; 13 grandchildren, Anna Tucker, Robert Tucker, Rebecca Miller, Ryan Tucker, Shannon Clinesmith, Megan Hagen, Erin Linder, Timothy Tucker, Michelle Knodell, Michel Hernandez, Katherine Dore, Jillian Dore and Madeleine Dore; 16 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be Friday, Nov. 10, at the Cane Funeral Home from 5:30 to 7 p.m., starting with a rosary service at 5:30, followed a memory sharing with family and friends.

Visitation with also be on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 10 a.m. at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Ontonagon, followed by a funeral Mass at 11, with the Rev. Michael Jacobus officiating.

Dave is a two-time cancer survivor; his young son, Tim, and eight of his siblings died of cancer, and many other relatives have been afflicted with cancer. In lieu of expressions of sympathy, the family requests donations to the Ontonagon County Cancer Association. Alternatively, in honor of his many years of coaching and teaching, donations to the Ontonagon Area Scholarship Foundation may be made.

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