For over 30 years Keith “Kip” Jensen served the people and the children who attended the Riverside public schools. When he passed away on April 13 of this year after a three-year battle with leukemia. It was a loss not only to his family but to those he worked with and those students whose lives he had touched.
Jensen was hired by District 96 as a teacher and taught physical education before becoming an administrator in the district. He later became assistant superintendent and, for a time, served in that position and as principal of Blythe Park School.
When he “retired” from the District in 1999 he still maintained contact by becoming a consultant for the Riverside schools supervising the repair of the facilities within the district.
The numerous students that encountered Mr. Jensen over his and their years most likely were not aware of his administrative responsibilities, but they did know him as one to whom they could come with problems about school and life.
When he and colleague “Butch” Berwanger, better known as “Mr. B.,” started the sport programs at Hauser, it was a new era for the students. Together they coached recreational football and sports at the junior high. When girls sports began to appear on the scene, the team of Berwanger and Jensen stepped forward to take on the challenge of girls teams.
Girls learned the fundamentals of basketball with the same enthusiasm, and were treated with the same respect given to their male counterparts. Credit that to the team of Berwanger and Jensen.
The coaches taught the girls a call, and I’m not even sure I’m spelling this correctly, “a-yah!” I don’t know what it meant, but in a huddle every athlete, boy or girl, said it with gusto.
Students from other schools would give a look and wonder what it meant and until this day there are students from schools who competed with Hauser that remember the “a-yah!” shout. The two continued their work with the students, supervising car washes and sock hops. Many students may recall seeing Mr. Jensen out on the gym floor dancing at the sock hops, having as good a time as the kids and wearing a big smile on his face.
My children were fortunate to experience the gift of Mr. Jensen through their years and activities at Hauser. While he was spending time with my children and the other school children, his children were becoming active with their school
One day I approached him and told him he was spending more time with my children than he was with his own. Another case of my Italian guilt. It wasn’t too long after that he lessened some of his extra-curricular activities at Hauser.
The years that Kip Jensen gave to District 96 will never be forgotten by those who knew him, but generations to come will know of the legacy of Kip Jensen. With that in mind, his good friend Mr. B has brought forward a plan to have a new scoreboard installed in the big gym at Hauser Junior High in memory of Mr. Jensen. The old scoreboard will be put in the smaller gym.
The cost of the scoreboard is several thousand dollars and will be purchased through donations given in memory of Keith Jensen. Students recently held their annual car wash with all proceeds to go to the fund for scoreboard.
Those who are interested in making a donation can send checks made out to Riverside Public Schools at 65 Woodside Road, Riverside, Ill. 60546 to the attention of Mr. Berwanger.
The scoreboard will be a fitting memorial to a man who lit up the lives of many, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the first time it is used, that somewhere a voice will be saying, “a-yah!”