Middleton A.D. Bob Joers passes away

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Longtime Middleton athletic director Bob Joers, shown here with the 2019 state champion girls golf team, passed away Friday.

Bob Joers led Middleton’s athletic department into the 21st century.

Joers helped the Cardinals become arguably the top athletic program in the state.

And through it all, he remained one of the most flexible, accessible and personable people in his industry.

Joers, Middleton’s athletic director from 1995-2004 and again from 2011-2020, died Friday evening after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

“We are heartbroken,” Cindy Joers, Bob’s wife, wrote on his CaringBridge page. “But we are at peace because he is at peace.”

Joers was the face of Middleton athletics the majority of the past quarter century. Whether it was a Friday night football game or a Tuesday afternoon tennis match, Joers was typically running the event.

Joers oversaw the Cardinals’ transition from the Badger Conference to the Big Eight Conference in the mid-1990s. Joers then watched Middleton grow into the dominant program not only in the Big Eight, but also become a juggernaut across the state.

Since 1997, Middleton has won 18 WIAA Division 1 state titles and finished second at state more than 30 times.

In the 2019-’20 school year alone, Middleton won state titles in girls golf and boys cross country. Middleton’s girls co-op hockey team took second at state in March, while the girls basketball team was ranked No. 1 and seeded first in Division 1 before the WIAA canceled the state tournament.

“Heartbreaking. No words,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “Just so sad. We all knew it was coming, but I thought maybe a few more weeks, holding out hope we might get one more chance to speak. The suddenness is crazy and the impact still hits hard.”

Brian Finnel, Middleton’s boys cross country coach, agreed with Bavery.

“Bob was a tremendous person and a great mentor for all of the coaches,” said Finnel, who has led the Cardinals to state championships in 2017 and 2019. “Losing Bob is devastating, a loss that will no doubt impact the whole community.

“I will really miss Bob’s humor, particularly in his stories. He always kept things light-hearted in the good times, but also in the challenging moments we coaches go through. I really appreciated all of his guidance. He will be so dearly missed.”

Among the other highlights during Joers’ tenure as athletic director:

• Middleton received the Award of Excellence from the WIAA twice over the past three years. Middleton was one of 15 schools to receive the inaugural award in 2016-17. MHS was also one of 27 schools to be recognized in 2018-19.

• Middleton won the prestigious WSN Cup for the first time in 2019. The Cup recognizes schools that achieve success in WIAA-sponsored sports. Hartland Arrowhead had won the Cup every prior year since it was first awarded in 2007-‘08.

• Joers was named the Big Eight Conference’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2019 along with the Wisconsin Athletic Directors District 5 Athletic Director of the Year.

“Bob has been a great leader of the athletic program here,” longtime girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “It’s a difficult and often thankless job. I think that Bob has always looked out for the overall good of the entire athletic and activities program, and he’s shown great loyalty and concern for each of us individually.”

Ben White, Middleton’s boys volleyball coach, was always impressed with the success the Cardinals attained under Joers. Even more importantly, though, White marveled at the positive relationships Joers had with almost everyone he crossed paths with.

“Bob wasn't just present at everything in Middleton, he was a presence,” White said. “He made everyone feel important and every person you talk with will tell you about how special their relationship was with Bob.

“Bob always told me that the most important thing about his job was not the wins and losses of the program, but building relationships with people. He tried every day to greet students as they walked in the building and I was always amazed at all the students he knew as they walked by.”

Joers graduated from Milwaukee Bradley Tech and attended the University of Wisconsin, where he was a standout swimmer.

Beginning in 1988, Joers took over as Middleton’s boys and girls swimming coaches and held each post for more than a decade.

Joers led Middleton to a runner-up finish at the WIAA Division 1 boys state swimming championship in 2000. The Cardinals also finished third at state for three consecutive years from 2002-‘04. Joers was honored as the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association state boys coach of the year three times over a four-year period.

Joers also founded the Mad-Town Aquatic swim team in 1990 and served as a coach until 2005.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District recently announced it would rename its indoor pool after Joers.

“It is only fitting that we name the indoor pool after Bob,” Superintendent Dana Monogue recently said. “Bob is an icon in the community. He has done so much for our students, coaches and families over the years. He has always put people first. He has also built one of the top athletic departments in the state. On top of all that, Bob is a great person.”

Joers was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October, 2019. He began an aggressive form of chemotherapy on Nov. 20, 2019.

The goal was to shrink the tumor to the point where it was operable, but that never happened. Joers and his wife Cindy were married 31 years. They had three children — Alex, Brett and Mattie.

Due to Covid-19, funeral services won’t take place immediately.

“In a weird way, I am okay with this so we can think a little bit about how to proceed in a way to honor Bob and have everyone who wants to be a part of it, be a part of it,” Cindy Joers wrote. “Bob was very clear that he wanted a ‘party with drink cards instead of prayer cards’ for his memorial.”

 

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