van_howeThe coach who brought “Old Patience” into the Salem High School trophy case by coaching the first Salem football team to defeat arch-rival Centralia, was inducted into the newly formed Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Van F. Howe was the coach of the 1939 Wildcat team that scored a 16-0 victory over Centralia, the first ever over their Marion County rivals. A1928 graduate of Salem High School, Howe graduated from the University of Illinois in 1933 and started an illustrious coaching career in 1935 at Salem as an assistant in football, basketball and track.

His first season as head football coach of the Wildcats resulted in a 0-7 record but after that, from 1938-1942, his football teams posted a 24-8-3 record. Before entering the U.S. Navy in 1943, where he served 2-1/2 years as a gunnery officer in the North Atlantic, he was head football, swimming and track coach at Illinois Wesleyan University.

After naval service, Howe returned to Wesleyan as track coach for a half year before a two-year stint as head football and baseball coach and assistant in basketball at DeKalb High School.

In 1948, he moved to Decatur where he was head football and track coach for 8 years. His teams won two “Big 12” conference championships in football and track. During his last four seasons at Decatur, his teams suffered only two conference losses in football.

In 1956, Howe moved west, with five years as assistant football coach at the University of Arizona. In 1961, he moved to Pueblo High School in Tucson as assistant coach.

In 1962, Howe became football coach at Palo Verde High School in Tucson, where he remained until he retired after 36-1/2 years of active coaching. He was named Arizona high school Coach of the Year in 1973-74 and his Palo Verde team, with a 13-0 record, won the Arizona large school state championship.

In addition to being the coach of the first Salem team to beat Centralia, other “firsts” in Howe’s career were coach of the first Salem team to win a North Egypt Conference football championship in 1940 and again in 1941; the first DeKalb baseball team to win a conference championship; the first Decatur football team to win a “Big 12” championship; first Palo Verde (Arizona) football team to win a league, division, and state championship; and the first Tucson area football team to win 13 games in one season.

Other memorable occasions in Howe’s coaching career include being chosen to lecture at the U of I Football Coaches Clinic in 1953, lecturing at U of A Football Coaches Clinic in 1974, and coaching a “battered and out-manned” Illinois Wesleyan team in upsetting highly touted Bradley University in Peoria in 1942, a game in which, as Howe says, “ex-SHS star Bill Finks played a major role.”