Jerome Stephen Cvengros

OKEMOS, Mich. – Jerome Stephen Cvengros, 80, of Okemos, Mich., passed away on March 31, 2014, following a brief illness.

Jerry was born in Ironwood on Dec. 14, 1933, to Joseph and Vienna Cvengros. He graduated from Ironwood High School in 1951 and attended The University of Wisconsin on a football scholarship. Jerry married Rochelle Rae Helinski in 1955. In 1958, they moved to Escanaba, to begin his teaching and coaching career. Jerry served Escanaba as a classroom teacher, athletic director, high school principal, and head football coach. Generations of students, athletes, coaches, and educators were positively influenced by his strength and wisdom.

Jerry built an elite football program at Escanaba as varsity head coach, leading the Eskymos to a 161-42-3 record, a Class A runner-up finish in 1979, and the MHSAA championship in 1981. That team remains the only Class A/Division 1 team from the Upper Peninsula to win an MHSAA football title. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and served on its original board of directors.

After 32 years in Escanaba, Jerry and Shelley relocated to Okemos, Mich., where Jerry began his second career as associate director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. He held that position until his retirement in 2002. This opportunity allowed his natural gifts and experience to be spread far and wide and endure beyond his life.

As the MHSAA’s director of football, Jerry was instrumental in creating the current playoff format that expanded the field from 128 to 256 teams beginning with the 1999 season.

Among many honors, Jerry was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame and Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. The National Federation of State High School Associations twice awarded Cvengros with a Citation the NFHS’ highest honor for his service as a coach and then as a member of the MHSAA staff.

Jerry spent his retirement years enjoying his grandchildren and traveling. He was dedicated, kind, and loyal to his family and friends. His life was lived to near perfection with a lasting impact on all he met. That legacy will endure.

Jerry is survived by his wife, “Shelley;” Michael (May), Steven (Nanine), and David (Holly); Tom Swasey; seven grandchildren, Joseph, Sarah, Katie, Lauren, Abby, Olivia, and Madison; and hundreds of friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Pat; and his loving daughter, Lee Ann, in 2013.

As a Founding Parishioner of St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Okemos, Mich., a celebration of Jerry’s life will be held at the church on Monday, April 7, at 11 a.m. Visitation will precede the service beginning at 10 a.m. A luncheon will follow the service. Burial will be at a later date.

Rest in peace Big Cat – you did well.

The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes, East Lansing Chapel. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.greastlansing.com.