|Hometown Honors John Ralston|
Courtesy of the Iron Mountain Daily News
by Burt Angeli
July 30, 2008
NORWAY - John Ralston and 150 of his closest friends took a trip down memory lane Saturday (July 26).
John "Jack" Ralston Day festivities concluded Saturday night with an emotional banquet at the Rialto.
The former college and professional football coach who grew up in Norway was obviously moved by remarks from former players, family members and schoolmates.
"You're all great," said Ralston, who resides in San Jose, Calif., and works in a fund-raising role for San Jose State University. "We'll go back with a lot of pleasant memories."
Ralston's list of coaching accomplishments are numerous but guiding underdog Stanford to Rose Bowl wins over Ohio State (1971) and Michigan (1972) stand out.
Representing those Stanford teams at the dinner were safety Jack Schultz, linebacker Jeff Siemon and center Dennis Sheehan.
"Nothing could have kept me away from here," said Schultz, a co-captain who played six positions in four years. " John Ralston has been an inspiration for us throughout our lives."
Siemon's play at linebacker earned him enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame. He went on to stellar career with the Minnesota Vikings.
"John Ralston treated players with dignity. He treated players as men," Siemon said. "We love you and respect you and feel honored to be a part of your teams."
Sheehan joined Schultz and Siemon in thanking the Norway community for the warm welcome over the past two days.
"We feel like royalty showing up here," Sheehan said. "You have something very special here."
As for Ralston, Sheehan said "he has affected our lives so much just as he has your lives."
Sheehan, a cardiologist in the Bay Area, added that "John modeled for all of his incredible character and dignity. This man gave me my keys to the future."
A touched Ralston described the Stanford trio as "absolutely great people."
"What a wonderful tribute," said Ralston, who also coached the National Football League's Denver Broncos for five seasons. "When a football coach has good players, he wins games.
"I'd do anything for these three individuals."
Letters from former National Football League coaches Dick Vermeil and Iron Mountain's Steve Mariucci were read along with those from Ralston's daughters and granddaughter.
"John Ralston is a great coach and even greater man," wrote Mariucci, a "friend and fellow Yooper" who once coached California against Ralston's San Jose State team.
Vermeil, who coached the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, got his start working under Ralston at Stanford.
The accolades didn't stop there.
Classmate Dr. Dick Stanchina of Escanaba called Ralston "one of the greatest things to ever happen to Norway."
Nate Anderson, like Ralston a proud member of the Norway High School class of 1944, shared memories of watching Ralston's teams in action.
Norway city manager Ray Anderson read a resolution saluting Ralston on behalf of the mayor and city council.
Ralston's turbulent childhood settled down when his family arrived in Norway from California in 1935.
"Norway was a safe haven," he said. "I'll always be grateful to the people of Norway."
Ralston spent most of Saturday afternoon at the Jake Menghini Museum chatting with friends and youngsters. His vast football memorabilia is now on display at the museum and will be moved to Norway High School.