Former St. Joseph coaches Ellen Santarelli and Frank Matrise Jr. left quite an impression on all the students, athletes, colleagues and families they touched.
And during a weeklong celebration last week, both were remembered fondly.
The school remembered Santarelli, who was 32 when she died of leukemia in 2011, and Matrise, who also spent many years at Tremper and died July 11 at age 53 from kidney cancer, during a number of events that culminated with the Lancers’ football game Friday against Greendale Martin Luther at Jaskwhich Stadium.
Matrise coached at Tremper and St. Joseph for a combined 34 years, including 19 as the Trojans head coach from 1997 to 2015. He had an overall record of 115-78 and led Tremper to 10 playoff appearances, including a WIAA Division-1 state runner-up finish in 2001.
Matrise was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.
Santarelli, a Tremper graduate, coached with the Little Leaguers of Kenosha and the Wisconsin Juniors Volleyball Club, along with both the Lancers varsity volleyball and softball programs.
She played golf, softball, volleyball and basketball at Tremper, where she was the class president and prom queen of the class of 1997.
St. Joseph Athletic Director Dave Witthun said the students handled all the events of the week with perfection.
“I’m just really proud of our student body,” he said. “It wasn’t just the adults or the families taking the reins; it was really the student body that took the reins and ran with it. They wanted to get a lot of orange things out and get the recognition out there for leukemia and kidney cancer.
“Ellen and Frank had a great relationship with our student-athletes and the families, but also the community. They were both great coaches for us. They knew everyone since they were little kids. ... It’s a major impact that they’re not here at our school any more, and we wanted to recognize that.”
As the planning process for the week began to take shape, the momentum continued to build, Witthun said.
And that was a sight to behold.
“The (students) really wanted to do it themselves,” Witthun said. “They all came out in droves. Everybody was in orange; they were tweeting about it and talking about it in their classrooms. ... Each program just took the bull by the horns and did something.”
With orange apparel throughout the stadium, there was no shortage of fond memories of both, St. Joseph coach Matt Rizzo said.
“They were two special people for sure,” he said. “Having Kyle (Matrise) on the team, working with ‘Coach’ for a long time, being close with him, being basically an extended family member, was coached by him and a lifelong friend. They just really are a great family.
“He loved football, loved kids, loved being around people. He wanted to do right by them, yelling or not, tough love or not, that’s just who ‘Coach’ was.
“I think that’s trickled down to our kids. They had a good feeling about it. It was a special moment all week when we could celebrate the lives of two great people in Ellen and Frank.”
For Rizzo, who succeeded Matrise at the helm this season and now serves as St. Joseph’s middle school principal, all the support that continues to flow in and around the campus is far from surprising.
“Our school community (has rallied) around it,” he said. “It’s really the culture that we’re living at St. Joe’s and who we are. Knowing that they’re not with us any more but forever in our hearts is just in itself so special.”
Matrise is keeping a watchful eye on the Lancers, Rizzo said.
“He’s still smiling down on us and is really proud of Kyle and Katie,” he said. “They’re handling it really well. Kyle is just a great kid, a great leader, and I think a lot of what he got from his dad is just transcending onto the field in his leadership and who he is as a person. That speaks a lot about him growing up and learning the right way, because Frankie wouldn’t want it any other way.”