To get from Tremper High School to athletic events at Ameche Field, you have to cross a street.
On Friday nights throughout the years, scores of cars and pedestrians have either driven down or walked across that street to attend football games.
That street is now called Frank Matrise Way.
In an emotional halftime ceremony Friday night at Ameche Field during the game between Tremper and Racine Park, 14th District Alderman Dan Prozanski proclaimed that, by a unanimous vote, the Kenosha City Council decided on Sept. 5 to name the street — which stretches between 85th Street and 87th Street across 26th Avenue — after Kenosha’s legendary father/son football duo of Frank Matrise Sr. and Frank Matrise Jr.
On July 11, Matrise Jr. died at age 53 due to complications stemming from kidney cancer.
Friday’s game was dedicated as a “Go Orange” event — the color associated with raising awareness for kidney cancer — to celebrate Matrise Jr.’s life. Fans and cheerleaders were decked out in orange, and several Tremper players wore orange wristbands.
A longtime coach and educator in the community, Matrise Jr. coached football at Tremper and St. Joseph for a combined 34 years, including a 19-year run as the Trojans’ head coach from 1997 to 2015.
Matrise Sr. was a longtime coach and athletic director at St. Joseph.
Both father and son are members of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Tremper principal Steve Knecht delivered an impassioned halftime speech before Prozanski presented Frank Matrise Way street signs to members of the family. An emotional Matrise Sr. received one while sitting in his wheelchair, and Matrise Jr.’s wife, Wendy, and children, Kyle and Katie, were also presented with a sign.
Humbled by support
“I am just so humbled with all the love and support the Kenosha community has given us,” Wendy Matrise said. “The Tremper community, the St. Joe’s community, and everybody.”
Friday’s game was a logical choice to honor the Matrise family, since St. Joseph’s Week 5 Homecoming game against Racine Lutheran was Saturday afternoon at Ameche Field. That meant that both the Tremper and St. Joseph communities, as well as Matrise’s children — both attend St. Joseph, and Kyle is a standout senior lineman for the Lancers — could participate.
“This is just absolutely incredible to see such a great crowd out here in his memory (to) celebrate Frank and all he meant to not only Tremper and St Joe’s, but the whole community,” Tremper athletic director John Matera said.
“He loved (Friday nights). He was all about the kids and trying to help them excel on and off the field. To see him on those Friday nights, that was his time to shine with the kids, and he always put them first and really went to great lengths to ensure they had a great experience.”
Said Knecht before delivering his halftime speech: “Just having Friday night lights is what Frank (was) all about. Just a good atmosphere. A lot of people are just carrying people who really loved Frank. It’s just really enjoyable to have it here tonight.”
Knecht’s speech focused mainly on Matrise Jr.’s affable personality. He talked about traveling to summer baseball tournaments with Matrise — their sons played travel baseball together — and how Matrise would Google anything he could find about every small town they drove through and make some connection to Kenosha.
Specifically, Matrise loved to find places to eat featured on his favorite TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Rather than asking for a moment of silence, Knecht requested that the fans stand and cheer, ending his speech simply by yelling, “Touchdown!”
All in all, it was a perfect Friday night to honor a man who lived for those Friday night lights and touched so many lives.
“He loved people, he loved family,” Wendy Matrise said. “He loved all this.”
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