116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One of the best things about this job is the people you meet.
There are the athletes you watch grow up, some lucky enough to get to that “next level” and shine in college and, sometimes, beyond. Or the many more who simply shine in other aspects of life.
There are the coaches, too, the men and women who mold the aforementioned athletes into stars or simply into better people.
Al Stiers was in the latter group, a man who molded as much as he coached during his long career at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. It didn’t matter to Stiers if you were the star of the team or someone looking to find their place.
You shined in his eyes.
“He accepted everybody,” said Dennis Roloff, who ran against Stiers’ teams as a high school standout at Cedar Rapids Jefferson in the early 1970s and later coached at Kennedy.
Stiers died April 22 at the age of 86. A celebration of life will be held later this summer at Lovely Lane Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids.
I met Al while covering high school track for The Gazette, but he remembered me from my days running track at Cedar Rapids Washington. Al had a passion for his athletes and a deep love of track and field — something we had in common.
We’d sit at Kingston Stadium or Drake Stadium and just talk. Not interview, just talk. That can be rare in this business.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful person and will be dearly missed,” Roloff said.
Stiers was born in Nemaha, Neb., and played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at Nemaha High School, where he also met his wife, Twila. He played football at Peru State College, earning a degree in Industrial Arts and Education. He received his Master's in Education from the University of South Dakota.
After coaching in Nebraska, he headed east to coach at Sac City before finding his forever job and home in Cedar Rapids in 1967. He was an assistant football coach at first, but became head football coach in 1983, a job he held only a few years. He later served as the head sophomore coach.
But it’s track where Stiers really left his mark.
He was Kennedy’s boys’ track and field coach from 1968 until he retired in 1997.
“I learned a lot from Al and Harold (Wilkinson),” Roloff said of Stiers and the Cougars’ late girls’ track and field coach. “They loved dealing with people and kids.”
Bill Pinckney was one of those sophomore football players at Kennedy in the late 1960s.
“He is one of those coaches who made a huge difference in my life,” he said.
Pinckney later returned to his alma mater to coach, then moved to the southeast side of town and coached Washington to state track titles in 2009 and ’10.
“He was kind of like a second dad to all of us,” Pickney said. “He was one-of-a-kind … a pleasure to be around all the time.”
Pinckney and Roloff talked a lot about Stiers’ constant positive attitude. He never appeared down and would always greet you with a warm smile.
He had a positive influence on a multitude of people, probably without even knowing it. I include myself in that group.
“If you were with him (and feeling down), he could turn you around in a split second,” Pickney said.
Roloff said “you never heard a bad” word from Stiers, not a negative response or, Pinckney said, a swear word.
“He was always positive,” Pinckney said. “... He made the comment ’it’s too easy to swear.’”
Roloff said Stiers “always did the right thing.
“I respected him a lot,” he said.
Everyone needs a person like Al Stiers in their life.
“Al is going to be missed,” Pinckney said.
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