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Dr. Robert Thurness


Dr. Robert L. Thurness,
79, of Marion, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Family members include his best friend and spouse, Carol Sue of Marion; son, Dr. Brent Thurness (Shelly Thurness) of Rapid City, S.D.; two daughters, Amy
Thurness-Yazzie (CSM Alexander Yazzie) of El Paso, Texas, and Lisa Sanders (Timothy Sanders) of Chicago; and grandchildren, Cole, Chase and Emma Thurness, Alexandra, Julian, Jaden and Jace Yazzie, and Brendan, Kylie, Kaelan and Clare-Rose Sanders.
Robert Thurness was born Dec. 30, 1938, in West Liberty, Iowa, to LeRoy and Niada Thurness. He graduated from West Liberty High School in 1957. "Bob," as he was known to his friends, went on to receive his bachelor's degree in 1962 from Coe College. Bob participated in football, baseball and track during his college career. During his time at Coe, Bob met the love of his life, Carol Sue Crookham.
Bob went on to pursue his master's degree in health and physical education at South Dakota State University. A week prior to graduating with his master's, Bob and Carol were married. They just recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on July 27, 2018. Coaching was his true passion. Coach Thurness was a high school teacher for 16 years, teaching American history, biology, physical education, geography and government. During his early career, Coach Thurness acquired the nickname "Thurny." After a successful stops in Tripoli and Bloomfield, Thurny led the Eldora Tigers to a 22-1-1 record over three years with the '66, '67 and '68 classes. After brief stints at the University of Dubuque and Coe College, Coach Thurness returned to the high school ranks at Linn-Mar High School and Tipton High School. In 1974, Thurny took the head football coaching position at Marion High School. It was here that Coach Thurness won the 3A Iowa state football championships in 1980. The Marion Indian record during this time was 102-33-1. It also was during this time that Thurny earned his master's and Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Iowa.
Dr. Thurness never returned to the high school ranks. Thurny accepted an opportunity to coach at his alma mater Coe College in Cedar Rapids in 1981. At Coe College, Thurny had a 43-20-2 record with four conference division titles and two outright conference championships. He coached two regular season undefeated teams and led Coe back to national prominence with Coe's first NCAA playoff team. Bob coached six All-American athletes, including his son, and 83 all-conference players in seven years. Coach Thurness also served for five years as the head women's softball coach, leading Coe to five conference championships and ranked teams.
Thurny left Coe in 1989, for an opportunity to coach at University of Northern Iowa as a special teams coordinator and outside linebackers' coach. After a few years, Thurny returned to the Midwest Collegiate Conference to finish his coaching career as an assistant coach at Cornell College. While there, the Rams enjoyed a six-year run of success including an undefeated 10-0 season and several Midwest Conference Championships.
Dr. Robert Thurness was inducted into the Coe College Athletic Hall of Fame, the Iowa High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Marion Athletic Hall of Fame and the West Liberty High School Hall of Fame. After his coaching and teaching career, Thurny worked on the restoration of the Marion Depot, served on the Marion History Cultural Center Task Force, Marion Historical Preservation Commission and worked on the family farm.
Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Murdoch Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Marion. Cremation will follow the visitation. An additional celebration of Dr. Robert Thurness' life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Clark Alumni House at Coe College, Cedar Rapids.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. Robert L. Thurness Educational Scholarship Fund at the Marion Farmers State Bank, 1240 Eighth Ave., Marion, IA 52302.
Please share a memory of Dr. Robert Thurness at www.murdochfuneralhome.com under obituaries.