By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Years ago, talk of consolidation and construction of new buildings would cause emotions to flare at public meetings in the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial school district.
When that happened, Jeri Escher could be counted on to bring the sessions back to an even keel.
In an always calm voice she’d deliver her well-reasoned thoughts, and in doing so return discussion to higher ground.
“Her life was built on kindness and respect for everybody,” said friend and co-worker Sue Thul. “Everybody had such a high respect for her and her opinion.”
Escher, who died Wednesday of cancer at age 60, taught and coached in the school district for 32 years until her retirement a few years ago.
Her becalming, steadying influence served her and her players especially well on the volleyball court.
Angie Rode, who played on the LCWM squad that placed second at the state tournament in 1994, said Escher’s coaching success could largely be attributed to her efforts beyond the gym.
“She was always trying to think of group activities to bring us together. She even had suppers at her house.”
Thul, who taught and coached with Escher for 28 years, said Escher also favored pre-season team-building campouts.
“One of her big things was to build team unity” with highly structured activities.
Thul said Escher was “one of those people who gave her all to everything she was involved with. She just had an air about her. Everybody just loved her.”
LCWM High School Principal Linda Isebrand said as a coach and educator Escher was unmarred.
“You could dig for100 years and you’d find no skeletons on Jeri. She was such an honorable person.”
Escher taught health and world studies, and when school budget cuts required her to teach a physical education class, she took her professionalism up a notch.
“She didn’t enjoy it that much but you’d never know it. You would have thought she just loves teaching it. She was just a beacon,” Isebrand said.
Rode said Escher’s selflessness shined through a few months ago, when her coach from nearly 20 years ago reached out to her when she was having some personal issues.
“Even as she was really suffering herself, she was thinking about someone else,” Rode said.