Saturday, October 9, 2004

Bernard Roeckers, XU athlete

Longtime coach, teacher

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

ANDERSON TWP. - Bernard Roeckers Sr. was a star punter, offensive halfback and defensive back for the Xavier Musketeers from 1949-51.

He started making headlines in the Enquirer in 1949 during his sophomore year when the "former Roger Bacon flash, who tips the scales at no more than 150 pounds dripping wet, gained the most yardage and personally accounted for two of Xavier's scores" in a game against West Virginia Wesleyan.

The next season he weighed 166 pounds and "usually can kick the Musketeers out of trouble when an ominous situation looms. He's been kicking at a terrific pace lately, averaging 46 yards a boot," the paper noted.

An education major, Mr. Roeckers became an American government teacher and coached football, baseball and basketball at McNicholas, Amelia and Milford high schools.

He was also a high school and youth sports official in Greater Cincinnati. He was returning home after officiating five games when he died Oct. 2 in a car crash. He was traveling west on Ohio 32 when his car crossed the center line and collided head-on with an oncoming car. The Anderson Township resident was 74.

Mr. Roeckers graduated from Roger Bacon High School - where he punted for the football team - in 1948. The Enquirer named him the punter on its All Century Team in 2000.

At XU he was part of the undefeated football team that went to the Salad Bowl in Arizona in 1950. He also played shortstop on the baseball team and batted over .300.

He received a bachelor's and master's degree in education from XU and did doctoral work at the University of Cincinnati. He served as a 2nd lieutenant with the Army in 1953-54, spending nine months in Korea.

Mr. Roeckers retired from Milford High School in 1984 after 24 years. There's a tribute to him on the school's Web site that makes clear he was a legend - on the field and in class.

"His classroom was lively and interesting," it says. "He never took himself seriously and would exchange quips with anyone who had the guts to try him in a battle of wits. He took his job very seriously and there are literally many hundreds of people today who are better citizens because of him."

Retired baseball player Barry Bonnell - who played 10 seasons for Atlanta, Toronto and Seattle - said that Mr. Roeckers, his coach and mentor, pushed him into Major League Baseball.

After his retirement, Mr. Roeckers worked as a financial adviser. He ran for the state Board of Education in District 4 in 1988.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Elaine Naberhaus Roeckers; six daughters, Lisa Morrison of St. Bernard, Lori Stewart, Lynn Davidson and Leslie Roeckers, all of Anderson Township, Laine Lorey of Hyde Park and Luann Schirmer of Pierce Township; a son, Bernie Roeckers Jr. of Anderson Township; two sisters, Anna Mae Thamann of Mason and Marlene Feldhaus of St. Bernard; a brother, Walter Roeckers of St. Bernard; and 12 grandchildren.

Services were held. Burial was at Guardian Angels Cemetery.

Memorials: St. Vincent de Paul Society, 1125 Bank St., Cincinnati, OH 45214.

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