BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Everyone at Clarkston High School stadium honored Steve Himburg with a moment of silence before the Wolves’ football game on Friday night.
Himburg passed away suddenly at home on Friday, Oct. 1 while he was watching the Clarkston Varsity Football team play West Bloomfield. He was 76.
“The last words he said to me were ‘Clarkston just scored,'” his wife Mary shared. “We are all pretty sad and devastated. We are surrounded by so much love and wonderful memories and experiences we have had in Clarkston.”
Steve had an impact on everyone especially his years as a teacher and as a coach, especially as the head coach for Clarkston Eighth Grade Football.
“He was an amazing coach and teacher,” said son, Rob. “I think a lot of those enduring life lessons are ones I feel so grateful this year with what I think will be thousands of people who he taught and coached.
“He is who taught me you can always go beyond your preconceived limits and that’s really what was in the context of athletics that’s what champions did; if it was the context of school and education it was what the most conscientious learners did; if it was in conscientious learners did; if it was in the context of your personal life it was what a best friend, partner, father, husband did.
“He would say those things but he was never not demonstrating those things and that’s something my brother, Chris, and I share above all else is we got to see that in action, to see that through how he did that through all aspects of his life, constantly going beyond preconceived limits and redefining those all the time.”
Steve coached for 41 years with 38 years in Clarkston.
He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on March 7, 2020.
“It’s quite an honor,” Steve told The Clarkston News before the ceremony in 2020. “Chris Combs and all the coaches I have had an opportunity to coach with, some were former players, it takes a whole team to be successful – players and coaches. I can’t say enough about the community and the people I work with, coached with. They are so supportive. Especially my family. My wife is my biggest supporter and it really helps when your closest friend in life supports you 100 percent.”
“He was a great man,” shared Kurt Richardson, head coach of Clarkston Varsity Football. “He was an inspiration for the kids and the coaches. He was tough. He never complained. There will be snow and he would push his wheelchair through the snow, the mud. I just think he was an inspiration just by his everyday attitude.”
Steve will be remembered for never allowing a “give up” attitude and encouraged everyone to find something special in themselves they often didn’t know they had. His gift was making the people around him better; a leader in the truest sense of the word.
Rob added there are so many things he will remember about his dad.
“I think what I will remember most is his integrity in combination with his absolute integrity on all levels in all circumstances with all people and the courage it took to create his own terms, to be defined by the terms he created and to have done that with such integrity throughout my entire life not only what I remember most but hope to carry forward in my own life.”
Steve and Mary celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary this year.
“I had known him from grade school,” Mary shared. “It’s where we met. I always thought he was cute and liked him. He didn’t really notice me until eighth grade.”
Steve and Mary started going steady at the end of eighth grade before going to different high schools.
“We broke up a few times. Then, we ended up at Michigan State University. We decided that was it,” Mary said. “On June 10, 1967 instead of going to our graduation we got married.”
Mary shared their world changed in 1974 when Steve had his accident.
She shared they lived in town at the time and when they first came home from the hospital it was like coming home to family. Everyone including neighbors and businesses were there for anything they needed.
“We are lucky to be here,” Mary said.
She added they were also fortunate Steve was working at the Clarkston Vocational School on Big Lake Road at the time.
“It was newly built and totally barrier free,” Mary said. “Most of the schools weren’t. He spent a year in and out of the hospital and in rehab. Then, he went back to work.”
He taught Marketing and Economics at the vocational school until 1980 when the family decided to try living in San Diego because it didn’t snow. While there he coached and got interested in wheelchair road racing.
But San Diego wasn’t home. Clarkston was home, so the family came back.
Steve began volunteering at the junior high school and started coaching as well. His volunteering turned into a full time position and he was a special education teacher from 1986 to 2017. Steve was awarded the Newsweek Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1993.
“Since he was five years old, he went to school every day,” Mary said. “He retired four years ago. He really only retired because he was exhausted. He just couldn’t do the schedule anymore. He still loved it. He still wanted to continue to coach which he did until Friday.”
Steve was a lifelong athlete. During his time at Detroit St. Ambrose High School, he played on four straight championship teams led by George Perles, then head coach. He went on to play lacrosse at Michigan State University and scored a winning goal against Notre Dame.
Later in life, Steve was an active wheelchair racer and competed in over 40 marathons which included completing the Detroit Marathon for 20 consecutive years and countless Boston Marathons.
“So often, and under stably so, his life, his accomplishments, his character are often related to this really major event in his life, this injury to his spinal cord, which resulted to him being in a wheelchair,” Rob said. “Of course, when you are a marathoner, that is pretty impressive when you do 50 marathons in a wheelchair, people really notice. I will never forget the day my mom said to me, I think I was 15 or 16, and in this context of dad being amazing in these ways, ‘Rob, you know dad has always been that way. And, the accident just intensified who he already was. That’s something that’s very close in mind and deep in my heart.”
Rob added it was his dad who got him into running when Steve got into wheelchair racing.
“It’s a huge part of my life,” he said. “It’s all because of him. Not only is he this accomplished wheelchair racer, but by pursuing it and going for it he introduced that into my life and it’s been one of the cornerstones of my life for over 40 years.”
Steve was grandpa to Taj, Tulah, Ella and Charlie.
“He was the best,” Rob said. “He was incredibly funny. It was a huge part of who he was, and it really came through as a grandpa. His sense of humor was unparalleled. I never knew anyone who had the wit and quick humor that he did. He never employed that more than around the grandkids. It was everything you would expect – caring, loving and so generous.”
Steve was childhood sweetheart and husband for 54 years of Mary; father of Rob (Kyna) Himburg and Chris (Sara) Himburg; grandpa of Taj, Tulah, Ella and Charlie; brother of Marijo (Greg) Spencer, Janet (Kurt) Madden and Bill (Anita) Himburg; brother in law of Liz (Frank) Shoebel.
He was preceded in death by his parents: William and Lillian Himburg and by his nephew Ryan Madden, and beloved godson John Ivkov.
Friends may visit Clarkston Junior High School, 6595 Waldon Rd in Clarkston, this Sunday, October 17 from 3-6 p.m. A celebration service is at 4:30 p.m.
A scholarship fund is set up in Steve’s memory. Donations may be made to The Clarkston Foundation, for Coach Himburg Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 711, Clarkston, MI 48347.
Private inurnment at Lakeview Cemetery, Clarkston. Arrangements entrusted to Lewis E. Wint & Son Funeral Home in Clarkston.
PHOTO: Coach Steve Himburg has a moment with Rocco Spindler at Ford Field after the Wolves won the 2017 MHSAA Division 1 Football State Championship. Photo by Renee Weaver-Wright