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Former standout Sunnyside athlete, Ron Linehan, dies of Alzheimer's

Many people in Sunnyside remember the name, Ron Linehan. Some people connect the name to a rough and tumble Sunnyside High School football player, others remember the name from Linehan's time playing football at the University of Idaho, others remember nothing more than the Sunnyside man's competitive nature and natural drive. But everyone who remembers Linehan can agree on one thing - he was a good man.

Linehan died last Friday, Sept. 23, at the age of 55. Linehan's sister, Patti Hart of Sunnyside, said he died of Alzheimer's disease, something that had been creeping up on him for the past five years. Hart said doctors believe her brother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at such a young age due to head injuries he received early on in his football career. She noted that her brother suffered from several concussions when he was younger.

Linehan started his football career in Sunnyside, playing football for the Sunnyside High School Grizzlies. Linehan graduated in 1968. Hart said her brother then went on to play football at the University of Idaho in Moscow. After graduating from college, Linehan moved to Beaverton, Ore., where he taught history and P.E. at Sunset High School and coached football from 1977 to 1993. He then took a job as the head football coach and P.E. teacher at Westview High School in Hillsboro from 1994 to 2000. In 2001, he retired, but remained involved with the football program at Banks High School for two years.

"Football was a big part of his life, really," Hart said of her brother. "He was a very successful high school coach."

Rick Linehan, Linehan's brother who lives in Benton City, said his brother was always a fierce competitor.

"He kind of set the bar for the rest of us," Rick Linehan said of his brother.

Rick Linehan said although his brother was very competitive when it came to football, that wasn't the only sport he excelled in. He said his brother was also a great swimmer, diver and enjoyed playing basketball.

"He played basketball similar to the way he played football," Rick Linehan said.

He added that his brother has a great legacy, pointing to all of the people he has played with, coached with and coached over the years.

Linehan's legacy also continues in his three sons, whom he shares with his wife, Elizabeth. Joshua Linehan is currently playing football at Oregon State University and Cole Linehan is currently playing football at the University of Oregon.

Jack Middleton of Sunnyside said Linehan always had a strong, competitive spirit, something he saw back when the future football coach was in sixth grade. Middleton, who was his sixth grade teacher in the early 1960s, said Linehan was always driven.

"Even at that early age and early date you could see that desire in that young man to be a future Grizzly," Middleton said. "He just had that sort of drive."

A memorial service will be held for Linehan at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Kelly Stadium at Banks High School in Banks, Ore. The family suggests donations be placed in Linehan's name to The Alzheimer's Association in care of the Ron Linehan Memorial Fund, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601.

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