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Legendary Juanita High School football coach dies at 77

Chuck Tarbox - Chuck Tarbox memorial page
Chuck Tarbox
— image credit: Chuck Tarbox memorial page

Former Juanita High School football coach Chuck Tarbox died Thursday in Surprise, Ariz. at the age of 77. He finished his career with 207 victories and is a member of the Washington State Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

His biggest victory during his decade at Juanita High School may have been his first, as he helped break a 47-game losing streak for the Rebels.

But Tarbox's impact was felt with his player's lives, as well as on the scoreboard.

"Coach was one of the people in life whose affect is etched into your being and his lessons you carry with you forever," wrote Erv Kuebler on the memorial page.

The Rebels won back-to-back league titles in 1984 and 1985 under Tarbox. The Mercer Island High School football team became a rival of Juanita under Tarbox, as both schools battled it out during the 1980s.

"We had some good bouts with them," former Mercer Island High School football coach Dick Nicholl said. "I remember playing them and they weren't very good. Then he arrived and their uniforms looked sharp and he had them doing calisthenics. He really turned that program around.

"It was a combination of talent and his coaching. I really respected what he did in such a short period of time."

Tony Uskurs tried to articulate the impact that Tarbox had on the Juanita football program in his comments on the memorial page: "The Don James of Rebel football. Was a privilege to attend Juanita from 1982-1985 and be part of the historic run."

But Tarbox had an impact anywhere he went, especially in the classroom as a physical education teacher.

"I was in the class of 1980 from Nathan Hale," wrote Judy Goodheart Perry to his family on the memorial page. "He wasn't my coach, he was my math teacher for a very short while. I got sick and missed a lot of school. Once recovered, Mr. Tarbox and Mr. Lundberg tried to talk sense into me as I used my being sick as an excuse to play around. I did take their words to heart and did graduate with my class. I respected your dad and how much he did care for each of us. I wish I would have shown it more at the time! I have you and your family in my prayers!"

During his four-decade career Tarbox also coached at Cleveland High School in Seattle (1966-67), Nathan Hale (1968-79) and Eastside Catholic (1992-99).

"You have to have a certain amount of success and coach for the right reasons," said Nicholl about Tarbox's membership in the coaches association hall of fame. "Kids change and you have to be able to change too."

Tarbox was inducted into the hall of fame in 1991. He had left for retirement in Arizona before current head coach Shaun Tarantola arrived at Juanita High School.

"I have never actually met coach Tarbox but can tell you he is still highly respected in the Juanita community," Tarantola said. "I hear many stories about how he built the program here in the 1980s and about the impact he made on the community."

It is Tarbox's players, students and coaches who remember him best.

“Every time I stood by him on the field he just gave me the confidence that we would win no matter the situation,” former player Bob Waskom wrote on the memorial page.

His family set up the memorial page for those in Washington state to remember the coach.

His daughter Mona wrote: "From my earliest memory, Dad would stay up all night with his assistant coaches pouring over films (8 mm in the early days!) and picking plays apart ... here's what we did wrong, here's what we'll do next time. Winning was both an art and a science to him and he put all of his energy into it. He always felt he owed it to his players first and foremost, to lead them to win."

Mona states that her father loved to win, he was gracious when he and his team lost and always congratulatory and respectful to the winning team and coach.

"As his daughter, I have to tell you, he cut no slack. Like many of you, he coached me to expect nothing less than excellence in my performance, my life and my expectations of myself.

"It's very painful now, trying to wrap my head around losing that 6-foot, 3-inch pillar of motivation and charisma. Thank you for sharing your stories and helping my family and me through this very sad time."

There will be a memorial in the Seattle area but details have not been announced.

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