Sports

RJ Krause, long-time coach and mentor, dies in his home

RJ Krause earned many honors in his lifetime. Krause died Tuesday at the age 64.
RJ Krause earned many honors in his lifetime. Krause died Tuesday at the age 64. News-Democrat file photo

Richard “RJ” Krause was an all star in East St. Louis, the hometown he never abandoned and home of the young athletes he lived to mentor.

Krause, 64, died at his home Tuesday night, his brother Russell Krause said.

A longtime elementary school teacher, Krause also coached East St. Louis youth for 49 years and, along with his brother, was an IHSA official for more than 30 years. He lived his entire life in East St. Louis until moving to Fairview Heights last October.

In 1979, Krause started the RJ Krause All-Star Sports Club to introduce youth to organized athletics. He sponsored and coached teams in a wide range of sports including basketball, softball, track and field, football, tennis and even cheerleading.

He also chaperoned his members on trips to various sporting and entertainment events. By his own estimation, they attended more than 250 St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, 138 University of Missouri football games, and took 30 field trips to Six Flags.

“We take the kids on educational and recreational field trips and we also stress the importance of getting a good education,” Krause said in a May 2013 interview with the Belleville News-Democrat. “We stress saying no to drugs, and staying away from gangs, violence and vandalism. We stress helping the elderly and those with special needs.

“We teach the kids about good sportsmanship and just to follow the golden rule.”

COLUMN: "You gotta believe": RJ Krause cast a lasting legacy in East St. Louis

Krause also told the BND he coached more than 6,200 games and worked with more than 5,000 youth everywhere from St. Phillip Catholic School to Nelson Mandela Elementary to East St. Louis Senior High, from which he graduated in 1968.

He cast a wide influence throughout East St. Louis, his brother said.

“Every once in a while we’d be out and a kid would come up to Richard and say ‘you took me to a Cardinals game,’ or ‘ you took me to the circus,’ or ‘I played ball for you’ and Richard always had a story to tell them,” said Russell Krause. “After they’d walk away, I’d ask Richard who that was and he’d say ‘I don’t know.’

“You could never tell it, but you know why he did that? He wanted that person to feel special. That’s what Richard was all about.”

“Mr. Krause was a constant for the city of East St. Louis. His work with our youth was more than being a coach. Though many of us referred to him as coach,” said Maurice Scott, a sports columnist with the St. Louis American. “He was a man who truly cared about the youth in East St. Louis and Washington Park. He worked tirelessly with them. The work he put in with the young people was rewarding in so many ways. The children loved and respected him. R.J. Krause taught them life skills and he mentored them in a positive way. Yes, he was a youth coach, but he did other things that far outweighed coaching.

“R.J. Krause was a good man. Those of us he touched know that we lost someone special. We will never have another R. J. Krause, but his All-Stars ( the children) will carry his legacy forward,” Scott said.

On April 27, 2013, R.J. and Russell Krause were inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as “Friends of Basketball.” It was among the many awards he received throughout the years including the Kimmel Community Service Award, the St. Vincent de Paul Society Volunteer of the Year Award, the St. Louis Sports Commission Award and the East St. Louis NAACP Stellar Life Achievement Award.

Krause also served time as a precinct committeeman, St. Clair County Board member, and township clerk. His life of service was read into the U.S. Congressional record by former Congressman Jerry Costello in November 2012.

Among those he coached were NFL tight end and Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr. and Major League Baseball player Homer Bush.

“He had a way about him that made those kids listen to him,” said Russell Krause. “To be honest, I don’t know what it was or how he managed them, but they looked up to Richard and trusted him.”

Krause taught in metro-east schools for 38 years, mostly in East St. Louis District 189, before his retirement in 2010.

He was sidelined from coaching and teaching by injuries he sustained in a fall at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium in 2005. It did damage to his knees and kidneys and landed him an extended stay at Willowcreek Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

“What I’d like people to know is how hard Richard worked to get out of there,” Russell Krause said. “You know what he did for activity and exercise? He went to every room to visit with people, some of them didn’t have any folks to come visit them ever. I came into some stuffed animals and he took them room to room to give to the people there. Some of them had tears in their eyes.”

Krause wrote sports articles for the East St. Louis Monitor newspaper without payment and was the broadcast voice of the East St. Louis Flyers on local cable television.

Russell Krause said his brother complained of weakness and pain throughout the weekend and visited the Memorial Hospital emergency room Sunday night. He said he was too ill to attend a baseball game between the Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies with members of his club Tuesday evening.

Repeated phone calls to check on him went unanswered. Russell Krause found his older brother dead in his bed later in the evening. Kassly Mortuary in Fairview Heights is handling funeral arrangements.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman can be reached at teschman@bnd.com or 239-2540. Follow him on Twitter: @tceschman.

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