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STRASBURG -- "She was a terrific person, a Christian woman, that found a way to show leadership to us and yet have fun," said Stewardson-Strasburg graduate Linda Warner of the first coach in Stew-Stras volleyball history, Jarielle Harner Winkleman.

Winkleman died Feb. 16 at the age of 65 and a visitation is to be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Springfield's West Side Christian Church. A celebration of her life is to follow at 1 p.m.

Warner was one of many who played under Winkleman, then Harner, who coached from the 1974-75 school year through 1987-88 posting a 349-49 (.877) record, including five district championships, six regional titles, seven sectional titles and five state appearances. Her 1978 and 79 teams finished third in Class A under the two-class system as well as two Class A runner-up finishes in 1984 and 1985. The 1986 team won the school's only state title, going 33-0. 

"She remained a friend, through the years," said Warner, who coached girls' basketball at Arthur from 1989-90 through 1993-94. "She had come to a couple of my third through sixth grade (Trinity Lutheran) basketball games in the Springfield area. "In fact it was about this time last year she came to watch the kids play. She was always there and very supportive. If you needed someone to talk to she was just a phone call away."

Winkleman graduated from Brownstown and Greenville College, where she was inducted into their athletic hall of fame. She earned her masters at Eastern Illinois, which was the site of the state volleyball tournament in 1975. The state tournament was at ISU's Horton Field House from 1976-80. From 1981 through 1989, it was held at Springfield or Charleston until moving to Illinois State University in 1990. She was the Illinois volleyball Coach of the Year in 1986. 

After leaving Stew-Stras, Winkleman taught science at Washington Middle School for 19 years before retiring in 2007. 

"She faced this illness with a bravery," said Warner, who also coached Stewardson-Strasburg girls' basketball for four years. 

Winkleman never had a losing season going 11-2 in the 1974 and winning 20 games or more in 11 seasons, including at least 30 wins in five seasons. 

"One of the things is that she started in coaching when the girls' were just getting started," said Warner, who played on the 1978 and 1979 teams. "We probably didn't realize it as players what she was going through as a coach with everything like the Title IX. As kids we didn't know the adversity she went through probably getting sports equipment. I know we practiced with rubber playground balls and had just a few volleyballs that we used in games. We know that all now. For all of those things she was going through just to make sports good for us is something I am extremely thankful for."

As for practices Warner said, "They were all business and hard work. I was a middle hitter/blocker and spent some time after practice hitting. It wasn't just about the time you put into practice, but after practice. She was putting in the time to make me better."

Warner knows when the volleyball program first started the players had basketball jerseys over white t-shirts. Warner got uniforms when she was in high school. 

Another former player under Winkleman was former all-stater Laura Bush, who was on the 1984-86 teams and went on to play at Illinois where she was on a Final Four team in 1987 and 1988, was an assistant coach at Michigan State in 1995 for a Final Four team and Minnesota in 2009. Bush is currently an associate head coach for the Golden Gophers. 

As for state Warner said, "It was just that terrific experience of going to state. It is an experience that if you can achieve it, you get treated like royalty there. They had refreshments in the locker room (for example) and that was something we had never seen before."

Warner said some of her family as well as some younger and some older Stew-Stras volleyball players are to attend the celebration of life.

"Even though you might not see that person or talk to that person very often the special bond between a player and a coach turned into friendship over the years," said Warner. 

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Sports writer

Mike Monahan covers area sports for the JG-TC.

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