ELGIN — Elgin High School social studies teacher and football coach Jeff Rysdam never forgot his students, family and friends.
The Elgin community is now making sure the legacy of Rysdam, who died March 8 at age 43, is forever remembered.
Work is being done to dramatically restore the school’s football field, which will later be dedicated and named in honor of Rysdam, according to Elgin Athletic Director Kevin Johnson.
Johnson said the project is fitting because Rysdam had long wanted to improve the field.
“This had been a dream of his for years,” he said.
The sod on the school’s football field has been removed and is now being replaced with new dirt, and grass seed will be planted. The sod was badly in need of replacement, said Kerry Eckstein, the Elgin School District’s maintenance and transportation supervisor. Eckstein said the field was uneven and filled with depressions.
A total of 800 cubic yards of dirt were brought in to replace the old sod. Ninety dump truck loads were needed to transport it in, Eckstein said.
Money for the project is coming from the Elgin School District and from community donations. Johnson said many have been inspired to donate because the project is in Rysdam’s memory.
“That has been a big draw,” he said.
Donations are coming in the form not only of money but also in-kind labor and contributions of materials, said Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif.
The superintendent said she hopes the grass will take root before the start of football season, which opens in a little less than two months. She said if the grass is not firmly established by then, it is possible the school will not have home football games this fall.
“We would not want the field to be torn up,” Greif said.
The school’s football field will be dedicated in Rysdam’s honor at a ceremony this fall. Greif said Rysdam’s legacy is deserving of a timeless salute.
“As educators we all hope that we can have a positive impact on kids. Jeff did, and we want him to be recognized for that,” she said.
Greif said Rysdam had a colorful and engaging personality that helped him connect with students.
“He was definitely a student favorite. Before school, at lunch and after school there were as many students in his classroom as space would allow,” she said.
Rysdam taught in the Elgin School District for about eight years and had been the high school’s head football coach since 2017 after serving as an assistant coach. He led Elgin to the state playoffs in 2018 and 2019. The Huskies’ 2018 appearance in the state playoffs was the first in a decade.
Rysdam graduated from Elgin High School in 1996 and later from Eastern Oregon University. He was named Educator of the Year by the Elgin Chamber of Commerce in 2018.