Sid Cichy, who coached Shanley High School?s football teams to record-breaking championships, died Saturday in Fargo from complications related to Alzheimers disease. He was 83.
Cichy was born Sidney Francis Cichy on March 23, 1922, to August Cichy and Alphonsine Picotte. Their only child, he grew up in Kent, Minnesota, where he learned to love dogs, hunting, and sports?various loves he maintained throughout his entire active life. He went to high school in Breckenridge, MN, and during his senior year played forward on the school?s basketball team, which went on to win the state championship in 1940. On a celebratory train ride back to Kent from that win, he met his future wife, Elaine Knutson.
Cichy was enrolled in North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo (now NDSU) when World War II broke out. He immediately enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Officer Candidate School, where he was trained to be a test and fighter pilot. He served from 1942 through 1946, flying Hellcats and Corsairs. On January 17, 1944, he married Elaine Knutson. After the war they returned to Fargo and NDAC, where he earned degrees in history and education and played football, eventually being named all-conference tackle in 1947.
While finishing his degrees, he took a job at Shanley (then Sacred Heart Academy) as history teacher and coach of track, basketball, and football. Cichy eventually also served Shanley as athletic director and assistant principal.
His connection with the school became legendary, in great part for his record as a football coach: 231 wins, 38 losses, and 3 ties over thirty years. For a time, his teams held the nation?s longest winning streak?59 games. Throughout his career as a football coach, from 1948 to 1977, he led generations of young Shanley men to a total of 11 undefeated seasons and 16 state titles.
The formal awards he received were many. Among them, in 1950, Cichy was named Associated Press Coach of the Year. In 1961, he was given the Freedom Foundation Award for excellence in teaching. In 1969, he was named Fargo?s Man of the Year. In 1973, he was inducted into North Dakota State University?s Athletic Hall of Fame; in 1977 into the National Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1975, he was named National High School Coach of the Year; and in 1984 Cichy was inducted into the National High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. The Christian Brothers, who ran Shanley during the 60’s and 70’s, awarded Cichy with an honorary membership to their order because of his dedication and example to Christian youth.
A much-respected motivational speaker, Cichy was a popular presence at football and athletic award banquets across the state. In 2002 he was inducted into the North Dakota Athletic Hall of Fame in Minot. This event marked the last public speech he ever gave.
Cichy was known for his respect for his teams? opponents; and he was also famous for his colorful pep talks during halftime. He regularly reminded his players that they didn?t want to go out onto the field ?looking like Little Red Riding Hood with jam all over her face,? and they certainly didn?t want ?to wait around until the last dog was hung.? The meaning wasn?t always literally clear. But it was clear. And his teams won.
Cichy coached all five of his sons through high school football, and after his youngest graduated, Cichy retired from Shanley. He went on to become personnel director of GPK Products in Fargo and to serve on Fargo?s City Commission for two terms. He worked for the city with his characteristic integrity and determination and was instrumental in the redesign and renovation of Fargo?s Hector Airport. He tried to retire from public life several times, but his vegetable garden in the summer and Thiesen?s duck slough in the fall were not quite enough to keep him as busy as he liked. So he continued to work at GPK well past his diagnosis of Alzheimers. Even as his mind succumbed to the fog of the disease, and up until just days before he died, he alerted to any mention of his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his dogs, hunting, and football.
Cichy is survived by his wife, Elaine, and nine children: Michael Cichy (Ann), Fargo; Catherine McLaughlin (Warren) Excelsior, MN; Margaret Cichy, Fargo; Joseph Cichy, Bismarck; Mary Grady (Thomas), Petaluma, CA, and South Bend, IN; Nick Cichy (Vickie), Grand Forks; Greg Cichy (Marlene), Sun Prairie, WI; Elizabeth Almstrom (Hakan), Minnetonka, MN; and Stephen Cichy (Lisa), Somerset, WI; and by 15 grandchildren.
At his death, the world became a smaller place.
The funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Spirit Church on Friday, January 13, at 2 p.m. Prayer services will be held at Holy Spirit at 7:30 Thursday evening; with viewing beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, and from noon until 2 p.m. on Friday.
Memorials should be sent to the Presentation Sisters of Fargo, to Hospice of the Red River Valley or to Sid Cichy Scholarship Fund at Shanley High School.