Posts Tagged ‘John Engstrom’

John Engstrom (back row, far left) finally enters the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

John Engstrom was the small town boy who hit the big time, and made the big time sit up and take notice.

The descendant of one of Whidbey’s pioneer families (his mom was an Engle), he rose from being a three-sport athlete and class valedictorian at Coupeville High School to thriving as one of Seattle’s most-respected newsmen.

Now, the late writer picks up one more honor, as we induct him into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

There are a fair share of former Wolf stars whose names I know, having run across them in my hunt for stats and stories, but whose tales remain largely foreign to me.

Thanks to Charlie Burrow, who nominated Engstrom for induction, I can finally put more of a face to the name.

One down, several hundred to go, and this reminder – if there is a Coupeville athlete from the past you want to see go into our digital Hall o’ Fame, don’t assume I know their full story.

Come forward, let me know. I need your help to fill in the blanks.

With Engstrom, who graduated from CHS in 1959, we have a man who excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and the classroom during his time as a Wolf.

His name popped up during my attempts to track down all the buckets scored by Coupeville hoops stars, as he pumped in points as a junior and senior.

Playing alongside “Big” Mike Criscuola, who may be the true #1 scorer in program history (the records of the time are spotty, at best), Engstrom was Coupeville’s #2 scorer during his senior season.

That was the year the Wolves shocked the pundits by finishing second in the six-team Northwest District tournament.

Reducing to a mere paragraph or two in the pre-tourney breakdown, Coupeville stunned Sultan and Darrington, before narrowly falling to a rampaging La Conner squad in the title game.

It would be 11 years before the Wolves would become the first Whidbey Island boys hoops team to win a district crown (the immortal 69-70 CHS team coached by Bob Barker), but Big Mike, Engstrom, Sandy Roberts, and Co. made believers of all the non-believers.

After graduation from Coupeville, Engstrom attended the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and a masters in education.

Spring-boarding from his time on the school paper, he went on to write for United Press International and have a long career as a sports writer, editor, travel writer, and TV critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

He and wife Susan Paynter, a revered P-I columnist, retired in 2009 when the newspaper brought its print edition to a close.

The couple lived on the Oregon coast afterwards, until Engstrom lost a battle with acute myeloid leukemia at age 72 in 2014.

On his passing, his newspaper colleagues hailed him as “a terrific supportive boss, just a wonderful human being.”

“A steadier, more laid-back person you could not find,” said another.

Among Engstrom’s many high points during his journalism career was covering the Seattle SuperSonics during their NBA championship season in 1979.

Whether camping in his fifth wheel trailer while documenting Eastern Washington wheat farmers, or living in Spain during Franco’s reign, the former Wolf was the ultimate journalist, one who impacted all of his co-workers in positive ways.

He was “a gentleman, a lovely man, a favorite colleague,” who was “all class and grace.”

And now, a bit late, but very well-deserved, he joins our lil’ digital Hall of Fame.

After this, when you look up at the top of the blog, go peek under the Legends tab, and you’ll find Engstrom camped out where he’s always belonged.

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