Barry William Deist, born January 28, 1944, in Alton, passed away Thursday, October 1, 2020, at his home in Staunton. He was 76 years old.
Barry spent his primary school days growing up in Bethalto and Alhambra, before moving with his family to the beautiful orchard just behind the football field of Staunton Community High School. After finishing middle school at Zion Lutheran where he made many life-long friends, Barry began his impressively athletic high school career by hurdling the fence between his yard and the track each day, then sprinting to class just in time for first-hour English. In the classroom, his intellect, wit, and work ethic impressed many young instructors who later became esteemed teaching colleagues and friends.
Outside the classroom, Barry’s leadership and athletic prowess could not be denied. He was a four-sport athlete, earning 15 of 16 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. In his four years at Staunton High School, Barry was a two-time state qualifier in track, a first-team all-state running back, and received offers to play both college football and minor league baseball. In addition to his many athletic achievements, Barry also served as Class President for several years and was an active member of Student Council, Vespers, Pep Club, “S” Club, Homecoming Court, and several class plays.
Upon his high school graduation in 1962, Barry moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to play football for the Fighting Illini. An unfortunate knee injury during practice one day courtesy of eight-time Pro-Bowler Dick Butkus sidelined his career for a short term, but as would be his custom, Barry came back stronger than ever. He soon transferred to Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman) where he played both football and baseball and had the great good fortune of spotting his future bride across the crowded room of Pagliai’s Pizza in Kirksville, Missouri. The young couple married on July 1, 1967, and Barry stayed on in Kirksville to graduate with his Master’s degree in 1968.
After graduation, Barry moved back to Staunton and Bunker Hill Road to teach and coach for his beloved alma mater. “Mr. Deist” taught high school biology, but it was his anatomy and physiology class that was his favorite. Whether it was a snake on the loose in the hallway or the attempted dissection of a less-than-dead tarantula, Barry kept the kids guessing and fainting with that infectious laugh of his and a gleam in those bright blue eyes. It was a particular joy to teach all three of his own children.
On the athletic field or diamond, “Coach Deist” was a maker of men. If you were lucky enough to play for Barry and his Bulldogs, you might have received a clipboard to the helmet from time to time, or one of his patented “ring shots,” but more than that, you got to see first-hand what it meant to be part of a team, to put others first, to take responsibility for your actions. Barry gave so much more to his student-athletes and community than his time and technical expertise. In 2018, the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association inducted Barry into the IHSFCA Hall of Fame and officially acknowledged what Bulldog Nation already knew: Coach Deist was one of the best.
After 32 years of teaching and coaching, Barry retired from Staunton High School in the spring of 2001 and jumped at the opportunity to pursue other interests. He served as a member of the Staunton City Council (Alderman, Ward 4) and carved out time for his many hobbies. An avid golfer with two holes-in-one, he enjoyed a Thursday night league at Timber Lakes, and more recently the Senior Scramble at Oak Brook. In his spare time, he refinished furniture, read voraciously, and watched Cardinal baseball, but it was time with his family he enjoyed the most. A dedicated father and grandfather, Barry could often be found crossing the state to catch a football game, volleyball match, or grade school Christmas concert. No distance was too far for a congratulatory pat on the back or industrial-strength bear hug.
Barry was a devout Christian and a long-time member of Zion Lutheran Church in Staunton. In recent years, he served the Church in an official capacity as a devoted School Board member, parish Elder, and President of the Congregation. In an unofficial capacity, you could often find Barry mowing the parish lawn, shoveling the walk, or decorating for the holidays. He did these things quietly, without fuss… a testament to the hard work and generosity modeled by his own parents over the years. Indeed, if you ever found yourself with a tank unexpectedly filled, or a bill unexpectedly paid, chances are good, Barry was there.
In 2003, Barry designed and built his dream house in that same beautiful orchard behind the football field. He planted trees and decorative grasses. He grew a huge vegetable garden and a bright butterfly garden just outside the kitchen window. As with everything he did, he took extraordinary pride in each detail, mowing his lawn in a perfect diagonal, always in time for game day. If you look carefully, you might just see him there, in his favorite spot, leaning against the fence and laughing with friends under the Friday night lights.
He will be greatly missed.
Barry was preceded in death by his parents, Melvin and Verna (Kruse) Deist of Staunton, and his sister, Joyce (Jim) Opel, of Protem, MO.
He is survived by his college sweetheart and loving wife of 53 years, Nancy (Ohlerich) Deist of Staunton; three children, Greg (Fabiana) Deist of Lanesville, IN, Phil (Lynne Miller) Deist of Glen Carbon, and Barbara (Ken) Obert of Springfield; five beloved grandchildren (his fishing, biking, and golf-ball-wrangling buddies), Emma Deist, Aidan Deist, Kaylee Obert, Eleanor Obert, and Gabrielle Obert; and an extended network of family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorials should be made to the Staunton Education Foundation, P.O. Box 192, Staunton; Zion Lutheran Church, 311 South Elm Street, Staunton; or the Truman State General Scholarship Endowment Fund, 100 E. Normal Avenue, Kirksville, MO 63501.
A private funeral service will be held at Zion Lutheran Church with Reverend Kelly Mitteis officiating. Interment at Memorial Park Cemetery, Staunton. The family will host a celebration of life in Barry’s honor at a later date. Williamson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.