Friends and family remember longtime coach, teacher Al Fetter

Photos Courtesy of Elizabeth Harris Al Fetter, left, coaching the Grand Junction High School track team in the early 1960s. In addition to track, Fetter coached football and wrestling as well as teaching biology. Fetter died at the age of 88 on Sept. 9.

Whether it was his children or his students or athletes, Al Fetter's focus was always centered on the kids.

The longtime coach, teacher and administrator left his mark on Grand Junction starting as an all-around athlete with Grand Junction High School.

He was an all-state football player in 1948 and won back-to-back wrestling titles in 1948-49.

He earned an athletic scholarship for those sports at Colorado A&M, now Colorado State University, but Fetter was never one to boast of his accomplishments.

"He rarely talked about himself, he was a very modest man, he didn't brag on himself at all," said Elizabeth Harris, his daughter.

"Shorty" Fetter as he was known to many, passed away Sept. 9 at the age of 88..

"People remembered him for being such a special man, he always treated people with respect and kindness," Harris said. "I still remember we'd go to the grocery store and people would always say 'Hi Mr. Fetter or Hi Coach.' "

Longtime friend George Ryan said Fetter's integrity and character were what made him special.

"He was just a great guy, it was all about kids," Ryan said. "Al was kind to me but he was kind to everybody, and a great family man."

Ryan and Fetter both served in the military and went to Korea at different times. Ryan said they shared many stories of their time in the service.

After the service and completing his education, Fetter returned to Grand Junction in 1960 and remained here for the rest of his life.

He helped coach football and wrestling at Grand Junction and also taught biology.

He moved into administration where he completed his 30 years in District 51 in 1986 when he retired.

His final 18 years were spent as the principal of Central High School, and after his retirement, the Central library/classroom building was dedicated as Alivs D. Fetter Hall.

Ryan, who coached alongside Fetter for a few football seasons and also served on the school board, chuckles when he recalls some stories about his friend.

He also recalled an unselfish, modest decision when Fetter took over as head track coach at Grand Junction.

Ryan said Mickey Dunn resigned as the head coach to move into the business world, but then wanted to return after a year away.

"Al didn't even have to think about it, he knew Mickey Dunn was a better track coach, so he stepped back," Ryan said.

Harris also shared a funny story from when her dad was in the service and was a radio operator in Korea.

"He had to carry the radio and his weapon, but he knew as a radio operator that they radio was so important, so he just carried the radio and not his weapon," she said. "People would say how brave that was for him to not carry his weapon but he didn't see it that way. He just said 'I was just dumb, not brave.' "

As a biology teacher, Fetter loved explaining things to kids and he was good at it.

"There was a former student of his that kept the notebook from his biology class because he was so thorough," Harris said.

Ryan said Fetter was about dedication and respect.

"He was a good administrator. His idea was to get good teachers and let them teach, and he had a good staff and they appreciated him," he said. "He also had respect in the classroom."

Harris said her dad impacted so many people over the years.

"His strength of character and his word was his bond. If he gave you his word he always kept it," she said.

A memorial reception for Fetter will be Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at Fetter Hall at Central High School.

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