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Remembering Mr. D

Xs and Arrows

It has been like a recurring theme of unfortunate events over the last year or so, too many times I have had to say goodbye to those who came before me. Those who helped blaze a trail in this community and lay the foundation for local athletics.

Most recently, it was the news of the passing of Mr. Richard Dieterle, I use the "Mr." because for five years of my junior high and high school education he was "Mr. D." First serving as my junior high principal at Jacobsen in the seventh grade before he made the switch to Tehachapi High where he served as my vice principal and for many of us, athletic booster, spirit leader and chops buster. Believe me, if you did not make a play on Friday night, Mr. D was the first to let you hear about it on Monday morning.

During our 20-year reunion a friend shared a video of the homecoming pep rally that involved Mr. Dieterle wearing a sports coat, sunglasses and walking like he was a GQ model for the entire student body to see. The noise or "pop" as some arenas call it when he walked out was deafening. He had that ability to do the unexpected, while also doing his real job of working with students in an administrative role.

It was no wonder he interacted with athletes so well, considering he was one of the best during his time in a variety of sports. He just seemed to know how to talk to those of us competing, he also held us to a higher standard. I would love to say I never let him down, but there were a few times I did not live up to my own expectations let alone those he placed on me. My freshmen year I was asked a few hours before a wrestling match to fill in for another guy on the team who had fallen ill. So, my mom rushed my wrestling singlet to the THS office. When I went to pick it up Mr. D said in his loud, deep and memorable voice, "I don't want you looking at the ceiling of Ridgecrest's gym tonight." I wish I had a memorable story to share about pulling off an epic victory, but as a struggling freshman grappler new to the sport, I in fact stared at the ceiling of that gym in Ridgecrest in fairly short order.

The following year I had my only disciplinary engagement with him after a teammate and I were being disruptive in class. After being called into his office, he sat us both down and explained he saw us as future campus leaders and he expected better from the two of us moving forward. There was not any discipline handed out, more of a commitment to do better in the future. For the most part we kept that commitment – that was the way of Mr. D., find the best in each kid and exploit that for growth.

I had the pleasure to interact with him on several occasions as an adult in this community. He loved to come up to the press box on Friday nights to give our game operations crew a hard time, share a hearty handshake and talk football for a few minutes. There is no doubt given his history that he just wanted to be close to the game. Believe me, I know the feeling all too well. Love and passion do not end when the last whistle blows or you sign the retirement documents. He was always welcome, and the same goes for his lasting spirit.

We also spoke at community events as he was active in the Tehachapi Visitor Center and Heritage League Museum. We would talk football and the conversation always ended with an affirmation from him that he was proud of my work, my path and contribution to the community. I wish I would have echoed that sentiment back his direction once more before his passing.

I recently came across the founding incorporating documents for the Tehachapi Warrior Booster Club, in which he helped establish in 1985. Without his signature and commitment, the organization that has raised thousands of dollars for our local teams would not be here today. He was an active member until his passing and has asked in lieu of flowers that gifts be given in his name to the Warrior Boosters. He was in fact a Warrior until the very end.

Death is a part of life, it is tragic and unwanted but the completion of a journey, the final stroke of a life's work. I speak for the thousands of young people that he impacted when I say, Mr. D's journey was one for the books, ironic since the cover of my senior yearbook is Mr. D riding a beach cruiser during the homecoming parade with a child's grin on his face as he interacted with the students he loved.

Just like the other community giants that have gone before him, we will miss Mr. D. terribly, but I hope his successor, whether it be in the educational system or someone with a kindred community volunteer spirit is out there. And while you cannot replace him, you can stand on his shoulders in hopes of continuing that legacy that makes Tehachapi special and people like Mr. Richard Dieterle unforgettable.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the Vice President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at [email protected].