ROCHELLE — John Gleissner drove down Purple Pass and out of the Rochelle Township High School campus complex for the last time as a Hub employee on June 17.
“Harley,” as he is widely known, was the very first employee to step foot on the 2004 Flagg Road campus more than 17 years ago.
During his retirement luncheon, Harley explained that he used to get to work at the RTHS 1921 campus and exchange his bike for a pickup truck to drive out to Flagg Road, down the path that had been cut through a farm field to unlock the construction gate, “and then turn on every heat source I could find once inside.”
When Harley began, the south and west-facing window/walls that make up the RTHS commons had not been installed.
“We were still under construction when I was hired as the third-shift security guard and it was colder than heck!” Gleissner said.
Harley preferred to work the night shift. That left days and evenings open for his family and for coaching. Gleissner coached youth sports for more than 50 years. He’s coached everything from little league and senior league to junior tackle football to high school baseball and girls basketball.
Gleissner was able to connect with athletes of all ages as he taught them how to compete the right way, former player and School Superintendent Jason Harper said.
“I wanted to teach my daughter Jamie to play softball, but I couldn’t master the pitch, so we got a book,” Gleissner said. “Jamie would mirror the photos stopping at every point around the rotation.”
“We appreciate everything you have done for RTHS students over the years,” Harper said. “We know Rochelle is a better community due to your impact both in and out of the school. All of RTHS wishes you the best of luck.”
Harley coached Jamie Sanderson (RTHS 2007) as a freshman in 2003 and he made such an impression that she nominated him for the MTV Forgotten Heroes Contest. An MTV crew followed him around for a day and it ran the footage for about two weeks.
He told staff on June 17 a cousin he hadn’t seen in a couple of decades reached out.
“She called and said, ‘John, I just watched you on MTV,” Gleissner said.
Gleissner is heading to Alaska to meet his young grandson. His daughter and her husband teach school on a remote Native American reservation during the school year.
“But now that school is out, they’ll go north to their boat,” Gleissner said. “They work summers as professional fishermen, selling their catch to the canning industry.”
The Gleissners’ daughter, Carrie, is in southern Illinois and son, Steven, is in North Carolina. “So,” he said, “I see other road trips in my future.”
Once on MTV, Coach John Gleissner will forever remain a Rochelle Hub MVP.