Middleton AD Bob Joers fighting pancreatic cancer

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton athletic director Bob Joers informed his staff last week that he’s battling pancreatic cancer./File photo

The meeting was almost over, and the approximately 100 coaches in attendance were set to scurry to their next event.

Middleton athletic director Bob Joers — who runs the “all coaches” meetings three times every year — had covered all the nuts and bolts on Oct. 30. Then, when all the business involving sports had ended, Joers delivered a bombshell.

Joers informed his coaches that he has pancreatic cancer. Joers will begin an aggressive form of chemotherapy on Nov. 20.

“I’ve been at a loss for words this past week,” said Lauren Cabalka, Middleton’s girls swimming and diving coach. “It’s just heartbreaking how unfair life can be.” 

Tim Simon, an MHS football and basketball assistant coach and one of Joers’ closest friends, agreed with Cabalka.

“It was just a blow,” Simon said “He’s such a tremendous athletic director, but an even better person. I’m praying for him, everyone is praying for him.”

Joers tried lightening the mood, joking that this was his “drop the mic” moment. But Middleton’s coaches were devastated for Joers and his family, and immediately started thinking of ways they could support him.

“It was a bombshell,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “I think there were a number of us who knew he was having some health issues this fall, but you never suspect something of that magnitude from someone who has always seemed to have boundless energy and passion. 

“He’s always had our backs and now it’s time for us to have his. I think Bob will fight this with all the determination and passion he’s had for his job as A.D. and hopefully have the same level of success.”

Boys cross country coach Brian Finnel agreed.

“At the end he dropped that bombshell on us ... and we were just stunned,” Finnel said. “It was silent for a few moments and I remember Bob trying to lighten the mood a bit, but we were all just at a loss for words. Honestly, we were in shock and we’re all pulling for Bob and his family during this difficult time.”

Joers has been a staple of Middleton athletics for nearly a quarter century.

Joers was the Cardinals’ athletic director from 1995-2004, then left to begin his own business. In the summer of 2011, then-Middleton athletic director Luke Francois stepped down to become the Superintendent at Mineral Point High School and Joers took over the A.D. job once again.

Several Middleton coaches use the word “family” when talking about the Cardinals’ entire athletic department. And many credit Joers for helping create a tight bond between coaches and athletes throughout the building. 

“Bob has been a great leader of the athletic program here,” Kind said.” It’s a difficult and often thankless job. I think that Bob has always looked out for the overall good of the entire athletic and activities program, and he’s shown great loyalty and concern for each of us individually.”

Joers was named the Big Eight’s Conference’s athletic director of the year in 2019. His vision and steady hand have helped Middleton athletics rank among the state’s finest each year, while his passion for high school sports is virtually unmatched.

“Bob has been a rock for Middleton athletics,” Finnel said. “He is so supportive of all the coaches and the programs here at MHS. 

“I also think he’s a ninja, because Bob is just all over the place and all the time. I honestly don’t know how he does it He’s very committed to his position.”

Boys soccer coach Ben Kollasch agreed.

“Bob has been a rock for me as a coach and I hope we can be strong with him when he most needs the coaching family he has nurtured,” Kollasch said. “Bob may be reluctant to let the spotlight shine on him but he deserves it. He has shown his greatness in his perseverance and attention to detail that others never get to see. I’m pulling for him.”

Joers is scheduled to have chemotherapy every two weeks for the next six months. The goal is to shrink the tumor to the point where it’s operable. 

If things go well, Joers would undergo surgery next spring.

“Any time something like this hits close to home, you’re just devastated,” Simon said. “Bob has touched so many lives and his network is so strong. 

“I know a lot of coaches and a lot of people have stepped up and said, ‘Whatever we can we do, tell us.’ He has a lot of people pulling for him and I really hope that helps.”

 

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