Ridge was a teacher, coach and so much more
Longtime Owatonna High School teacher, coach, and Activities Director Gary Ridge passed away on Sept. 14 after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
Ridge died just two days before the OHS Athletic Hall of Fame induction, a program he helped launch in 1995. Ridge became a member of the hall in 2014 for his time as AD (1991-2001) and coaching track and football (1970-1991).
At Friday’s induction ceremony, current Activities Director Marc Achterkirch reflected on how Ridge was a mentor to him. He said Ridge drove him around Owatonna to familiarize him with the community when Acterkirch arrived as a teacher. Both were math teachers.
Jim Herzog was principal during Ridge’s time as AD. Herzog said he was saddened that Ridge wasn’t around to see the induction event, which included the first group of Teams of Distinction. Herzog indicated he was able to spend time with Ridge in his final days. Several speakers mentioned Ridge during their remarks.
Ridge started in Owatonna in 1970 as a junior high math teacher and junior high football and track coach. Ridge joined the varsity football staff in 1986.
Ridge became varsity girls track coach in 1978. OHS won the Big Nine three times in the subsequent years and were runner-ups three other times. The girls won the True Team section title in 1988 and 1991. The teams won region titles in 1980 and 1981. The Indians were second at state in 1978.
After being named Activities Director in 1991, Ridge oversaw the addition of girls’ hockey, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and adaptive floor hockey to the Owatonna sport line-up. OHS teams won 37 Big Nine titles in 11 sports during his tenure. Thirty-one teams advanced to state, with eight top three finishes including a state title. Owatonna won the unofficial Big Nine All-Sports title three times in the 1990s.
Ridge was awarded the Region 1AA Athletic Director of the Year honor in 2000 and 2001. After retiring he continued to work track and cross country meets in addition to basketball and volleyball games and on the sidelines for football. He helped organize the Owatonna Rotary STRIVE Run during the Steele County Fair for several years. An avid runner, Ridge ran the Twin Cities Marathon twice.
A three-sport athlete at Worthington, Ridge is a charter member of that school’s hall of fame. He attended Macalaster College. He married Glenda in 1965 and served in Vietnam in the Army in 1969 and 1970.
Funeral services are planned for Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna. A complete obituary can be found on Page A13.