Eugene "Boots" Deiss, 89
Eugene "Boots" Deiss, a long time resident of Douglas, Ariz., left this world on Feb. 12, after a brief illness. He was in the company of his beloved wife of 63 years, Kathryn "Kitty" Deiss, and began his new journey with the same class and dignity that he displayed all 89 years of his life.
Eugene was born on June 18, 1924, in the Wisconsin farming village of Oak Knoll, and grew up in nearby River Falls. The second son of David and Cecelia Deiss, he was raised with his older brother Gerald and younger brother Wayne. As a child of the Depression Era, Boots, as he was nicknamed at a very young age, was raised with a learned appreciation of what hard work would provide, and with a love of hunting, fishing and everything sports. He loved to tell his stories of the hardships of the times, but also of all the creative ways in which the family got by. Fishing, hunting and trapping were not only ways of having fun, "It put food on the table, and Ma was ALWAYS happy to have it!" He was a member of a very large extended family, having 81 first cousins. He excelled in a variety of sports during high school, and captained the basketball team his senior year.
Graduating high school in 1942, Boots enlisted in the Army during World War II, and served in the Alaska Theater from 1943-46. He was very proud of his Army career, and to be a member of what was later termed the 'Greatest Generation'. He returned to River Falls after his discharge, and began his college career at River Falls State Teachers College in his hometown.
During his college career, Boots earned four varsity letters in both basketball and golf. He was a four year starting member of the basketball team that won four consecutive Conference and State Championships, and earned 3 trips to the NAIA National Championship tournament. During his senior year, Boots was in the top 10 of the nation overall for free throw percentage, making over 90% of his attempts. He was also the captain and #1 player of the school's golf team for four years, winning multiple matches and tournaments in the midwest. He also won his city's Golf Championship in 1946-47. He later returned to win the local Coach's Clinic multiple times.
It was during this time that Boot's met the lady that would later become his wife of over 63 years, Kathryn "Kitty" Nelson. After his graduation with a Bachelor's Degree in 1950, the two were married that Aug. 18. They then left their own wedding reception with everything they owned packed into their 1940 Buick bound for Douglas, Ariz., where Boots had a new teaching job. "They started me at $2700 a year, and that was one of the nation's highest salaries!" he remembered. Their love affair with Douglas and Arizona began, and never ended.
His teaching career began at the Douglas Junior High in 1950, and in 1960, he moved to Douglas High School. He taught general sciences from 1950-67, and in 1968, founded and began teaching the new Earth Science curriculum at the high school, which he taught until his retirement in 1983. He was School Science Dept. Chairman from 1962-83.
Besides teaching, his initial love was coaching. He was freshman and junior varsity basketball coach from 1951-54, and also coached JV football in 1954-55. In 1953, he started the Douglas High varsity golf program, and coached until 1960. He later returned as head golf coach from 1973-78.
In addition to his coaching career, he was the varsity football game public address announcer from 1953-78. For years folks would come to him and let him know that they had loved his "great voice" during these games for all of those years. He also announced and scored baseball games from 1953-73, and was the timer for all basketball games from 1953-81. He LOVED to watch the Bulldogs play and to be involved with all the teams as the years went by.
After 33 years of teaching, Boots retired in 1983, eventually moving with Kitty to their beloved cabin/home in Paradise, near Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains, which he and his family had built themselves. He had a great love for woodworking and furniture restoration, and built workshops at every home he ever had. Boots and Kitty returned to Douglas in 1999, and he could be seen metal detecting around town for years afterwards. He also loved photography, travel, but mostly visiting friends, and always teaching. He continued to pass on knowledge and stories to his children, grandchildren and whoever would listen until the end of his life. He also loved it when any of the thousands of former students would come to him and let him know how much they had loved his teaching and his caring. To Boots, this was the ultimate reward! He was also an active member of the Immaculate Conception, and later St. Luke's Catholic parishes his entire life in Douglas, and loved his faith.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 63 years, Kitty; his daughter Jackie; and his son Andy and wife Margie; his grandchildren Jennifer, Jill, Aniz, and Aleli; as well as his great-grandchildren Kiana, Mikayla, Janai, and Charlie. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and both brothers.
A Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Tenth St, and C Avenue). This will be followed by a "Celebration of Life" at the nearby B.P.O.E. Elks Lodge #955. The family would like to invite all that would wish to celebrate and share memories of the life of Eugene "Boots" Deiss.
Boots' ashes will be interred at a later date during a private family gathering at the Paradise Cemetery, near Portal, Ariz., and his beloved cabin in the Chiricahua Mountains.
Dad, you taught us how to live life with pride, dignity and a sense of giving. And in your passing, you CONTINUE to teach us how to move on from this life with the same dignity and grace. We love you, and will miss you always!