Influential Janesville teacher dies unexpectedly

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Friday, November 20, 2009
— Thousands of Janesville students will remember Larry Cain as their gym teacher at Van Buren School.

Thousands more who don’t know him have benefited from Cain’s heartfelt dedication to the cause of lifelong physical fitness for all.

Cain died unexpectedly Thursday at Mercy Hospital, a day after undergoing what was expected to be a minor medical procedure, acquaintances said. He was 58.

Janesville students who learned how to monitor their heart rates or learned about climbing walls or in-line skating in gym class owe thanks to Cain, who was at the forefront of a movement to change the way physical education is taught, said longtime colleague Carol Tyriver.

Tyriver said she talked with colleagues about Cain on Thursday

“We want him to be remembered as a man who was passionate about physical activity, felt strongly and had a very strong mission in life, and that mission was to have healthy, strong kids, and he did what he could to make that happen,” Tyriver said. “He was very instrumental, and our elementary physical education program is one of strongest in state. We have Larry to thank for that.”

District Superintendent Karen Schulte said she recently observed Cain teach.

“He was just a master, working with those kids. They just respected him,” Schulte said.

Schulte was one of the administrators who went to Van Buren to support staff and students Thursday.

“Kids and staff alike are taking the news very hard,” she said.

The school district sent counselors and social workers to Van Buren for anyone who needed them, said district spokeswoman Sheryl Miller.

Administrators from around the district filled in for teachers who needed time to adjust to the news.

Staff members will continue to be available for anyone who needs them today, Miller said.

“I just think he was a first-class guy, no matter what he was doing, who he was interacting with in the field of education or his personal life. He was a wonderful man with a big heart, and he will be dearly missed,” Schulte said.

Former student Stephanie Splinter, 20, said kids loved gym class with Cain.

“He always made our classes really fun, and he did really care about us, and that’s why I think we remember him,” Splinter said.

“Larry was one of our best loved and most respected teachers,” said Van Buren Principal Kori Settersten.

“He was a mentor and friend to the Van Buren staff and to me personally,” Settersten said. “He made a difference in countless lives, and I can’t begin to express how much were going to miss him.”

“He was very innovative, very forward thinking, very much an advocate for quality physical education,” Tyriver said.

Cain was part of a team that brought a $500,000 grant to the school district in 2003. The money was part of an effort to revamp the phy ed curriculum by emphasizing physical activities that benefit children throughout their lives.

The money bought in-line skates, climbing walls, pedometers, heart-rate monitors, snowshoes, exercise machines and other equipment.

Cain was the instructional manager for the district’s elementary gym teachers and was in charge of organizing the annual fourth- and fifth-grade Janesville track meets for many years.

Cain was active with his professional association, the Wisconsin Association for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance. He served as its president. The association honored him with a number of awards, including teacher of the year at both the state and Midwest levels, Tyriver said.

Cain also was active in his union most recently serving as vice president and member of the contract-bargaining team for the Janesville Education Association.

Survivors include his wife, Karen, who is the Rock County health officer, and their son, Brian, who was married this summer.

A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Monday at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Janesville. The visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the church.

Schneider, Apfel, Schneider & Schneider Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Last updated: 11:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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