His handprints are all over three football stadiums in the Northwest corner of the metro area, and his impact has touched thousands.
But there was never any questioning where Rich Gladen’s heart truly ever was, even if later in his career as an athletic administrator he oversaw all three high school athletic departments – Osseo, Park Center and Maple Grove – in a district he helped shape.
He lived in Dayton, and was in charge of the athletic departments in all three buildings, but his blood undoubtedly flowed orange and black.
“The man truly loved Osseo sports,” said current Osseo activities director Ray Kirch. “His kids went through the school, and that kind of forms a bond with a certain school. I just know how much he loved spending time watching sports at Osseo.”
Sadly, that time has come to an end.
Gladen passed away last week, succumbing to a second battle with cancer Oct. 2 just two weeks after he turned 75.
Within 48 hours, almost as if the schedule makers had the aid of some sort of higher power, Osseo and Park Center played in a football game inside PC’s Pride Stadium, which he helped resurrect at time in which all three district schools shared Osseo’s Carl Tonn Stadium.
For those that knew him best, that he wasn’t there to witness this year’s meeting between the two district rivals was a somber reminder of the vacancy he left behind after an incredibly successful three-decade stay as a district employee.
“Rich loved these nights,” said longtime friend and co-worker Ray Dahloff, who shared an office with Gladen for eight years when Gladen worked as the district athletic administrator and Dahloff as the Osseo High School athletic director. “He was one of those guys that loved to watch all the sporting events, but there was always something about football on Friday nights that was just special. He rarely missed a game, and probably never when Osseo played Park Center or Maple Grove.”
Fittingly, Gladen will have one last stay inside the Osseo High School gym. His memorial service is set for noon Friday, Oct. 11, at the school, with visitation beginning at 11 a.m.
Gladen retired in 2003. He had already beaten cancer once in life after surviving a bout with stomach cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 1974.
The cancer returned in 2008, and he was afflicted with a blood marrow disease in August of this year. A transplant wasn’t an option at his age, so he underwent blood transfusions bi-weekly.
“He had been pretty weak, but we got him out to a couple of football games recently, and I think that strengthened him as much as any therapy he was getting,” said Kirch. “And there was a cook-out for him at the ice arena for his birthday. It was a beautiful, sunny day and he just relished that time with some of the people he forged friendships with over the years…..He’s going to be missed by all of us.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]