HEMET: Longtime teacher, coach Von Driska dies

SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 BY 

Longtime Hemet teacher and coach Darrell Von Driska died Wednesday, Sept. 18. PHOTO BY JOHN HILL

Longtime Hemet teacher and coach Darrell Von Driska died Wednesday, Sept. 18. PHOTO BY JOHN HILL

Darrell Von Driska, a longtime teacher and coach in Hemet, has died. He was 74.

Mr. Von Driska, a 1957 Hemet High graduate who also served many years on the Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District board of directors, died from skin cancer Wednesday, Sept. 18.

“He knew everyone in town and everyone knew Darrell,” former Valley-Wide general manager Sam Goepp said.

Mr. Von Driska is perhaps most identified with Hemet High football. Mr. Von Driska played for the Bulldogs in the mid-1950s, and then served as a coach on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels from 1966 until he was hospitalized three weeks ago.

“He was Mr. Hemet. He bled Bulldog red,” Goepp said. “I don’t think he ever left the sidelines.”

During the 2010 game against San Jacinto High, with Hemet losing 50-7, Mr. Von Driska urged Tigers coach Bill Powell to score one more touchdown so he and his 1956 teammates would no longer hold the distinction of suffering the worse loss ever to the their cross-valley rivals, 56-0. Alas, that didn’t happen.

Mr. Von Driska was an original Valley-Wide board member, serving from 1972 until 2008. He designed the park district’s logo, Goepp said.

Longtime friend Ron Breyer, who met Mr. Von Driska in 1966 and coached football with him for many seasons at Hemet High, lost in his run for the Hemet school board in 2008, the same election in which Mr. Von Driska was removed from the park board.

Breyer said Mr. Von Driska was still despondent about the loss a month later, and he asked him why.

“He said ‘I’m not going to be able to help as many kids,’” Breyer recalled.

Mr. Von Driska came to Hemet as a youngster and his father, George, operated two Von’s Restaurant diners in the San JacintoValley during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

After attending college at LaVerne, Mr. Von Driska returned to Hemet as a teacher. He taught in the HemetUnifiedSchool District from January 1966 to June 2003. After retirement, he was a substitute teacher and consultant until 2010.

Mr. Von Driska started teaching at Hemet Elementary, and then went to Whittier Elementary. He then taught for many years at AcaciaMiddle School, and ended his career at DartmouthMiddle School.

“I don’t think Darrell ever left Hemet, except when he was in the Peace Corps,” Goepp said.

Goepp and Breyer said Mr. Von Driska always put others first.

He continued to send Goepp boxes of Sunkist chews every Christmas, even after Goepp retired and moved to Chico.

“He was a giver,” Breyer said. “His whole life revolved around helping other people.”

Breyer said beside Mr. Von Driska’s loyalty to Hemet High football, he volunteered with his church and at the HemetMuseum.

“It wasn’t just football, it was everything,” Breyer said. “He was interested in people. He loved seeing kids be successful.”

Mr. Von Driska’s wife, Linda, died in 2000 after 23 years of marriage. He is survived by stepchildren Rick Hormel and Tracy Dotinga.

Plans for services have not been announced.

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