In Memory

Derrick J. Kroll VIEW PROFILE

Derrick J. Kroll

ONALASKA - Derrick "Deke" John Kroll, 48, passed away peacefully at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center on Nov. 18, 2009. Debby, his beloved wife of 26 years and the love of his life, and their son, Dammon, were at his side.
Derrick was born Jan. 27, 1961, to John and Nancy (Troyanek) Kroll in La Crosse. In the early 1970s, Derrick was the first "Southsider" to join the then-named Boys Club of La Crosse, where he played football, basketball and baseball, leading his teams to multiple championships. As an eighth- grader, he was named the club's Athlete of the Year in 1975. Derrick was a 1979 graduate of Central High School, where he was a stellar three-sport athlete, again excelling in football, basketball and baseball. He was the point guard for Central's "Special K" basketball team and led the team to the state tournament title game in 1979. Later that year, he was named Central's Athlete of the Year.
Derrick was recruited to play baseball and attended Mira Costa College in Oceanside, Calif. He later attended Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., and ultimately graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in August 1983.
On Nov. 12, 1983, Derrick married his high school sweetheart, Debra Anne Drendel, at Blessed Sacrament Church in La Crosse. Their son, Dammon, was born Aug. 19, 1985.
Derrick dedicated his work life to coaching and guiding area youth through his career at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse. Over the years, he held the positions of staff member, coach, site director, director of programs and, ultimately, director of operations. For most of that time, he was the right hand of former club Executive Director Terry Erickson. Derrick coached his son, Dammon's, Boys & Girls Club team at the middle school level, leading them to a Badger State championship in 2000, and helped coach summer ball for the Aquinas boys basketball team. Many of the boys he coached, including Dammon, were members of the Aquinas team that won the WIAA Division 2 championship in 2003. In addition to coaching, Derrick recognized that the needs of area youth extended beyond athletics and a place to play. He was instrumental in developing programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs that focused on education, technology and the arts, as well as wellness programs. In over 26 years at the Club, Derrick touched the lives of thousands of area youth, some of whom, like Jake Erickson and Matt Watson, became lifelong friends. Many of the young (and not so young) men and women Derrick inspired returned to honor him when he received two of the Boys & Girls Clubs' highest honors: induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, 2005, and induction into the Wall of Fame on May 14, 2009.
In his mid-30s, Derrick developed a new passion - running. He competed in numerous marathons, beginning with the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee. He qualified for and competed in marathons across the country, including Boston, New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. With his running group, he ran races from La Crosse to the Twin Cities. He once ran 101 miles in 24 hours and one year competed in three marathons over three consecutive weekends. Derrick often ran past Debby's classroom at Northern Hills Elementary School, and said that it made his day when the students watched him and waved through the window.
Derrick was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the appendix known as pseudomyxoma perintonei or PMP in May 2006. Thanks to the efforts of his sister-in-law, Diana Cannon, who found a PMP specialist in Baltimore, Derrick underwent a nine-hour surgery in June 2006. Despite his continuing struggle with cancer, Derrick soon was back running, competing in the Oktoberfest half-marathon in September 2006, while still undergoing chemotherapy, and the Boston Marathon in April 2007. Derrick credited running with giving him the physical and mental strength to cope with his illness, which he compared to running a marathon.
In March 2007, Derrick and Debby had the rare opportunity to experience how many lives they have touched through Derrick's work at the Club and Debby's work as an elementary school teacher. Over 1,500 people attended the "Anything for Deke Sweet Sixteen Basketball Bash," organized by friends and family. In August 2007, Derrick was the honorary chairman of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Family and friends joined Derrick in raising thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Later that year, Derrick joined the coaching staff of the Aquinas girls basketball team as an assistant coach, beginning one of the most personally fulfilling times of his life. In his time with the team, Derrick taught the girls the importance of team work, integrity and work ethic, using the mantra, "Be A Bulldog." When Derrick's cancer recurred in December 2008, the team rallied around him, creating wristbands bearing the words, "Be A Bulldog" and "Support Coach Kroll." Visits from his girls always brought a smile to Derrick's face.
This past summer, Derrick, Debby, Dammon, Dammon's girlfriend Kat, Derrick's dad John, and Debby's brother Mike had the trip of a lifetime spending 10 days visiting Debby's sister Diana's family in New York. Derrick, Dammon, Kat, Mike, John (a native New Yorker and lifelong Yankees fan) and Derrick's nephew, Nick, attended a game at the new Yankee Stadium and everyone traveled to Long Island to visit John's family. This summer, Derrick's "entourage" also went to Wrigley Field to watch the Brewers take on the Cubs in a suite, thanks to his brother-in-law, Marc. He twice went to Brewers games at Miller Park, proudly treating his friends to infield box seats, thanks to Debby's cousin, Kathy Keppel. The wonderful memories created during these trips, and throughout the past 31/2 years, will be treasured always.
Derrick is survived by his wife, Debby, and their son, Dammon (Kat Tierney) of Onalaska; his parents, John and Nancy Kroll of La Crosse; his maternal grandparents, Clarence and Virginia Troyanek of La Crosse; his sister, Kelly Zmolek (Bruce) and her children, Austin and Aaron of Holmen; his sister-in-law, Diana (David) Cannon and her children, Daniel, Nicholas and Ava of Rye, N.Y.; his sister-in-law, Michele Drendel of La Crosse; his brothers-in-law, Michael Drendel of La Crosse and Marc Drendel of Chicago; and several aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Charles and Mary Agnes (Kennedy) Kroll; and his aunt, Natalie Kroll Menza.
A celebration of Derrick's life will be held at the Terry Erickson Boys & Girls Club, 1331 Clinton St., La Crosse, on Monday, Nov. 23, at 6 p.m. Visitation will be held at the Erickson Club on Sunday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 8 p.m. A private family cemetery service will be held at the mausoleum in the Catholic Cemetery in La Crosse. Schumacher-Kish Funeral Home is assisting the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Derrick and Debra Kroll Trust, c/o Merchants Bank, Attn. Matt Watson, 3140 Market Place, Onalaska, WI 54650, for distribution in the family's discretion at a later date.
Debby and Dammon would like to thank the Gundersen Lutheran hospice staff, the board and staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse, Debby's colleagues at Northern Hills Elementary School in Onalaska, especially Diane Rogala, their family and friends, and everyone who has provided support and encouragement over the past 31/2 years.
Derrick loved running, coaching, James Taylor music, his friends, his family and most of all Debby and Dammon. In the last year, Derrick taught all of us - family, friends, colleagues and even total strangers - how to face adversity, to appreciate every moment, to live life to the fullest extent possible every day, and to love and show love to those dearest to us, fiercely and eternally. We all are richer for his presence in our lives. We will never, ever forget him.
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11/19/09 05:24 PM #1    

Charles J. Gundersen

This is a sad, sad day. Derek was one of the good guys. The class of '79 is not the same without him, and the world is a little less bright today for his absence. My most sincere condolences to his family and all those who are close to him.

11/20/09 08:32 AM #2    

Sheree Wrobel (Koester)

I was a class-mate of Derrick from Central’s class of 1979. I contacted him earlier this summer just before the reunion when I saw that he was a cancer survivor too. I survived Breast Cancer in 1991, and was thrilled to know of his success as a survivor. Although I didn’t know Derrick very well, I do remember him from high school as a tremendous athlete and very nice young man. My heartfelt sympathies to his loving wife and son. I’m sure they are both very proud of the life if this man.

Sheree Koester
Richardson, TX
Central Class of 1979

11/23/09 04:31 AM #3    

Connie L. Wooden

Good Bye Derrick..You will be missed but more importantly you will be REMEMBERED and NEVER FORGOTTEN.

Connie Wooden

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