Joe Parmentier thought he was a goner in 2010. The East Alton-Wood River coach and teacher suffered a heart attack and his life seemed to be hanging by a thread.
“If not for my wife (Lee Ann), the Wood River Fire Department and Alton Memorial Hospital, I’m not sure I’d be living right now,” he said.
It’s no surprise he’s alive and kicking. Parmentier is no ordinary Joe. He’s more of an extraordinary one.
He survived a heart attack, returned to teaching and coaching, and made it to retirement. The 57-year-old Parmentier retired this week, calling it a career after 34 years.
“I’ll really miss the kids,” said Parmentier, reflecting on his body of work. “Every school I’ve been at, I’ve been fortunate to have a great group of kids. They have kept me going.”
And he has kept them going, too. Whether Parmentier coached at Mount Olive, Concord Triopia or EA-WR, he always tried to make a difference. That’s why he was more than the ordinary Joe to the ones he schooled. Parmentier taught physical education, government and U.S. history.
“I’ve never had better kids than the ones we have here,” said Parmentier, referring to EA-WR. “I’d usually get to school about 6 every morning and at least 10 kids would come into my office by 7 a.m. and we would talk about things.”
The kids would talk and Parmentier would listen. That’s the way he wanted it.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. When he coached football, boys’ or girls’ basketball or tennis, he made sure the Oilers listened to what he said.
Current EA-WR basketball and baseball coach Kyle Duncan can vouch for that. He said he learned plenty playing for Parmentier and watching him pace the floor at Memorial Gym.
“We go back a long time. I remember that he kicked me out of practice — twice in the same day,” Duncan quipped. “He will be missed.”
The Oilers did a Facebook video tribute to Parmentier, and a group of his friends and former students lauded his effect on them.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind guy and one-of-a-kind coach,” Michael Cory said.
Josh Pochek told Parmentier, “You changed the lives of a lot of kids at school.”
And Travis Williams, one of the greatest EA-WR athletes, said to his former coach: “I thank you for everything you have done for me. I’m really proud of you.”
Parmentier preferred an old-school style of coaching, which he learned from his dad, Bill, 83, and an assistant football coach at Civic Memorial. Dad will be helping younger son, Mike, 47, in guiding the Eagles this fall.
“My dad was a teacher for more than 30 years and I got to watch him growing up,” said Joe Parmentier, a 1977 Southwestern High graduate. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and so did Mike. He had a big influence on both of us.”
Parmentier’s boys’ basketball teams combined to win more than 200 games at EA-WR, Mount Olive and Triopia. He has fond memories of the 2000-01 and 2001-02 Oiler squads that recorded regional titles. The 2001-02 squad finished 24-7.
“I’d say the top thrill was winning those two regional basketball championships,” Parmentier said. “And then coaching an EA-WR team (2013) that won its first game at home in five or six years.
“I had the time of my life with those things.”
He always managed to juggle athletics and academics, even overseeing the school’s physical education program. Nothing, it appeared, could slow down the energetic Parmentier.
Nothing except a heart attack. It altered his outlook on everything.
“I think it mellowed me out more,” Parmentier said. “I’m more of a happy person.”
He might be glad to reach retirement, but don’t expect Parmentier to sit in a rocking chair on his back porch and wait for sunset. That’s not his style.
“This has hit me all of a sudden, so I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ll kick back for a while.”
Likely, not for long.
You might catch him on the golf course or discussing and cussing the Chicago Cubs with good friend Chuck Burk. I’m sure there will be Friday nights when Parmentier watches the Oilers play football or basketball. You can imagine him sauntering over to Bethalto and encouraging Mike in coaching the football Eagles.
“Mike’s really excited about the season,” Joe said.
He added, “I’ll be around at high school sporting events. You can bet on that.”
You can also bet he will look back fondly at a coaching career full of vigor and satisfaction.
It suited him. Joe Parm did it his way.
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