Joel John Colbert


ROCHELLE – Joel John Colbert, 86, of Rochelle passed away Oct. 5 at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford of natural causes.

Joel was born April 13, 1933, in Iowa City, Iowa, the son of John and Delphine Colbert. He attended City High there and later graduated from the University of Iowa physical education department. He also held a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

Between high school and college, Joel enlisted and served from 1952-56 in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, assigned to the Pacific atoll of Enewetak during nuclear testing operations.

On June 25, 1955, Joel and Eleanor (Bobbie) Goettle were united in marriage in Iowa City.

Joel began a teaching and coaching career at St. Joseph-Ogden in 1960, with moves to Galva and then Rochelle. Known primarily as a football coach, Joel also was a head coach in wrestling, basketball, baseball and track.

In 1984, he was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall-of-Fame. His love of sports also led to officiating baseball and basketball.

Joel was also on a committee that helped initiate the IHSA football playoffs in 1974. Another quirk about him was being an area baseball scout for the Montreal Expos.

In his younger days, he was an avid fast-pitch softball player, later transitioning into a golf enthusiast. While in college, he played one year on the Hawkeye football team.

As a father, he made a point to expose his children to various viewpoints, philosophies and learning experiences. As an educator, he was a strict disciplinarian with a knack for relating to students of all backgrounds.

Growing up in a family of nine children with a single parent, Joel developed a heart for people in need and devoted much of his life to helping those less fortunate.

He was a member of St. Patrick’s and the Presbyterian churches in Rochelle. After retiring from teaching at Rochelle, he was elected to the Ogle County Board and made a great emphasis on being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. His wife Bobbie came on to the board after he stepped down and served until this past year.

Joel is survived by wife Bobbie, their children Jodi (Brett) Kemp of Stevensville, Mont., Andy (Kathy) Colbert of Oregon, Bo (Cindy) Colbert of Trinity, N.C., Suzie Colbert of Arlington, Va., and Tony (Catherine) Colbert of Rock Springs, Wyo.; nine grandchildren, Matt, Ryan, Lindsey, Blair, Jorie, Zack, Mallory, Mia and Madi, along with twin great-granddaughters Alexandria and Liliya, and brother Conrad.

Brothers Donald, Clayton, Edward, David and sisters Virginia, Mary Ellen and Geniveve, preceded him in death. 

Funeral services were held Friday, Oct. 11 at the Rochelle Presbyterian Church, with visitation the evening before at Unger-Horner Funeral Home.