Ara Parseghian, a legendary football coach and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, has died at age 94.
Parseghian began his job as head coach at Miami University in 1951, and spent five seasons with the team. He then coached at Northwestern, where he won an impressive 36 games.
Last week, Parseghian returned to his home in Granger, Indiana, after spending time in a nursing care facility because of an infection in his hip. He passed away on Wednesday, according to a statement by Notre Dame.
Read on to learn about his wife and family.
1. He Married Kathleen Davis in 1948
Parseghian married his wife, Kathleen Davis, in 1948.
In an email to the AP last Thursday, Paul Flatley (former NFL wide receiver who played for Parseghian) said that he’d been communicating with Katie, who was updating former players on Parseghian’s health.
The legendary coach was born in Akron, Ohio, on May 21, 1923, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami Ohio University in 1949 and 1954, respectively. Parseghian didn’t begin playing football until his junior year in high school– he went on to play at Miami of Ohio, and two seasons for the Cleveland Browns before a hip injury ended his career.
2. He and Davis Had Three Children
Together, Parseghian and his wife had three children– Karan, Kristan, and Michael.
Karan passed away in 2013.
In 1995, while speaking to the New York Daily news, Cindy opened up about meeting Mike Parseghian. She explained that the two connected at Notre Dame in the mid-1970s. “This sounds corny, but we studied in the same corner of the library, and we kept running into each other.”
3. Three of His Grandchildren Died from Niemann-Pick Disease
Niemann-Pick Disease took the lives of three of Parseghian’s grandchildren– Michael, Marcia, and Christa. Michael was just 9 when he lost his life to NP-C. Christa passed away in 2001 at age 10. Marcia died in 2005 at age 16.
The Chicago Tribune quotes Ara Parseghian as once saying, “The pain of losing our three youngest grandchildren is almost unbearable… I think of other grandparents whose grandchild has recently been diagnosed with NPC. We will keep up the fight for them and all families afflicted with this terrible disease.”
The homepage of the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation website has multiple dedications to Michael, Marcia, and Christa. “We miss Michael, Marcia and Christa so dearly. They–along with all the others who’ve lost their battles to NP-C–have given us a…legacy of hope.” Cindy serves as the president of the organization, and a message penned by Cindy on a separate portion of the site states, “… though Michael, Christa and Marcia are no longer with us, we can still hear their laughter, see their sparkling eyes and feel their little arms hugging us. While we miss them unbearably, they inspired a legacy of hope.”
3. He Founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation with His Son and Daughter-In-Law
In 1994, Parseghian founded the Parseghian Medical Research Foundation with Mike and Cindy Parseghian, his son and daughter-in-law who lost their children to NP-C.
The non-profit organization is dedicated specifically to funding medial research to find a treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C (NP-C), a lysosomal storage disease. The disease is characterized by a failure to metabolize cholesterol in cells in the brain, liver, and spleen. Most cases are diagnosed in childhood and “progress to cause life-threatening complications by the second or third decade of life.”
5. His Daughter Died From Multiple Sclerosis in 2012
Along with finding a cure for NP-C, Parseghian dedicated his time to finding a cure for a multiple sclerosis, which took his daughter, Karan’s, life on February 11, 2012.
Karan graduated from Notre Dame in 1973 and went on to earn her master’s degree. She had two sons– Jim and Michael– with husband Jim Burke, whom she married in 1974.
Her obituary reads, “Karan deeply believed in the goodness of others and never spoke an unkind word. Her compassion and kindness were matched only by her resilience and tenacity. As disability from Multiple Sclerosis accumulated over decades, she never complained or despaired. Rather, she found contentment in whatever she could do– from watching Notre Dame football to reading in the sun on Marco Island.”