Beaverville native, former Chicago Bears head trainer Bernie LaReau passes away in Texas
Bernie LaReau spent a lifetime as an athletic trainer for several professional teams, most notably the Chicago Bears.
Not bad for a farm boy from Beaverville who graduated with a degree in accounting from St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind.
The St. Anne High School graduate spent more than 52 years as a trainer for several professional teams.
“I’m real happy the way things turned out,” LaReau said in a 2011 interview with the Daily Journal.
LaReau passed away July 5 in San Antonio. He was 81.
After his years in professional sports, LaReau came back to Beaverville in 1998 and worked for Riverside Medical Center and Orthopedic Associates of Kankakee. He worked for 11 years as a substitute teacher and athletic trainer for several area high schools, including Central, St. Anne and Momence.
He capped it off with St. Anne’s boys basketball team winning the Class 1A championship in 2008.
“He took great care of our kids,” St. Anne coach Rick Schoon told the Daily Journal on Monday. “He was a really nice gentleman.”
LaReau battled a variety of health problems in recent years.
The closest LaReau got to sports while growing up was reading about them in the newspaper or attending a few basketball and football games.
“He was a red-hot sports fan, but his athletic endeavors were limited to chasing cows into the barn in the early morning and exercising his muscles on the many labors to do on a 154-acre farm in the afternoon,” wrote Larry Henry, then the Daily Journal sports editor, in August 1971.
“Bernie’s dad was in poor health and the farm that the family scrapped out a living on kept LaReau and his brother busy from the time they rose and left for school until the time they got home and the sun went down.”
Lareau said his father instilled a hard work ethic that LaReau showed throughout his career.
He got involved in athletic training at St. Joe.
In 1957, LaReau took on the job as the school’s head trainer, getting valuable lessons from Ed Rozy, the Bears trainer at the time. At the time, the Bears held their summer training camp at the school.
It led to two stints as the Bears head trainer (1958-60 and 1970-73).
LaReau became the head trainer for the San Antonio Spurs basketball team in 1973.
He was a favorite of players and team executives alike.
“Bernie was a players’ trainer,” Mike Gale, who played for the Spurs from 1975-81, told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News on Monday.
“I know it was his job to look out for us, but he was also a friend off the court. He looked out for the guys big time. We were close and had a lot of fun together.”
LaReau was known as a jack of all trades during his nearly 10 years with the Spurs.
In addition to keeping the players healthy, LaReau served as the team’s business manager, traveling secretary and trainer for its summer youth camps.
“Bernie had lots of titles with the Spurs in the early day and he always performed at the highest level,” Wayne Witt said in the Express-News story. Witt was the media relations director during that time.
“He was a doer, and he got stuff done. Plus, he was a funny, pleasant guy to be around, well-respected in his field.”
LaReau’s journey included stints with the Indiana Pacers, the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, University of Texas-San Antonio, University of the Incarnate Word, the San Antonio Riders in the old World Football League and the San Antonio Texans of the Canadian Football League.