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Jean Licari passes away

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:04 pm
by rainbowgirl28
The pole vault community lost one of its best yesterday. Jean Licari passed away after a fight with cancer. She was the pole vault coach at Federal Way HS and the wife of University of Washington pole vault coach Pat Licari. She is survived by Pat and two teenage daughters. Please keep their family in your prayers.

Re: Jean Licari passes away

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:09 pm
by rainbowgirl28

FWHS coach/teacher Jean Licari dies from cancer
Federal Way Mirror Sports editor
JANUARY 10, 2012 · UPDATED 10:16 AM

Federal Way High School lost one of its most beloved teachers and coaches Sunday. Jean Licari succumbed to cancer after spending her entire 21-year teaching career at Federal Way.

Licari taught math and also coached the Eagles cross country and track teams during her tenure, with her athletes winning multiple state championships. The 44-year-old mother of two hailed from Potlatch, Ida.

"I think that when people think about outstanding staff members that have made a difference in kids' lives, Jean would be on that poster at Federal Way High School," said principal Lisa Griebel. "She is what the staff wanted to be like. She impacted a lot of lives. She taught math to 150-plus kids a year for over 20 years."

Health problems first turned up last year when Licari started experiencing a shortness of breath. She went into the doctor for some testing and it was thought she was suffering from a blood clot in her chest. Doctors put Licari on medication that was supposed to dissolve the clot, according to Griebel.

It wasn't until Licari collapsed during a Federal Way High School track practice last spring that doctors finally discovered that the problem wasn't a blood clot after all. After collapsing, Licari went in for further tests in Seattle, with doctors finally recommending open-heart surgery to find a definitive answer. That's when a tumor was found in her chest. The cancer treatment proceeded from there.

Licari died from a very rare form of cancer called LMS, or Leiomyosarcoma. It is a malignant cancer of smooth muscle. LMS can be very unpredictable and can remain dormant for long periods of time. It is a resistant cancer, meaning generally not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiation.

"The kids are just sad," Griebel said about the student body at Federal Way High School. "It's not really that shocking because she's been sick. But there is just sadness."

Following the open-heart surgery in May, Licari was actually back at work at Federal Way when school opened in September. She even remained on as the Eagles' cross country head coach during the fall sports season.

But Licari's health continued to deteriorate. She was forced to take a leave of absence from teaching just a month into the school year in October, according to Griebel.

"She was pretty sick at the beginning of the year," she said. "She knew that she wasn't doing well. She needed to take care of herself and spend time with her family."

Licari is survived her husband, Pat, and two daughters, Katelin and Madison. Pat Licari is an assistant track and field coach on the University of Washington. During his 15-year tenure at UW, Pat Licari has developed some of the nation's premier pole vaulters, including one Olympian, three NCAA champions and 10 different All-Americans. He was head cross country and track coach at Highline Community College from 1991-96 before moving over the Husky program in 1997.

As far as teaching awards go, Licari was the recipient of the Carnegie Learning 2006 Distinguished Educator Award. Carnegie Learning is a leading research-based mathematics curricula provider and recognizers one teacher who is using their products to change the way students think about and apply math to their lives.

During her teaching career, Licari has taught all levels of math at Federal Way, including algebra and geometry for freshmen through seniors.

"She was such a gifted teacher," Griebel said.

Licari was also instrumental in engineering a credit retrieval program at Federal Way High School. The program was engineered, along with help from Heather Wren, to allow students to complete both their core classes as well as independent study to allow students with poor grades to graduate on time.

All students who entered the program had to sign a contract, and there are strict consequences for their actions: A third strike against them and they are out.

The program, which kicked off in 2008, has been instrumental in allowing students who wouldn't have graduated to get their diplomas.

"This is one of the most rewarding things as a teacher I have ever done," Licari said in a 2009 story in The Mirror.

Re: Jean Licari passes away

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:19 am
by rainbowgirl28
It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Jean is gone. ... going.html

Legacy of coach's wife still going strong

Published: Feb. 10, 2013 at 12:05 a.m. PST — Updated: Feb. 10, 2013 at 3:38 p.m. PST

A year has passed since his wife, Jean, died, and Pat Licari still is cautious when trying to compress the memories into stories, or the feelings into words.

There are no timetables for recovery from such things, like those on which coaches sometimes rely: six weeks for a sprained ankle, a month for a pulled hamstring, etc.

Perhaps it takes a lifetime to cope with the loss of a vibrant and healthy 45-year-old wife – a mother of two, who wasn’t just a coach and educator at Federal Way High School, but an academic innovator whose programs elevated the life trajectory of countless students.

So Pat Licari is more comfortable coaching his University of Washington athletes on ways to take a springy stick and jump over a lofty bar than he is at examining the stages of grief and emotional healing.

His method has been to embrace the comfort and distraction of work, and to try as much as possible to shift his focus from that which had been lost to that which remains:

daughters Katelin (16) and Madison (13).

“Jean was always very positive and optimistic, and the girls are the same way; a reflection of her … really tough and strong,” Licari says. “My girls have been able to handle things and are doing so well. I see a lot of their mom in them … especially in their strength.”

And of his own recovery? “I’m continuing to figure things out,” the 44-year-old Licari says.

Licari is a local success story: State pole vault champ at Sumner High, vaulter at Washington State and coach of UW athletes who have won six NCAA championships and 40 All-America honors.

He schools jumpers and multi-event athletes, too, but he’s internationally respected for his work with vaulters. The pole vault

is a daring thrill ride, a test of speed and strength and fearlessness, making it a combination of track and field and Cirque du Soleil.

His most decorated pupil is Brad Walker, a two-time Olympian and holder of the American record at 19-feet-93/4 inches, which is, basically, like jumping over a two-story building.

“Pat’s a really likable, easygoing guy who is always so happy to be coaching, and has such high energy with his athletes,” says Walker, who finished at UW in 2004. “I’ve worked with or talked to all the coaches in the world, and Pat’s technical models are the best there are.”

Walker was expecting Licari at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in January 2012 – a competition, clinic and annual caucus for the cult of vaulters – but he did not know how dire Jean’s health situation was. Walker cleared 19 feet at the event, and dedicated the effort to Jean Licari.

“Pat’s usually one to keep his cards close to his chest,” Walker says. “My heart went out to him and his family – what a great family, what great people they are.”

Bill Harris, track coach at Federal Way High, remembers hiring a young woman who had been a middle-distance runner at the University of Idaho 22 years ago. “From the beginning, she was such a caring teacher and coach,” Harris says. “She was such an exuberant teacher and outgoing woman who really met the needs of the kids.”

Jean Licari coached track and cross country, and taught math. And along with colleague Heather Wren, she initiated a program called the “Academic Success Academy.” The program carried strict guidelines, but provided at-risk students a last chance to make up lost credits and graduate on time.

“It was something she started because the drop-out rate is so high,” Federal Way principal Lisa Griebel says. “She was a pioneer – basically she was saying, ‘I am just not going to let kids drop out.’ ”

Even with their heavy schedules, Pat and Jean ran and played volleyball together. But Jean began tiring and growing short of breath in 2011. What doctors thought was a blood clot near her heart turned out to be leiomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that ultimately spread to her brain.

She died Jan. 8, 2012.

“She is irreplaceable,” Griebel says. “The loss hasn’t healed; it’s still really close to the surface.”

Griebel says she was approached by a track coach from another school recently who told her “how much the loss impacted him, and how it caused him to make changes in his own life.”

And she recalls a former student speaking at Jean’s memorial service. He had been one of those at risk of flunking out, but he’s now working toward a teaching certificate.

“That’s all due to Jean changing his path,” Griebel says. “She wasn’t just making a difference in the lives of kids at the time, but doing things that will have a ripple effect for years to come.”

Maybe that’s the take away from the story of Pat and Jean Licari, that teaching and coaching, when done with the right amount of passion and skill, bestow a kind of immortality.

And maybe it doesn’t matter if the lessons are in mathematics, life skills or how to ride a bendy pole to outlandish heights and still be able to fall gracefully back to earth – it’s all about challenging people to raise their own bar.

Griebel recalls her last meeting at school with Jean Licari, who had grown frighteningly weak.

“She was so sick, but she would not stop working,” Griebel says. “She told me that she didn’t want to stop because she was afraid people would stop thinking of her. I told her, no, that could never happen.”

Griebel collects herself at the memory before adding: “And it hasn’t.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440