PEORIA — Leo "Doc" Traister spent a lifetime devoted to Eureka College sports.
The college’s legendary figure built athletic programs, coached teams, played for teams as a student and raised funds for facilities during a long career.
Traister died peacefully, surrounded by family, Saturday at age 101.
He spent a lifetime involved directly or indirectly with every Eureka College athletic program.
"The EC community has ... been devastated after the loss of Doc Traister, another unforgettable icon and amazing human being who lived 101 years," Eureka College president Dr. Jamel Santa Cruze Wright said in a statement from the school. "He touched and shaped so many of us with his kindness, care, humor, mentorship and friendship.
"He will be missed and his Eureka College legacy will be a noted presence on our campus for many generations to come. We are thankful for the Traister family and will continue praying for them and celebrating the extraordinary life of Doc with them."
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Born in Rock Falls on Sept. 9, 1919, Traister first came to Eureka College as a student in 1939 and participated in a variety of sports, earning multiple letters in baseball, football and track. He left in 1941 to serve in the military, then returned in 1946 and eventually graduated in 1948.
He came back to Eureka in 1956 to take over as director of athletics. In addition, he was the head football coach until 1967, and head men's basketball coach until 1974 and retired as athletic director after 28 years.
He brought to life new golf, track and intramural programs and revamped the physical education curriculum at Eureka. He was also proud to oversee the growth of women’s programs at EC.
Always involved, he was part of coaching staffs for various Eureka teams until 1990. He was inducted into Eureka College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1977.
Traister last winter taped a video on behalf of the development office's donor outreach efforts.
In it, he said, "I am 100 years old and I have given to the college financially for almost all of those years. I think Eureka College is a wonderful place and needs support from each and every one of us, so it can continue to be a fine institution for the young people coming up."
Eureka College opened its first soccer facility in 2007 and named it "Traister Field."
A plaque was mounted on the north wall of McKinzie Field in 2014 to honor his dedication to Eureka College.
Eureka College director of athletics Bryan Moore said in 2019 that Doc "personifies all that is good about Eureka College athletics and has been a mentor to generations of students."
Traister sat down for a nearly 10-minute interview with the college in 2015, during which he said:
"I truly feel blessed to have had the privilege of coming to this institution and I continue to feel that way. Each time you come back, you see improvements you never would’ve imagined would take place, and it just makes you feel proud that you were a part of this institution, and the future is just outstanding.
"I think as one gets older, you really begin to appreciate more and more that what you had. As a younger person, you just accepted it, and then when you get older, you begin to appreciate. I just never imagined I would have this opportunity."
Due to COVID-19, a private family service will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Eureka Christian Church with the Rev. Jennie Churchman officiating.
You can see it via live stream on the church’s website at www.eurekachristianchurch.org and at Facebook.com/eurekacc/live.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.