If you had the pleasure to know Curt Ehrenstrom, you walked away feeling as if you knew him your whole life.
That was the kind of man he was. He was always concerned about a person. He had that quality to make you feel like an old friend.
Just ask any Mount Carmel students who either played football for him or had him in an AP or Honors Physics class. He was demanding, but he loved his students. He was tough because he wanted them to achieve their best. He understood that boys don't go to Mount Carmel to be mediocre. He understood the school's slogan: "You came to Carmel as a boy. If you care to struggle and work at it, you will leave as a man."
Curt Ehrenstom died Monday at the age of 53 from pancreatic cancer. He leaves behind a wife, Sheille, and four children, Jon, Charlotte, Zac and Luke.
That is way too young for a man who touched so many lives and made a difference. He was never too busy to take time for a student who might have had an academic question or just maybe needed guidance. There is a reason he was one of 10 Illinois teachers who won a 2013 Golden Apple Award and he was the school's 2014 man of the year.
He loved Mount Carmel, where he graduated in 1979. Like the school's fight song, he was out to "fight for the old brown and white." As a sophomore football coach, he knew his role was to get the players ready for the next level. That meant not only teaching them how to block and tackle, but how to become young men and accept responsibility.
While he challenged his students and football players, he would do anything for them. Curt would do anything for anyone. Though he didn't play high school football, Frank Lenti brought him aboard as a lower-level coach because as Coach Frank had said before, Ehrenstrom could relate to the younger kids and Lenti knew he could teach him football.
What many will remember is his sense of humor, even as he knew he was dying. As intelligent of a man Ehrenstrom was, he never flaunted it or looked down on anyone. He loved working with young men and making a difference. Several Caravan football players were in his class including several linemen. I remember talking with him about football payers who were in his classes and he was so enthusiastic about their academic achievements. He would go on and on about them because he was proud of what they were doing in the classroom. He knew how sports fit into a young person's high school years, but like Lenti tells his kids, your education has to last you a lifetime.
Those who had the pleasure of knowing Ehrenstrom have memories of a lifetime from a man who always was willing to give of himself.