Gene Boyle, an exuberant and passionate educator who inspired generations of students and staff in Kalispell, died early Monday morning. He was six days shy of his 74th birthday.
His wife, Barb, said the family plans to hold a memorial service in the near future and details will be announced in the coming days.
Boyle had been battling dementia since being diagnosed in 2011. Community members organized a 5K and half-mile stroll for kids at Legends Stadium to raise awareness of the disease. The event, called “A Race to Remember,” is June 4.
Last spring Flathead High School dedicated the Bravettes’ home softball field to Boyle, saying the former coach epitomized the Flathead spirit.
“A Great Coach and an even better man who did amazing things for Flathead High School and will always be remembered as a Legend,” the Flathead Braves football team posted on its Facebook page.
Flathead High School Principal Peter Fusaro described Boyle as a “father figure” who was wholeheartedly devoted to students, staff and families in Kalispell’s educational community. Anyone could always turn to Boyle for advice, Fusaro said.
“A lot of people looked up to him for guidance in good times and bad times,” Fusaro said.
“We’re all a little bit better because of Gene Boyle.”
Flathead Activities Director Bryce Wilson remembers being a student at the high school and recognizing Boyle’s “Flathead spirit.”
“When you were in his presence, you always felt like you were No. 1,” Wilson said.
“He’s always been somebody I admired, and he really, truly stands for what Flathead is all about.”
Boyle leaves behind a legacy as large and impactful as his personality.
Gene’s career began in 1964 after he graduated from Carroll College and accepted a position teaching biology and math while also coaching football, basketball and baseball at Immaculate Heart of Mary High School in Coeur d’Alene. During his six years at the Catholic school, his football team won 32 straight games and the basketball squad captured two state championships. He eventually took jobs in Lewiston, Idaho and Choteau before landing in Kalispell with his wife and two children, Brenda and Deedee, in 1976.
Boyle served as a math teacher at Flathead and also took over as the head coach of the football team for five seasons, leading the Braves to the 1980 championship game. Flathead finished the season second after losing to Great Falls C.M. Russell.
Gene took over as Flathead’s assistant principal and activities director in 1980 and held the administrative role for nearly two decades. In 1988 he was named the Montana Activities Director of the Year by the Montana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. In 1998, he took over as principal at St. Matthew’s, where he would open each school day by singing his trademark “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A” over the intercom.
That same year he also became Flathead’s softball coach, building the program into a state contender. Besides winning the title in 2003, the Bravettes placed third in 2001 and 2002 and second in 2004.
He retired from coaching in 2004 and in the spring of 2009 Boyle retired as principal at the age of 66.
But that didn’t stop the high fives and hugs or quell his enthusiasm for helping students achieve greatness in the classroom or in the field. He remained a fixture at events and in the halls of schools across town. He mentored other educators and led by example.