A special announcement was made several times Saturday during South St. Paul’s home football playoff game. The stadium announcer informed those in attendance that a fundraiser would be held in November at the local VFW, with funds going to the family of the late Craig Felton.
The stadium announcer was Dave Palmquist, who has taught in South St. Paul for decades and has coached the Packers girls hockey team since 1994. Palmquist would rather not work behind the microphone at home football games, because that was Craig Felton’s job for as long as most people can remember.
Felton, a beloved teacher and coach in South St. Paul, died on Oct. 14. He was 52 and had been diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago. He taught physics, coached the girls golf team and also coached junior high girls soccer and basketball. And he didn’t miss announcing a home football game for 20 years until shortly before he died.
“He was all about South St. Paul,” Palmquist said. “He’s from South St. Paul, he represents the goodness and the hardworking part of South St. Paul. He was involved in so many different things in different parts of a lot of kids’ lives, and not just in the classroom, either.”
Felton was a proud South St. Paul graduate who lived on the same street as other family members. His brother Tim, a doctor, was on the sideline at football games and his brother Jason was a spotter for Craig in the press box.
“The last two weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster,” said Packers athletic director and football coach Chad Sexauer after his team defeated Hill-Murray 38-7 in the Class 4A Section 3 semifinals. “Craig was an instrumental guy, threaded throughout the entire school.”
Fans at Saturday’s game saw a large banner on the back of the press box. Written in big red letters was #WhenIThinkOfMr.Felton. Hand-written messages covered the sign in honor of Craig.
“He was a great guy,” said Packers senior kicker Sam Rohrer. “I met him last year at the beginning of the year for physics and instantly we had a connection; everyone did with him. He was outgoing and he would always want to know how your day was going. He always put the kids first and I thought that was really great of him. He wanted to make sure you had a connection so if you needed anything he would be there for you.”
After Felton’s death, social media lit up with heartfelt messages about Craig with the hash tag from the poster. It was a modern-day-media salute to a man who impacted countless lives in the hometown and school he loved so dearly.
“The social media thing was crazy. It continued to grow and grow,” Sexauer said. “It’s a meaningful deal, no doubt about it.”
After Felton’s death, Sexauer (pictured with Craig) said “it was a really emotional day for 24 (football players) that have him in class and for all the people who knew him. We had meetings and every coach was crying. We said, ‘Our community needs us right now. Let’s go out and have fun and battle and make him proud.’ And that’s what they do.”
Rohrer said, “It was hard. The fact that most of us didn’t get to say goodbye to him was really tough. It kind of propelled the whole team to play for him and honor him. He was our announcer, of course, and he was very impactful on all of us who ever saw him or met him.
“He was a great example. I hope to be like him, because he made that connection with everyone and it really showed in our community when he passed away. He was impactful and he really did what was right.”Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn