Eastern Hall of Famer Jack Roffler Dies

NOTE: A family obituary has been added to this story below.

A former basketball standout in the 1940's, "Rabbit" passes away at the age of 89 after a long battle with Alzheimer's

Hall of Famer Jack "Rabbit" Roffler, a standout on Eastern Washington basketball teams in the 1940's, passed away Wednesday (Aug. 14) after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 89.

Roffler was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. Eastern's 1945-46 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003, and "Rabbit" gave the acceptance speech.

A 1946 graduate of Eastern, Roffler was a point guard during three of the most successful basketball seasons in school history and later distinguished himself as a teacher and basketball official. He was originally from nearby Pine City, Wash.

Eastern was 21-7 (1943-44), 27-5 (1944-45) and 31-4 (1945-46) in his three seasons, a collective record of 79-16 (.832 winning percentage). No NAIA Tournament was held in 1944 because of World War II, but Eastern appeared in the NAIA Tournament his final two seasons. Eastern lost in the first round in 1945, then in 1946 Eastern defeated Louisiana Tech (66-44) and Southeastern Oklahoma (45-37) to advance to the quarterfinals where the Savages were edged by Pepperdine (46-42).

"Rabbit" earned All-Washington Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors as Eastern won the league title in 1946 with a 15-1 record. Despite being deemed "unfit" for military service because of poor hearing, he was one of the fastest and most athletic players the region had ever seen, and averaged more than 10 points per game in 1946.

Roffler was also team captain in the 1945-46 season, and was a member of legendary head coach Red Reese's All-Time Team, representing the top 13 Eastern players he ever coached. Reported the Bellingham Herald: "Roffler is the swiftest thing we have seen on the court in years." The NAIA Tournament program called him a "dribbling and driving lay-in artist."

Roffler went on to play professional basketball for the Springfield (Mo.) Squires and Tacoma Mountaineers before settling in Port Townsend, Wash., where he taught from 1948 until his retirement in 1979. He spent 25 years as a basketball official, working eight state tournaments and earning the Washington Officials Association Meritorious Service Award in 1975.

His son, Jim, is the head coach at Lower Columbia Community College in Longview, Wash. Jim's wife, Elizabeth Harris-Roffler, was a record-breaking high jumper for Eastern in 1988 and 1989, and was inducted into the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges Hall of Fame in 2011.   

Family Obituary

Jack "Rabbit" Roffler

Jack Richard Roffler of Lakewood, 89, passed away peacefully at Manor Care Health Services on August 14, 2014.  He was born October 7, 1924, in Pine City, WA, to Richard and Minnie Elma Roffler. He was Valedictorian of his class at Pine City High School in 1941.

He graduated from Eastern Washington State College in 1946 with a degree in Education where he was a Hall of Fame basketball player who earned the nickname "Rabbit" because of his quickness on the court.  He then played professionally for the Springfield (MO) Squires and Tacoma Mountaineers before he met his wife, Janice (Brown).

Settling in Port Townsend, he was a devoted husband and father while he taught school for the next thirty-one years.  An accomplished basketball official as well, he was presented a meritorious award from the WIAA for twenty-five years of service as a top rated referee who was selected to numerous state tournaments. 

Jack entertained many with his uncanny ability to tell stories and jokes, and his fun loving personality made those in his company feel welcome.  He was also a master crossword puzzle worker which kept his mind sharp, and he stayed in great physical condition through a steady regimen of exercise and a healthy diet.

He is survived by his wife, Janice (his partner in life for 59 years), daughters Candy and Susie, sons Jack, Jr. (Cheryl) and Jim (Elizabeth), and is known as Papa to eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Husband, Dad, Papa, Rabbit, Referee, and Jokester will be deeply missed by many!

A private family celebration of his life will take place in the near future.  Any inquiries may be directed to his son Jim at jimroffler@gmail.com.








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