Coach Denny Graser: Loved by All

A Tribute to a Great Man and His Legacy


Zach Mueller

Collage of Denny Graser by Zach Mueller.

By Alyssa Buchheit, St. Dominic High School

Former St. Dominic athletic director Denny Graser passed away from a decade long battle with cancer on December 23, 2018, at the age of 69. A longtime coach in the Wentzville school district, Coach Graser came to St. Dominic in 2002, and his legacy changed our community forever.

During his time at Dominic, you could find Coach Graser doing many different things on any given day—setting up for a basketball game, planning the next athletic facility project or talking with students—but whatever he happened to be doing, he did it smiling.

“It always made my day just talking to Denny Graser. I don’t think I ever walked away from a conversation without a smile on my face. Even after he left St. Dominic, he would stop by softball games and camps just to say hi,” St. Dominic alum Jessie Wilmes said.

It is impossible to fully explain how Coach Graser impacted the St. Dominic High School community, but everyone who knew him can agree that he was a friend to all.

“When it comes to mentors and friends, there was no one better than Denny. He always had a special way of making you feel like you were the most important person on the planet. It was truly a gift. He gave so much of himself and was a model of how to care and love others first, and the rest will fall into place. I will truly miss his friendship and his guidance,” Coach Duncan said.

In addition to his friendship, Coach Graser brought many other gifts to St. Dominic. He was an integral part of completing our grass fields, Crusader Stadium and Fallon Family Center.

“Denny gave St. Dominic a new perspective on athletics since he came out of a very large public school district,” Coach Schlenke said.

After he retired in 2012, St. Dominic named the new Denny Graser Tennis Courts in his honor, acknowledging the humble man who didn’t feel a need to be the center of attention.

“It was always a treat, especially after he retired, when he would come to ball games. But he would never sit in the limelight. He’d always sit out in right or center field and watch the game from there. That was just the way he was,” Coach Schlenke said.

Even though Coach Graser’s presence wasn’t always seen, it was always felt.

“Coach Graser had a steady influence on the St. Dominic community. He had excellent decision-making skills that allowed him to successfully negotiate policies and conflicts. He was always supportive of me and the team and sport that I was coaching. Honestly, that was an attribute that he possessed in his relationship with every coach and athlete,” Coach Matusiak said.

St. Dominic alum Alex Hagan can attest to Coach Graser’s supportiveness:

“Coach Graser played a pivotal role in creating a welcoming and encouraging culture to help young aspiring athletes like myself grow into the men, women and athletes we all wanted to be. I feel personally indebted and extremely grateful to have known and been guided by him.”

The memorial Mass celebrating his life was held January 3, 2019. People all around the St. Louis area flocked to the Fallon Family Center to pay their respects.

“The tributes to him were really well done, and they really spoke to what a great model he was, not only for students but also for coaches. When I was just starting off coaching, it was invaluable to have him as my mentor. He was also invaluable for St. Dominic. When you have somebody like Coach Graser who is such a kind-hearted, nice man as the face of your community, it filters into every aspect of St. Dominic and not just the athletic side of things,” former coach and Dean of Students Mrs. Mennemeier said.

Coach Graser was not just concerned with athletics. He was very compassionate and cared about people as a whole.

“When my wife was sick, he always talked to me and asked how me and my kids were doing. That was a cool thing to have him taking interest in my life outside of school or on the soccer field,” Coach Koeller said.

When Coach Graser retired, St. Dominic President Mr. Welby took over his position as athletic director.

“Every time you had a conversation with him, everything in the conversation was always about you. The guy was sick as can be, loaded with cancer for the last 7-8 years of his life, and every time, all he was worried about was how you were doing, how your family was, how everything’s going,” Mr. Welby said.

Coach Graser also showed interest in students’ lives and what they dedicated time to.

“He noticed the little things, like when you stayed late to practice or arrived early and were ready to work. He praised you not only on your accomplishments, but in the time, effort and love you put into the game you play. His dedication to his student athletes has become a goal that I aspire in my future coaching career and work as a nurse to the patients I care for,” St. Dominic alum and current coach Anna Linderman said.

This humble friend, coach, mentor and inspiring man allowed St. Dominic to win seven state championships under his leadership. More importantly, Coach Graser made people feel loved, and they returned the favor to him. It’s safe to say Coach Graser is cheering us all on from heaven.

This story was originally published on Crusader Nation on January 10, 2019.