For almost 28 years until his untimely death on April 30, Jean “Tank” Corner was a beloved security officer at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
But Corner, who starred as a running back for the Huskies’ football team in the late 1980s, also had tight bonds with the athletic program. He coached OPRF’s inaugural girls’ flag football team last fall, and also served as a mentor to both student-athletes and coaches.
To say Corner had an impact on the Huskies is an understatement.
“We are absolutely devastated by the loss of Tank,” said OPRF athletic director Nicole Ebsen. “Our hearts are heavy, but we know that we will forever be led by Coach Tank.”
Ebsen said it was Corner who encouraged her to start the girls’ flag football program.
“The first conversation he had with me was about getting girls flag football off the ground here at OPRF,” she said. “Every single conversation that I had with Tank he managed to work starting girls flag football into the conversation. I could not deny his passion and enthusiasm so of course I said, lets figure out how to make this happen.
“Tank’s legacy will stretch far as we continue to grow the sport of girls flag football, and his motto “work hard… no excuses” will forever be what guides our Huskies on and off the field,” Ebsen added.
Several current and former Huskies’ coaches also offered their thoughts to Wednesday Journal. Corner had an especially tight bond with the football program and was a great aid to current head coach John Hoerster when he started in 2011.
“Tank’s death is leaving a big hole in the community,” said Hoerster. “Tank had a huge impact when I came to OPRF; he put his arms around me and helped me out. He was a great resource to me and a big supporter.”
Corner was also close with the boys basketball program, often riding the bus with the team for road games. Both current coach Phil Gary and former coach Matt Maloney spoke fondly of him.
“Since I moved to Oak Park, Tank has been that security guard who always laughed with us and built relationships with not just me, but my friends and players,” Gary said. “He was always that mentor we could go to and ask questions, whether it was about sports or life. It’s not going to be the same without Tank.”
“When you think about Huskie greats, Tank was a transformative figure,” said Maloney, a Class of 1993 alum. “It’s a cliche that people bleed orange and blue, but Tank cared so much about the school and everyone that went there, whether it was a star football or basketball player or a star student. He wanted nothing more than for the school to thrive and every student to achieve their full potential.”
But Corner displayed love and passion for all OPRF athletics. Former girls basketball and current softball coach J.P. Coughlin appreciated his support.
“Tank was a constant presence around our athletes,” he said. “When I first started at OPRF, he was a huge supporter of female athletics, which was not the norm at the time. I’ll miss our playful trash talk and his positivity.”
Field hockey coach Kristin Wirtz, a Class of 2010 alum, feels the school won’t be the same without Corner’s presence.
“When you think of OPRF, you think of Tank,” she said. “Everybody knew who he was; he appeared to be a mean, intimidating guy, but he was like the biggest teddy bear. Tank was so passionate about everything and cared about all the kids, and I can’t believe he’s gone. It’s hard to think we’ll never see him in these halls again.”
OPRF’s school motto is “Those Things That Are Best.” Tank Corner was certainly one of those things, and his impact and legacy will be felt for a long time.