Atterberry receives an admiring Huskie farewell

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuskans turned out at Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium on a sunny but frigid morning last Friday to wish an admiring Huskie farewell to Coach Duke Atterberry.

Atterberry, 69, died Monday, Feb. 15, following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was a Pawhuska native who excelled as a football player in his hometown, and then at Oklahoma State University. He served as head football coach at Pawhuska High School, and most recently was a member of the coaching staff of current Head Coach Matt Hennesy.

Hennesy announced at the Celebration of Life Service on Friday that Atterberry’s jersey number as a Huskie, 69, will be retired and never worn again by any Pawhuska player. Hennesy also announced that the Pawhuska Public Schools athletic training and coaching complex will henceforth be known as the Duke Atterberry Champion Factory, or simply as “the Duke.”

Another element of Hennesy’s announcement was that the lights at the stadium would stay on all night last Friday, in tribute to Atterberry’s love of Friday night football games.

“It’s Duke Atterberry’s night,” Hennesy said. During his remarks, which included a welcome to mourners and an introduction to the service, Hennesy characterized Atterberry as a Hall of Fame caliber coach, and as a heroic person. Hennesy said he knew Atterberry would have been annoyed by the use of the word “hero” in reference to him.

“He made the difference when we needed a difference to be made,” Hennesy said regarding Atterberry’s work with PHS players the past couple of years. Atterberry worked, in particular, with offensive linemen.

Hennesy said he wants Pawhuska’s football team to win a state championship and take the gold ball trophy to Atterberry’s grave in the city cemetery for a celebration.

“Coach Atterberry was a legend,” Hennesy said in a statement about Atterberry that he provided to the Journal-Capital prior to the Friday service. “No matter where you go, people have a ‘Duke’ story. He coached hard and loved even harder! He bled orange and we will work like he would expect us to to bring the gold ball back to ‘his school.’”

Pawhuska Public Schools made an announcement Feb. 16 on its Facebook page regarding Atterberry’s passing.

“Duke was probably the best known, most influential coach in the history of Pawhuska Schools,” the school district said. “As a coach, he was known as a tough, fiery competitor. Beyond the field of competition, Duke loved his students and the school and community he represented.”

The school district streamed the service on Facebook, and online viewers posted more than 150 comments, expressing admiration for Atterberry and offering condolences to his family.

Jeff Phillippi, of Life.Church, one of the speakers for the service, described Atterberry as a devoted family man and Christian believer who directed his athletes toward God.

Atterberry’s football coaching career lasted more than 40 years and included jobs at the high school and collegiate levels. He influenced football programs and players in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.

Memorial contributions in Atterberry’s honor may be made to the Duke Atterberry Memorial Fund, through the Pawhuska Public Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 1501, Pawhuska, OK 74056.

Atterberry’s family welcomed visitors following the service at a luncheon held at the Wakon Iron Community Center, in the Pawhuska Indian Camp.