For 40 years, Rolland “Rollie” Ring sat — or paced — at every Edina High School home football game.
A proud booster of the Hornets, Ring didn’t miss a game from 1950 to 1990 in his effort to support the athletes and the coaches, his son said, adding that he attended many other Edina sports games, too.
That support for athletics was just a piece of the encouragement that Ring generously spread to those around him: his family, his church and the students and teachers he oversaw as a principal in the district.
Ring died peacefully on Aug. 11. He was 96.
“Jolly Rollie,” as some called him, was known for having an enthusiastic spring in his step.
He grew up in Minneapolis, playing quarterback and safety for the South High Tigers on a team that played a hastily called “national championship” game, winning against a high school team from Lincoln, Neb.
He went on to play for Bernie Bierman at the University of Minnesota in 1938, becoming part of the Gophers’ national championship winning teams in 1940 and 1941.
Ring enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in June 1942, and eventually worked beach patrol in Washington state. His high school sweetheart, Nan Barkley, carried her wedding dress on a train headed west to marry him in July 1943. Later that year he served in the South Pacific.
After World War II ended, Ring began a 38-year career in education with a job teaching history and social studies along with coaching football, basketball and baseball in Hutchinson, Minn.. He soon moved to a teaching and coaching role at the new Edina-Morningside High School, where he later served as an assistant principal. He became the first principal of the new Southview Junior High School, and then was principal of Edina High School for 23 years before ending his career as a junior high principal once again. He served on several boards and in various educational roles, including helping to initiate the advanced placement program in Edina in 1955.
“He was fun. Businesslike when he had to be,” said Ray Smyth, who was hired by Ring and eventually became superintendent in Edina.
He encouraged teachers, Smyth said, and was “friendly but firm when that was necessary” with students.
Rollie and Nan, active in the Edina Baptist Church, raised two children, daughter Susan and son Roger. Ring was a soft-spoken, gentle soul, “a sweet man,” his son Roger Ring recalled, describing his father as someone who smiled easily and was quick with good-natured teasing.
When a student yawned in his class, Rollie commented, “Nice fillings!” Roger Ring said. When Rollie was in the hospital recently, just before nurses placed a breathing mask over his face, he told them, “Just so you know, usually I’m better looking than this.” He teased his only daughter that she hadn’t yet reached “favorite daughter status.”
He was also a prompt man, typically arriving a few minutes early to dinners and appointments. He would threaten to call off a vacation road trip if the family was 10 minutes late for a 5 a.m. scheduled departure.
As a sports fan, Ring was superstitious.
“He had a pair of Kelly green corduroys … at one point they were fashionable,” Roger said. “If he wore them to a hockey game and they won, he’d wear the same green cords to every game. He was delightfully superstitious to try to get the Hornets to keep winning.”
Ring was always grateful for what he had, Roger said, even on his last day, when he told his children he was “so thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me, and the support of the Edina community for education.”
Besides Roger, of Rochester, and Susan, of Los Angeles, Ring is survived by two grandchildren. Services have been held.