Iron-Man Bill Minnihan Passes Away
June 28, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - Bill Minnihan, a World War II veteran and Northern Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame member, died Sunday, June 27 at the age of 85.
A four-year letter winner on the Huskie football team, Minnihan started at halfback, fullback, quarterback, center, guard and linebacker. His served three years, from 1943-46, in the United States Navy, and was among those who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
Memorial services will be held Thursday, July 1 at 10:30 a.m. at the Anderson Funeral Home (2011 S. Fourth Street, DeKalb). Burial with full military rites by the DeKalb Honor Guard will follow the services at the Elmwood Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Anderson Funeral Home.
Minnihan played in 40 of 41 games for the Cardinal and Black, including the Turkey Bowl (1946) and the Refrigerator Bowl (1947). He started as a freshman at fullback for the 9-2-0 Little 19 Champion Huskies in 1946. A two-way player, he was called a "one-man defense" in Northern Illinois' championship-clinching win over Southern Illinois. Minnihan made the interception that led to the game's only touchdown.
As a sophomore, Minnihan earned All-Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors while helping the Huskies to the Refrigerator Bowl as the team's starting center. The back-to-back bowl bids stood as the lone time Northern Illinois accomplished the feat until 2008-09. As a junior, he slid over to fill the role as guard, all while still playing linebacker defensively. Over his final two seasons, Minnihan helped the Huskies to a 13-6-1 record, with a 4-3-1 mark in IIAC play.
Prior to joining the Huskies, Minnihan signed up with the U.S. Navy. He wanted to join the Marine Corps after playing his senior season as a guard for the Sycamore High School basketball team, but failed the physical because of a sprained ankle. On D-Day, the 19-year-old Minnihan served as a gunner's mate on a boat escorting landing crafts carrying Sherman tanks and their crews on to Omaha Beach. He and the crew of his ship also rescued 20 to 25 men from the choppy sea during the invasion. When he completed his service in Europe, Minnihan was shipped to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. From there, his ship made three trips to Yokohama, Japan to bring home sailors and nurses when the war ended.
After his naval and NIU football career, Minnihan went on to teach and coach the game. He coached in Earlville and at Clinton High School, where he mentored fellow NIU Hall of Fame member Larry Gentry. Minnihan also served as president of the Huskie Club, the precursor to today's Huskie Athletic Support Fund. He was a member of First United Methodist Church in DeKalb.
An active community member, Minnihan served as president of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, and as president of local chapters of the Shriners, the Board of Realtors and the Lions Club.
He is survived by his son, Jim (Eileen) Minnihan of Colorado; three grandsons, Pat (Corey) Minnihan of Illinois, Jon (Erin) Minnihan of Georgia, Rob Minnihan of California; two great-grandsons, Will Minnihan and Ben Minnihan of Georgia; two sisters, Margaret Swanson of DeKalb and Mary (George) Chapman of Sycamore; and two brothers, Charles (Bonnie) Minnihan and Joseph (Mary) Minnihan, all of Florida.
Minnihan was preceded in death by his wife, Shirley; his brothers James, Richard and Robert and his parents.
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