Ed Van Tine, a coach whose tireless devotion to lacrosse raised it to the level of a major high school sport in Western New York, died Friday in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a lengthy illness. He was 68.
Born in Norwich, he played baseball, football and basketball at Norwich High School. He attended Cornell University, then joined the Marine Corps and saw action in the Vietnam War.
A demolitions expert, he was awarded two Purple Hearts, the second for near-fatal wounds suffered in a Viet Cong ambush that wiped out the rest of his reconnaissance team.
"I caught nine rounds and I went from 6-foot-1 to 5-10 and from 205 to 105 pounds in three hours," he told News Sports Reporter Bob DiCesare in 2002. "That's a helluva diet. All the doctors said to me, 'You shouldn't be here. You must have something that you have to do.' And that something happens to be kids. And lacrosse is my vehicle."
It took him nearly two years to recover from his wounds in St. Albans Naval Hospital. He returned to attend Erie Community College and Cortland State College, where he was a token member of the lacrosse team and earned a degree in physical education and recreation.
Mr. Van Tine took a job in North Tonawanda and soon moved to Hamburg, where he was facilities manager for the town Recreation Department and developed his first recreational youth lacrosse program at the former Nike base there. He was at the forefront of lacrosse locally ever since.
He went on to become assistant coach at Hamburg High School during the program's formative years and introduced the sport to Buffalo State College, Canisius College, Hamburg High School and St. Francis High School. He also ran youth lacrosse programs and was on the staff at summer camps at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy.
His final jobs were as a teacher's aide at Boston Valley Elementary and as the coach at Hamburg High School.
Among his many awards, he was named SUNY Coach of the Year in 1983, when he was coach at Buff State.
"I think it's a great way for kids to test their validity, to see what they're really made of," he told DiCesare in 2002. "I think it's a well-rounded way to assess a person's worth."
Surviving are his wife of 38 years, the former Sue Bliss; a son, Craig; and a daughter, Kim.
Burial, with military honors, will be in Arlington National Cemetery. Arrangements for a memorial service locally are incomplete.