January 2021 ~
Hired out of Portland State in 1968 as a physical eduction teacher and the track and field and cross-country coach at Madison High, Bill Franzke stayed there for 30 years — and did so well that he earned induction into the PIL Hall of Fame and had the school track named for him.
After retiring as a teacher, Franzke continued to coach track as an assistant, first at Madison for a few years and then for seven years at Centennial, where his son Luke is the head coach.
Life took a serious turn for Franzke in August 2019, when he was paralyzed in a bicycle accident in Central Washington. “I landed on my head and broke my neck and felt an electric shock through my body, which was my spinal cord being damaged,” he says. “I am basically unable to do much. My wheelchair is motorized, and I get pleasure in that.”
Franzke sleeps at night at a foster home in Gresham but is able to spend days with wife Kris at their home, a short distance away. Support from friends, including those at Hinson Baptist church in Portland, has been much appreciated.
Franzke remembers liking track and field event at an early age. “I used to go jump in the kids’ sand box and made some little wooden hurdles to jump,” he says. He competed in the low and high hurdles, high jump and pole vault at Grant, and added the triple jump to his repertoire at Portland State, where he set school records in the the triple jump and low hurdles.
At Portland State, “I knew after taking a coaching track and field class from Ralph Davis that coaching track was what I wanted to do.”
Initially, he was told Madison did not want to hire someone right out of college, but a new principal came aboard and had second thoughts, and selected Franzke after his interview for the position. Franzke went on to make the Senators’ track program a jewel and to where it in many years had upwards of 100 athletes. The 1986 boys squad won the state championship, and both the boys and girls were regularly among the best in the PIL.
“Having athletes compete, and score, at the state meet was exciting,” he says. “And the kids at Madison were just great to be around.”