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John Douglas Carlson

John Douglas Carlson, well-known and beloved as “Coach” to thousands of Chandler residents and students, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, May 12, 2018, in Chandler. Coach Carlson was a native of Fort Dodge, IA, and the son of Ole John and Gertrude Irene Carlson. He was a graduate of Mesa HS (1965) and attended Arizona State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in education, social studies, and health and recreation. He earned post-graduate degrees and principal certification from Northern Arizona University. After four years in Sacaton and Eloy schools, John spent most of his career in Chandler: from 1974-1986 as a teacher and coach at Chandler HS, and from 1986-2012 as CUSD Director of Athletics. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Carol; son, Christopher (Gina); sister, Connie Stepherson (Lee), one uncle, two aunts, and many cousins, all out of state. Coach Carlson’s storied career as a teacher, coach, and mentor to thousands of students is legendary in Chandler’s history. During his career, he taught history, safety ed, and drivers ed courses. However, his unique gift was in coaching, and he became the consummate coach. If a coaching position was unfilled, John would step in to fill it. He coached baseball, basketball, cross country, football, softball, track and field, volleyball, weightlifting, and, of course, wrestling. He developed an award-winning wrestling program at CHS, earning state titles in 1989 and 1990 as well as many regional titles. His teams achieved national rankings during many of those years. He also coached student-athletes to state and national titles in track and field. As a coach and a teacher, he created lasting friendships with fellow teachers, students, community leaders, and sports fans across the state and nation. He was honored many times by sports, wrestling, and education organizations. A great honor came to John and Carol (also a teacher and administrator in the district for 32 years) when CUSD named an elementary school after them. The John and Carol Carlson Elementary School was dedicated in 2012. Other deserved recognition came from the AZ Interscholastic Association, USA Junior World Wrestling, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. As a tribute to his years of coaching, he is a member of seven halls of fame. Thousands of former students, players, and associates will miss his friendly, welcoming spirit in the classroom, around the campus, and on the sidelines of sports events. Memorial services for Coach Carlson are planned for Saturday, June 2, at 10 am at the Compass Christian Church, 1825 S. Alma School Rd, Chandler 85286. Coach Carlson’s family suggests contributions in his memory to Sunkist Kids ( or to AZ-USA Wrestling ( or


  • Kevin Nute Posted May 18, 2018 2:37 PM

    Mr. Carlson (Coach) definitely made a difference in so many lives! His vessel might be gone, but his spirit with live on with us ALL!! R.I.P Coach and Thank you!

  • Michael (Slim) Duran Posted May 18, 2018 2:45 PM

    A Great man, coach, husband, father, mentor Heaven has recieved!
    Michael (Slim) Duran

  • Elle Catt Posted May 18, 2018 2:51 PM

    I’m glad we got to see each other when I moved back to Az. You were my teacher, taught me to drive, my friend and neighbor. Teach them wrestling in Heaven.

  • Chuck Land Posted May 18, 2018 3:01 PM

    Fly with the Angels Sir.. you will be missed but never forgotten.
    you made a huge impact on many lives here in Chandler through classes and sports…

  • Mark Wussler Posted May 18, 2018 3:30 PM

    A great, great man. May God bless you

  • Manny Palomarez Posted May 18, 2018 3:36 PM

    Coach your one of the reasons why I became a teacher and coach in CUSD. You were a great mentor and friend. Chandler lost a great one but your legacy will live on forever!

  • rick engelmann Posted May 18, 2018 3:39 PM

    A really big hole in all our hearts. His smile and spirit were inspirational.

  • Susan (Bowman) Gilbert Posted May 18, 2018 4:06 PM

    Prayers for Coach Carlson’s family in their time of loss. What a great legacy he created through his life! The impact he made in so many lives & hius legacy will love on.

  • Debbie and Darin Dolezal Posted May 18, 2018 4:28 PM

    “Coach” you made a difference is so many of our lives. Your strength shared to make all of us better athletes and better people, even beyond high school days. Thank you for the impression that you have left on many of us. You will be missed and we all know when someone talks or mentions “coach” it will be you that we are remembering. RIP Coach. May God comfort your family and friends and put a smile in their hearts with your memory.

  • Mark Sanchez Posted May 18, 2018 5:39 PM

    We lost a man who truly made the world a better place. His legacy lives on with his family and all ofnthr people that he has inspired. Deeply sorry for your loss.

  • Jessica Daniels Posted May 18, 2018 7:50 PM

    I first met Coach Carlson when I was 15. He gave me some pointers and positive words as an athlete. I had the opportunity to learn from him as an educator and later spend time with him when I was an athletic director. He has always been a positive influence in my life. I will cherish the times I spent with him and will miss him terribly.

  • Darby Johnston Mahon Posted May 18, 2018 9:54 PM

    I have numerous memories growing up with the Carlson family. John, Carol and Chris are beautiful people and warm in spirit to everyone that crosses their paths. I’ll never forget when I took my own family to a Chandler football game and we stopped to say hello to John at the gate that entered into the field. He opened the gate for us and let my kids have special entry into the field. They were beyond thrilled. He was always so kind, thoughtful and fun! John will always be missed!

  • Gigi & Jeff Quaine Posted May 19, 2018 4:19 AM

    What an amazing man “Coach “ touched so many lives and made the world a little brighter. He always had a can do attitude always positive always made those around him feel like they could achieve anything. Thank you for putting such a bright positive presence not only at Chandler High School but everywhere you went. Our thoughts and prayers go out to friends and his wonderful family.

  • Bryan ( Roland) Kenner Posted May 19, 2018 9:32 AM

    Coach you was a major part of my life in high school, and was so happy to reunite with you later on in life, Heaven just received a special gift, Thank you God for letting us have Coach, RIP

  • Melissa Lea Brown- Marrino Posted May 19, 2018 2:09 PM

    Much Love and thanks for being there!

  • Susie Silva-Contreras Posted May 20, 2018 8:28 AM

    Mr. Carlson you’ll be missed by many dear closed friends. Say hello to my brother Henry Silva. He looked up to you in so many ways. God bless your family. Great man!

  • Bruce Ferguson Jr Posted May 20, 2018 5:34 PM

    The most impactful teacher and coach I ever met, More importantly, a genuinely real and caring person. God bless!

  • Steve Galas Posted May 21, 2018 10:23 PM

    John was a great coach , teacher, athletic director, but most of all a great friend. He saw goodness in every student or athlete he came in contact. He was always willing to help in any activity associated with Chandler or state wide sports. He was truly an inspiration to all. He will be missed.

  • Sharon Chavez Posted May 22, 2018 1:51 PM

    You were an Awesome Man & Coach! R.I.P.

  • Dave Nardi Posted May 22, 2018 4:08 PM

    John’s “humanity” was boundless, and his spirit moved all of us who came into his presence. With John, it was always about what one could provide to others. He was the consummate leader amongst men and women. I will miss John Carlson.

  • Tom Sikes Posted May 22, 2018 4:32 PM

    John was a great man, friend , and Coach, and there will never be another Carlson, Heaven is a better place with this man, and I plan on seeing John sometime in the future again, and the one thing I have learned is to love your family and friends because you never no when its your time.

  • Kim Bickford Posted May 23, 2018 5:53 AM

    When you think of Chandler, you think of Coach Carlson. What a great coach, teacher and person. He will be missed. His wife and family are in our thoughts and prayers!! God Bless.

  • Mike Blackburn Posted May 23, 2018 7:44 AM

    On behalf of the membership of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, our most sincere condolences to John’s family. He was an impacting administrator and colleague.

  • Roseyn Hood Posted May 26, 2018 4:44 PM

    John was a pillar in the athletic community in Arizona and specifically the East Valley. As a new AD in Tempe Union year’s ago, John was helpful and always willing to share his expertise. His love of wrestling was infectious and I am grateful our paths intersected time and time again. Here’s to a tremendous and lasting legacy in public education.. rest peacefully John.

  • John and Rose Maher Posted May 27, 2018 6:51 PM

    We were a small group of retirees who met for lunch at Serrano’s this past March. John opened up with stories about his time in Chandler and made us all laugh. He encouraged us to share with the new retirees and to involve them in the luncheons in the future. He was always thinking of others. He had a great sense of humor and an adventurous spirit. John has touched many lives and his positive attitude inspired all who knew him. God bless him and his family.

  • Patricia Hubbard Posted May 28, 2018 1:14 PM

    I wish to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Douglas Carlson. May you find comfort in your loving memories of John and in God’s promise to see our loved ones again through the resurrection. (Acts 24:15) What joy it will be to welcome back John to a beautiful, peaceful earth (Psalms 37:10,11,29) where all pain, sickness and death will be no more! (Rev21:4) Hold on to all your happy memories of John and let these, along with all the promises of God, who cannot lie, bring you comfort and peace! My deepest sympathy!

  • Joni Pabst Posted May 28, 2018 8:38 PM

    On behalf of the AIAAA our deepest condolences to Carol and Christopher. John was a wonderful mentor to so many Arizona High School athletic directors. May you Rest In Peace our dear friend.

  • Joni Pabst Posted May 28, 2018 8:43 PM

    John was a dear friend and colleague. I have so many wonderful memories of our time together in the AIAAA. My thoughts, prayers and love are with Carol and their son Christopher.

  • Letha Lamb Posted May 29, 2018 7:27 PM

    I can’t begin to tell you how much of an inspiration you always have been to me and such a great support. You will truly be missed but never forgotten by many. I’m a better person for having known you. All my love always, Letha

  • Heather (Morrison) Bueter Posted May 30, 2018 7:12 PM

    My heart and prayers go out to his family. He will be missed by so many… . RIP Coach! Class of ’82

  • Tom Dahlen Posted May 30, 2018 10:13 PM

    It has been one of my life’s greatest honors to have known John for the past 36 years and for him to have treated me as a friend.

  • Robert Bickford Posted May 31, 2018 7:01 AM

    A young man wishes to thank you for ‘The School Letter’ you didn’t have to give him. A fond memory. I think about that moment in the school parking lot, when you handed it to me, and told me to keep on trying. You explained, in detail, why. You told me, I deserved it. Every once in a while, almost 40 years later, I still think about it. Thank you, Coach Carlson. I will never forget. My prayers go out to your family, as your spirit goes on in the hearts of many. Amen.

  • Snoopy Posted May 31, 2018 8:12 AM

    Nothing good to say so I won’t say anything. Bye Bye.

  • Deborah Johnston Wussler Posted May 31, 2018 4:36 PM

    Rest easy, Coach. Prayers to the family.

  • Flo Dyson Posted June 1, 2018 9:49 AM

    Coach, thank you for your dedication to teach us all. I have learned so much from you as a student and as an adult. You have touched so many lives and I am humbly grateful I got to see you for our 50th Girls party. In Japanese we say MATTA NE! Which means see you again!!!! Till then .

  • Lisa Bunch nee Nischan Posted June 2, 2018 8:18 AM

    Dear Coach, you stand out as one of my most fondly remembered teachers. You always had a smile though you might not have felt like smiling. You will be unforgetable as long as I live. The Lord is saying “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

  • Kahkuyan Brewer Posted June 2, 2018 8:48 AM

    Coach you will be missed. You have touched the lives of so many including mine. You made it possible for me to achieve dreams at a sport I knew nothing about but you saw something in me and helped me. I started coaching because of you and fell in love with the sport all over again. My prayers go out to you and your famiily from the Brewer family.

  • Kathy Lee Nelson Posted June 2, 2018 3:59 PM

    I wish i had seen this sooner so I could have attended his service. John was my friend for many years. What a great guy. I first met him when he used to bounce at the country bars. He was throwing a guy out the back door of Nortons corner the first time i met him. So back then we seemed to follow each other around from one country dance spot to anioher. He was the kind of guy that was always there for you.. I have not seen him in a long time but i have no doubt he would have greeted me like it was yesterday had we seen each other. To his family I’m so sorry for your loss. To John I wish you God speed! I hope I see you again on the other side my friend..

  • Vicki Stephens Parent Posted September 14, 2018 9:42 AM

    One of the greatest men I have ever known…You impacted more people than you probably knew because you were a humble man..
    You ran your race and you finaished well…God bless you Coach John…

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