HELENA – Wednesday’s news of the passing of former Glasgow High School and Carroll College multi-sport athlete John Newton Etchart rocked communities across Montana.
Etchart was a staple in the community and brainstormed many of the upgrades around the campus of Carroll College, including the building of Nelson Stadium, the home of the Fighting Saints football program.
“He was very much on the planning committee for the foundation of Nelson Stadium,” said Carroll College head football coach Mike Van Diest. “He helped us a lot building our weight room, things we needed in our program, especially when I first came here in 1999. He and Tom McCarvel were two of the first people I got a chance to meet and were great friends. Besides the support, the friendship goes a lot farther than that.”
“I think if anybody had a role model of what alumni should be and how they feel about their school, his picture would be on the front page of that,” Van Diest continued. “John loved Carroll College. He was always down here talking with Nick Howlett, Jim Hogan and myself about football. He was always here when we had recruits on campus. His friendship with Gary Turcott was amazing. The things that John brought to Carroll College with his love and passion is something we’re going to miss.”
Etchart was no stranger to Van Diest and certainly not his football team. He could always be found on the sidelines of practice or games, chatting with players and coaches and even offering friendships away from campus.
“The first four or five years here, he and Sarah, his wife, would have our recruits up for dinner on recruiting weekends,” said Van Diest. “When kids came in on Super Bowl weekend he would throw a Super Bowl party. He just loved it. Nick, Jim and I tabbed him as the owner around here, but in such a good way. Everything he had was positive about Carroll College, positive about Helena and he was a great friend. He was a great friend to my family. When we moved here, my sons Shane and Clay would be at his house in the swimming pool, it was just a great time and he treated everybody with great respect.”
Etchart was an all-state athlete at Glasgow High School in the early 1960s, before continuing his career on the Carroll College football, basketball and baseball teams. Van Diest knows he holds a special place in Fighting Saints’ history.
“He was here in maybe the golden years of Carroll College in the 1960s,” he said. “From football to basketball and baseball, there were so many outstanding athletes at that time. You can see his friendships with Marc Racicot, Gary Turcott and Tim Dernbach and those types of people. Their friendship and legacy will live through them with John.”