Alpena, Mich — If you attended Thunder Bay Junior High or Alpena High School in the last 50 years, chances are you’ve had William “Bill” Romstadt Senior as a teacher. The 84 year-old still substitutes at both TBJH and AHS to this day. Romstadt is a member of the 2018 Alpena Hall of Fame class and has devoted his life to his students and athletes.
Romstadt hails from Oregon, Ohio, where he played football and baseball. He won three baseball conference championships and two football conference championships while in high school. His athletic career continued at Findlay University as the Oilers quarterback and as an outfielder.
College was the end of Romstadt’s playing career. Playing both baseball and football opened the door to what would turn into a long coaching career. His first head coaching job was at Delta High School in Ohio. While Romstadt enjoyed coaching, he didn’t enjoy being a head coach, “It was too much politics, it was too much away from the football field and talking to people and things like this etcetera and I just wanted to coach.”
Bill got the opportunity to become an assistant coach for Alpena in 1967 and has been here ever since. He coached under 1995 Alpena Hall of Fame inductee Glenn “Dutch” Schrotenboer and alongside Jim Watters. Romstadt handled the offense, while Watters handled the defense. “Dutch Schrotenboer was probably one of the best coaches I’ve coached under,” Romstadt said. The coaches turned out a quality team for many years, and each coach understood their role.
“I remember one time at one of our meetings, I said, ‘Dutch, we can run our 40 and 41 trap and it’s going to be golden!’ And he says, ‘Great report, but I’ll make the decisions at game-time about what plays we run.’ And so I just backed off.
Now aren’t you going to say, ‘weren’t you hurt by that?’ No, that’s the way he was! He was up front with you and that was it. You never told him you should run this or that. He would come back and put you right in your place.”
Romstadt was also involved with wrestling, basketball, swimming, and softball during his coaching career.
If Bill wasn’t coaching, he was staying as close to the field or court as he could by officiating. He spent 54 years as an official working at the high school and college levels. He officiated the 1997 state basketball tournament and served as the home plate umpire for the 2000 East-West All-Star Game at Comerica park.
The only break Bill got from athletics was in the classroom, where you can still find him today. Romstadt taught Social Studies and continues to serve as a substitute for Alpena junior high and high schools. He was been recognized as AHS’s Teacher of the Year three times, and as TBJH’S once.
Romstadt conceded that none of the jobs he worked paid him a lot of money, but it was more important to him to follow his heart. The awards he earned for teaching, coaching, and officiating all affirmed his career choice. He could’ve made tripled the money his first coaching job paid him if he chose to work in an industrial setting instead, but followed his heart instead of his wallet.
“They asked me, ‘We’re paying you three times more and you’re going into teaching and coaching?’
And I said yes. And he says, “Are you sure you have a college education?” And then he started laughing!
I laughed too, I thought it was really funny. He told me to do it, because I’d be a lot happier doing that than I would be with them.
The most important thing in life is being happy. Coaching, teaching, they were everything I ever wanted to do. Do I regret it (turning down the money)? Absolutely not.”
Bill keeps in shape and does 100 push ups a day to stay on top of his game. He enjoys sharing his first-hand knowledge of The Great Depression, WWII, and more defining moments of the 20th century with his students. Romstadt really enjoys teaching the newest generation because their ideas are so different than his own.
“Teaching and coaching has never been a job to me, it’s never been work. It’s been an adventure.”