January 12, 2016 // Local

Fred Tone, beloved former Bishop Dwenger principal, dies

Fred Tone, in announcing his retirement as principal of Bishop Dwenger High School, is shown in a classroom in April of 2010.

By Kay Cozad

More photos can be found on the photo gallery.

FORT WAYNE — Former Bishop Dwenger High School Principal J. Fred Tone died Dec. 29, 2015, at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne of cancer. He was 70.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, to Thomas and Eleanor, Tone grew up on the south side of Fort Wayne and attended Bishop Luers High School and Indiana University. He began his career at Bishop Dwenger High School in 1968 first as social studies teacher and assistant football coach. By 1986, he was serving as dean of students and in 1994 became the school’s third principal. He retired following 42 years of service there in 2010.

Tone served as coach in several sports including football and the wrestling program he established in 1973. He also periodically coached basketball, baseball and track.

Tone was involved in several improvements at Bishop Dwenger that included a new library, cafeteria, five classrooms, an auxiliary gym and a weight room in the mid ‘90s. He also oversaw the $8 million project that gave the school a new fine arts wing, additional classrooms, and a campus ministry area among other additions.

During his time as principal at Bishop Dwenger, the school was named one of the top-50 Catholic schools in the nation and a U.S. Department of Education blue-ribbon school. Tone was a member of the National Association of Secondary Principals, Indiana Football Coaches Hall of Fame and Indiana Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.

Carl Loesch, Secretary for Catholic Education in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said of his longtime friend and mentor, “Fred was always a whirlwind of energy. He was always writing notes on napkins and slips of paper, always keeping lists of people to talk to, students to meet, athletes to inspire. I remember his humor, his faith and his always striving to improve.”

Of Tone’s contribution to the Bishop Dwenger community he said, “It is an understatement to say that Fred had a significant impact on Bishop Dwenger and the diocese. Over his 40 years at Dwenger he taught, mentored, coached, advised and inspired thousands of students and hundreds of teachers. He was a key mentor to me as a young teacher and coach and later as a principal.”

He recalls, “I will miss his gravelly voice, his hearty laugh, and his entertaining and inspiring stories. With Fred, there was no place for half-measures. He was always all-in, for his students, his teachers, his family, his teams and even fishing. His living witness of striving for greatness despite our human failings, of always making the most of our God given talents, and having unshakeable faith in God will be lessons I treasure having learned from Fred. Farewell, my friend.”

Sandy Tone, left, accepts the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, Indiana’s honor to those who make a significant contribution to life in the Hoosier State, from State Representatives Bob Morris, Dennis Zent and Liz Brown. Sandy and John Tone accepted the award posthumously on behalf of Fred Tone. The presentation was made after an all-school Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Jan. 8 at Bishop Dwenger High School.

Jason Schiffli, current principal of Bishop Dwenger High School, remembers his predecessor and friend of 15 years this way, “Fred was everyone’s coach, teacher, mentor, motivator, friend, historian and father-figure. He epitomized what it meant to be a ‘Citizen of Two Worlds’ by always caring about people and the Church. He uniquely saw every conversation and moment as an opportunity to teach. You always came away from a Fred Tone conversation with a new fact or new perspective. Fred’s love and animated personality touched everyone’s heart and funny bone. He will forever be remembered as a serious and animated competitor, and lived his life to the very end as fighter.”

He continued, “Like everyone, I loved Fred for his genuine spirit and contagious personality. There isn’t a place or a person at Bishop Dwenger High School that wasn’t affected by Fred Tone. He was the creator and the keeper of our beloved traditions. Fred Tone established a culture at Bishop Dwenger, where everyone in the community, past and present, hold dearly on to a lingering pride, which reminds everyone that they are part of something unique and great.”

Chris Svarczkopf, dean of students at Bishop Dwenger, has known Tone for more than 35 years first as opposing wrestling team coaches. “I knew then that he was a pretty intense guy and great motivator,” he said. The year Tone stepped into the leadership role as principal at Dwenger Svarczkopf joined the staff as dean of students and head football coach. Of the man he considered his mentor and father figure, he said, “Fred is the person that looked for the best in everyone or brought it out in them.” He recalls many times hearing Tone tell a student, “I’m not going to give up on you.”

Svarczkopf was awe inspired that Tone always had time for people. “Fred made you feel like you were his best friend. He always had time for you,” he said, adding, “He was the best motivator and most positive person I’ve ever known. … My life is better because of him.”

Tone is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sandy, two sons, John F. Jr. (Karin) of Fort Wayne and Jason M. (Cheri) of Suffolk, Virginia, and six grandchildren. Also surviving are brothers, Thomas and Michael and a sister, Marsha Gibson, all of Fort Wayne. Tone was preceded in death by his parents.

Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Jan. 2 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Fort Wayne with burial in Highland Park Cemetery.


Statement from the J. Fred Tone Family concerning the Sagamore of the Wabash Award

Jan. 8, 2015

We are grateful for all of the love, support and prayers that have been shared so generously with our family over the past six months. As you might imagine, it has been a very difficult time for all of us. It has been so heartwarming to experience such an outpouring of thoughtfulness, encouragement and kindness. The stories and special memories that so many people have shared with our family will serve as a continual reminder of the positive impact Fred has had on our community, most especially the Dwenger family.

We are honored to accept this award on behalf of Fred and are grateful to Representatives Morris and Zent for being instrumental in obtaining this special Sagamore of the Wabash distinction. When this presentation was planned, obviously our hope was that Fred would be here imparting words of wisdom to us and sharing one of his infamous stories. We were trying to keep the award a surprise to him, but in his usual “Fred way,” we do believe he saw some email correspondence and thus knew about this honor being bestowed upon him. You can’t keep a secret from him. So, we are happy to know that Fred knew, prior to his passing, that so many people hold him, and his contributions to our community, in such high regard.

He was a man who helped so many young people to believe in themselves, a man who had the willingness and courage to take risks, learn from his mistakes and inspire others as a result. Our hearts are heavy and we will miss his physical presence in our lives. We find comfort in our faith and in the consolation from family and friends who care so deeply for us.

Thank you,

Sandy Tone
Karin and John Tone
Cheri and Jason Tone


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