Louise Helene Achenbach, a 45-year resident of Woodlake, died Friday, May 11, 2018. She was 73.
A celebration of Louise’s life will be held today (Friday, May 25), at 2 p.m., at Woodlake Presbyterian Church, 600 W. Naranjo Blvd. at Cypress Street.
Louise was born November 6, 1944, in Hot Springs, S.D., to John and Nora Achenbach. Louise was an only child whose father died of Parkinson’s disease when she was three years old. She was raised by her mother in Custer, S.D., near Mt. Rushmore.
In 1963, Louise graduated from Custer High School. She was involved in music, band, choir, theatre arts, lots of clubs, and was editor of the school’s yearbook. But, she noted, “there were no sports for girls.”
Louise graduated from Black Hills State Teachers College (today Black Hills State University) where she majored in Elementary Education, Social Sciences, and Physical Education with minor degrees in Psychology and Music. But, still, she recalled, “no women’s organized sports until my senior year.”
Women’s softball started that year and Louise’s team made it to the first-ever Women’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Louise taught for one year in New Underwood, S.D. Then, on a Wednesday, she received an offer of a teaching job in a small Central California town: Woodlake. The job started Monday.
Louise packed her bags and arrived in California on Sunday evening. What was South Dakota’s loss was Woodlake High School’s gain. After nearly 40 years of teaching and coaching at Woodlake High, Louise left an indelible mark on the school, its students, and the community.
Louise lived in Three Rivers during her first three years of teaching. Then she purchased a five-acre property on the outskirts of Woodlake, where she resided until her death.
In addition to teaching multiple subjects over the years, she spent 32 years at WHS as a coach.
For the first 14 years, she coached boys’ and girls’ tennis even though Louise knew nothing about the game of tennis. She was given about two hours notice that she would be coaching tennis, so she checked a book out from the library to learn the rules and regulations. She taught herself to play the game at home in the evenings using a spatula as a racket. This self-taught tennis coach led her athletes to many league championships.
Just as Louise had noticed in her own high school and college careers, there weren’t many athletic opportunities at Woodlake High for female students; in 1970, it was just tennis and swimming. Then Louise and Title IX crossed paths.
On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was enacted by Congress and signed into law by then-President Richard Nixon. Title IX prohibited gender discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial aid.
By fall 1972, Louise was holding tryouts for WHS’s first girls’ volleyball team. Basketball and softball soon followed.
For 30 seasons under Louise’s direction, WHS volleyball won 26 league championships. Basketball and softball also fielded championship teams.
One of Woodlake High School’s proudest sports moments to this day was in 1985, when Woodlake beat Justin-Siena (Napa) 59-57 in overtime to win the Division IV State Championship at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
Louise was also the WHS Cheer Squad advisor for 20 years and the Tiger Marching Band’s flag and letterette advisor for 12 years.
Louise was named Coach of the Year an astounding 22 times. In 2003, she was named the California League of High Schools’ Educator of the Year. In 2009, she was inducted into the Yellow Jacket Hall of Fame at Black Hills State University. She was also inducted into the California
State Coaches Hall of Fame, named Woodlake High School’s Teacher of the Year, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Interscholastic Federation, was Woodlake’s Woman of the Year in 1988 and, in 2017, was one of the first three inductees into WHS’s new Hall of Fame.
Louise spent 14 years in the United States Army Reserves, eventually working her way up to an E-9 classification, the highest rank an enlisted soldier can achieve.
In 2007, it was the end of an era when Louise retired after almost 40 years at Woodlake High School.
Louise was preceded in death by her father, mother, stepfather, and many aunts and uncles with whom she was very close. In 2015, she was also preceded in death by her dear friend and Woodlake High School colleague, Barb Edwards, who was the first person Louise met when arriving at WHS all those years before.
Louise is survived by her aunt, Rebecca Cooper of Custer, S.D.; several cousins including David (Karen) Maudlin of Hill City, S.D., and Glenda (Kevin) Jenniges of Custer, S.D.; and special friends Frances Mann, Kelly Lopez, and Ryan Edwards, all of Woodlake.
Donations in Louise’s memory may be made payable to Woodlake High School Foundation and mailed to Frances Mann, c/o P.O. Box 150, Woodlake, CA 93286. Funds will be used for Louise Achenbach scholarships that will be presented to graduating WHS seniors.
Interment will be at Custer Cemetery in South Dakota.