PEORIA — Doug Goessman was a professional artist and teacher.
But when it came to sports, baseball was his canvas.
The longtime Richwoods High School baseball head coach died at age 51 late Sunday night. He was diagnosed in August with amyloidosis, a rare disease that attacks the liver. His family said he died at 11:02 p.m. Sunday in a Chicago hospital from liver failure as a result of a recent multiple myeloma cancer diagnosis.
"We are in a battle of peace, and disbelief," said Goessman's son, Shea, 22. "He's no longer suffering. He fought bravely to the end, and everyone who knew him, everyone who loved him, will miss him."
Services are pending, and the family plans a celebration of life event after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The family plans to ask Richwoods High School if it would be willing to host a farewell parade where Goessman's casket will be driven past cars lined up with students, former players, friends and family.
"I'm shaken up," said Dylan Lonteen, who played for Goessman at Richwoods and on the coach's summer club team, the Steel, and went on to ICC and Northern Illinois University. "This is terrible news. The coach that he was — the ultimate player's coach — he brought the best out of all of us.
"I transferred to Richwoods in my sophomore year, didn't know anyone. He was my art teacher, and he loved baseball so much. He started the (summer baseball club) Furies, then later co-founded the Steel when I was a junior.
"He was really good about getting guys like me, who didn't have the money to pay for some of the bigger travel programs, a low-cost chance to play and develop.
"Doug's family told me he was feeling better this weekend, and was the most comfortable he's been in a long time. It's heartbreaking."
Goessman was a Chicago native who received his bachelor's degree in studio art from Western Illinois University, and attended graduate school there for art therapy and education.
He met his former wife, Denise, at WIU. "Sports was important to him, and his art, he was really into it," she said. "He did shows for years. He would have been happy to live off art shows, and his passion was for pop art.
"We were together a long time, and remained good friends."
He spent the last 27 years in Peoria. He taught visual arts at Richwoods for 12 years, including courses in ceramics, sculpture, graphic design, painting and dual credit art.
He was a professional artist and maintained his own studio in Peoria. He spent 13 years as a graphics designer at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
His studio work has been displayed in galleries throughout Chicago and internationally, as well as in Peoria.
"One of the best memories I have with my dad is the Valentine's Day boxes he'd make for me to take to school," Shea Goessman said. "And Halloween costumes, too."
And he was a proud father on the baseball field, too. When Shea Goessman was a junior playing for Pekin High School, his team faced a loaded Richwoods team in a game.
"I had the game-winning hit to help Pekin beat my dad's team," Shea Goessman said. "Now no coach likes to lose. But that was a proud moment for my dad. He talked about it all the time."
Goessman was a member of his beloved fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega. He co-founded the Speakeasy Art Center in Pekin, was a member of the Peoria Art Guild and board member of Peoria's Contemporary Art Center.
On the baseball side of his life, he was a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association, the Illinois Coaches Association, the United Baseball Academy and he founded the Peoria-Metro Furies Baseball Club and co-founded the Illinois Steel Baseball Club.
His former wife said he founded the two summer baseball clubs as an answer to something he called "Daddyball," a reference to baseball club organizations founded by parents who wanted to laud their own kids' success.
"He hated ’Daddyball.’ He wanted to build an organization to develop kids, all kids, no matter who they were or where they were from," Shea Goessman said.
Doug Goessman was a varsity assistant baseball coach at Limestone High School for four years before taking over as head coach at Richwoods, where he would have led the team through its 10th season in the spring of 2021.
Last spring, during the lockdown, he held online sessions with his students, demonstrating his art and checking in on their projects.
"Just a fantastic guy," said Tony Shinall, a former Richwoods administrator now superintendent at Brimfield school district. "Great person, phenomenal teacher and a top-notch coach.
"When I was at Richwoods I saw him inspire kids to do breathtaking things with art. His classes were always a great outlet for kids."
Another of those kids was former Richwoods baseball player Drue Galassi, now an outfielder at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina.
"This is such awful news," Galassi said. "He always wanted the best for me, he was the one who got me a chance in college baseball at Western Illinois University. "His passion for the game, and dedication to his players, and his family and teaching, he inspired us."
Goessman grew up a Chicago Cubs fan in the Old Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago, the only son of a single mother.
"I played baseball in college," Goessman said in a 2012 Journal Star story. "I had two injury-plagued stints. I was a pitcher. I blew my arm out, and I had to give it up. That’s when I started taking school a little more seriously, and art more seriously. That’s when I started to look for my style."
That style was known to focus around bold, colorful abstract paintings with printed elements drawn from popular culture. His work included depictions of Ronald McDonald, Bozo the Clown, Uncle Sam, actor Cesar Romero's Joker in the 1960s Batman television show, and superheroes like Captain America.
"I’m influenced by the stuff I saw every day when I was growing up," Goessman told the Journal Star in 2012. "You can’t be a good artist if you follow the rules. You gotta be able to play a little bit and cross the lines."
He is survived by children Shea (22), Addison (14), Ada (10) and Cade (6).
Many of his art pieces are being sold right now through Peoria's Contemporary Art Center. His family says art and baseball were never about the money for Goessman, though.
"My dad knew it would be easy to be an art teacher and a baseball coach," Shea Goessman said. "Because it was easy to show people how to do the things he loved.
"He coached me in baseball from the time I was a little kid. And when I was in third grade, my dad and I did an art show together. That was the first time I really knew what it was like to walk in his shoes. I stayed with art throughout high school, and I wanted to be a professional baseball player.
"I wanted to be just like him."
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.