Keith Eugene Dawson

Keith Eugene Dawson

November 15, 1925 – December 3, 2018

Keith E. Dawson, “Dad, Gramps, Coach”, age 93, crossed his earthly finish line on Monday, December 3, 2018.

Keith was born in Pacific Grove, CA to Paul and Athelene Dawson, but grew up in Sonora, CA where his love for athletics and the outdoors was fostered. Keith served in the US Navy during World War II and Korea. He attended Modesto Jr College, then earned his degree and Masters in Education from “College of Pacific”. He was a member of the famed, undefeated COP 1949 football team and received recognition as one of the Top Collegiate Athletes in America.

Keith married his soul mate, Frances Light, in 1948. They remained together for 57 years until her death. He taught high school and coached in Oakdale and Tracy, then found his “home” in 1958 at Liberty High School in Brentwood, CA where he coached multiple sports and taught physical education for 28 years. Coach Dawson continued coaching Track and Field until age 88, positively influencing the lives of hundreds of athletes. The Liberty High School track is named for him to honor his years of dedication to the track program. Always a fitness role model, Coach would be seen jogging or bicycling everywhere. Keith was also an avid hunter and fisherman.

In 2014, Keith left his home in Oakley to relocate in the Hughson / Modesto area. He is survived by 4 loving daughters; Annette Dawson of Turlock, Ardith Feucht (Paul) of Hughson, Erica Pantle (Roy) of Oakley and Helene Cramer (Mas) of Turlock, 7 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

Celebration of Life will be held January 26, 2019 at 11:00am at Brentwood Community Center; 35 Oak Street, Brentwood, CA 94513.

Memorial contributions may be made to: LUHSD Athletic Hall of Fame, 929 Second Street, Brentwood, CA 94513 or Coach Ferrill Athletic Scholarship, Liberty High School, 850 Second Street, Brentwood, CA 94513 or charity of your choice.

Please share memories and condolences in the guestbook below.


  • Cliff Nunnally 1971 December 29, 2018 1:56 am

    One of the best all time coaches at Liberty. Took the track team to Sonora for pre – season mountain training. Last time I saw Coach Dawson he was jogging from his home to work at Liberty ( about 4 miles one way), several years after I left school! Glad to hear the track is named in his honor. My condolences to his family.

  • Jo Ann Winters Dowing January 16, 2019 5:58 pm

    What a legacy his life has been! LUHS was blessed to have this man as an amazing teacher, coach and role model! I remember him as being a very jolly and upbeat man…smiling all the time! Even though I wasn’t involved under his leadership, I knew that he was a man to honor and respect.
    Sending love and prayers to his family at this time of bereavement.

  • Kevin Clutter January 25, 2019 3:27 am

    Oh man. Best wishes to the family. I ran for Coach in the mid 1980’s. I must have been one of the hardest working but slowest runners he ever had to coach. But he worked with me just as well as he did those who went on to State. And he was so caring that he came all the way to New York to be the best man in my wedding. My kids know my stories about the man they call “Coach.”

  • Susan W. Akhavan January 26, 2019 7:07 am

    I love reading the exquisitely expressed remembrances written here so far by people who knew Keith at LUHS, and who benefited in many ways from those connections. I’m looking forward to hearing more of those heart-warming, life-affirming stories at the celebration tomorrow. Helene Dawson Cramer, his daughter, is one of my best friends since college … truly a sister to me. Keith and Fran were woven into the lives of our group of college friends, with their ability to make you feel right at home, whether you had known them for years or just met them. An example of this “heart” is that Keith made the effort to send Christmas cards to my family every year even after Fran passed away. I am thankful that Keith’s remarkable dedication to the high school was recognized by the naming of the track in his honor years ago. Imagine the impact his dedication to fitness through to his 80s has had on countless others (certainly me included). We never fully know the impact we have on others’ lives, now and into the future. On behalf of our family … all our love.

  • Rick Fortner January 28, 2019 12:03 am

    Coach was definitely a positive influence for me…his smile was ever present and always, always had an encouraging word.

    My heart goes out to the family …as a classmate of Ardith since I can remember…

    Coach lived by example…the world has definitely lost a spark for the youth of today.

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