Former Woodridge boys soccer coach Nate Rausch knew his father, Joe Rausch, always had his back at home games. 

That’s because the elder Rausch was usually one the first faces people saw when they entered Lahoski Field.

“We called him the gatekeeper,” Nate Rausch said. “He certainly will be missed. It’s a lot more quiet here without hearing him laugh.”

Joe Rausch passed away in December of 2018 at the age of 60. However, the face of “the gatekeeper” will now be permanent fixture at Lahoski Field.

A plaque was presented to the Rausch family Tuesday at Woodridge’s boys soccer game honoring Joe Rausch for his many years as a supporter and ticket taker within the Woodridge School District. The plaque will have a permanent place at the front gate of Lahoski Field.

The plaque reads “On behalf of the Woodridge Athletic Department, this memorial recognizes Joe Rausch for his dedication to the Woodridge Local School District. Joe was a long-time supporter of Woodridge athletics who, generously, donated his time at soccer, football, and basketball games. Joe had a sincere dedications for service. He was a devoted family man to his three children, four grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, extended family, and especially his wife of 37 years, Ann Marie. Every person — spectator, athlete, coach, or visitor — felt welcomed in his presence. His personality, sense of humor, and ability to put a smile on everyone’s face will be missed, but not forgotton. Joe was a friend to all.”

More than 25 members of the Rausch clan attended the ceremony at halftime of Tuesday’s game.

In attendance were all three of Joe’s sons — Larry, Zach and Nate — and his widow Ann Marie Rausch, who also is the assistant to principal Joel Morgan at Woodridge High School.

The plaque was presented by Woodridge boys soccer captains Kaloyan Armoutlieve, Jad El-ghazel and Manning Thiel to the family.

“It’s very nice for them to honor Joe like this,” Ann Marie Rausch said. “I really have no words for this.”

Morgan said the lack of Joe Rausch’s presence at games is something he’s still getting used to.

“Joe was shuch a great guy,” Morgan said. “It’s strange to come down here and not to see him. He was just a super person.”

Nate Rausch, now a graduated assistant coach at Thomas Moore, commended Woodridge recognizing his father.

“It’s a great honor. They didn’t have to do this,” Nate Rausch said. “It sucks to be back her because of this, but it is good to be back here.”

Current Bulldogs coach Andrew Spencer said Joe’s spirit “definitely” was with his team, as Woodridge routed Ravenna 9-1, scoring six goals after the ceremony at halftime.

“Joe was always here to to help us, no matter what we needed,” Spencer said.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, or @MLeonard_GHO