Cover photo for Coach Jesse David Longhofer's Obituary
Coach Jesse David Longhofer Profile Photo
1936 Coach Jesse 2024

Coach Jesse David Longhofer

January 14, 1936 — March 31, 2024

Harlingen, Texas

Coach Jesse David Longhofer, a cherished son of Benjamin and Lena Longhofer, was welcomed into the world in the panhandle town of Higgins, Texas, on January 14, 1936. His journey on Earth came to a peaceful close on the blessed day of Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024, as he was called to his eternal home.

A resilient soul from the start, Jesse, one of eleven children, and his family relocated from the Dust Bowl to the Rio Grande Valley during his early years, finally settling down roots in Donna. It was here Jesse's athletic and leadership skills flourished in track, basketball, and football, culminating in his role as football captain during his senior year.

Jesse's dedication to family and work began early.  As a high school sophomore, he joined his uncle in the Midwestern wheat harvests, contributing to his family's income. Post-high school, he ventured into the oil fields but was soon drawn to further education to pursue his dream of coaching. His journey to coaching began with a scholarship to Victoria Jr. College, thanks to Rusty Russell of 12 Mighty Orphans fame, and continued at Texas A&I, now Texas A&M Kingsville, where he played under legendary Coach Gil Steinke, contributing to the school's first National Championship and leading as team captain. Jesse later worked as a graduate assistant for the Javelinas and received his Master of Educational Supervision at Texas A&I.

In a serendipitous meeting in the spring of 1959 at the Student Union Building, Jesse Longhofer's life was forever changed when he met Kathy O’Brien over a simple coffee. This encounter blossomed into love, leading to their engagement that very summer and culminating in marriage the following year. Together, they embarked on a journey of love and companionship that would endure for 63 remarkable years, celebrated each July.

Amid his athletic and academic pursuits at A&I, Jesse also committed himself to service, joining the National Guard. His service to his country took him to Ft. Knox, KY, and later, amidst the tensions of the Berlin Crisis, he and his unit played a crucial role in reopening Ft. Polk, LA. Post-graduation, Jesse's professional journey began in Uvalde, Texas, where he served as the assistant football coach under the guidance of T.W. Celaya. The Longhofer family soon grew with the arrival of their first son, David, in 1963

Their lives took another turn when they moved to Harlingen, where Jesse assumed the role of Defensive Coordinator. The family joyfully expanded with the birth of their daughter Megan and later their son Matt. In a pivotal moment in 1971, upon the recommendation of Head Coach and AD Carl Spoonemore, Jesse was elevated to the Head Varsity Football Coach and AD.

As the Head Varsity Coach at Harlingen High, his teams won 108 games, lost 34, and tied 4 with a 76% win percentage. In 1972, he delivered the first District Championship to Harlingen in 20 years.

With the advent of Title IX, Jesse was presented with a new challenge by the superintendent: to transition from his position as Head Football Coach to becoming the full-time Athletic Director. This move aimed to establish a premier athletic program for girls within the Harlingen CISD. His vision was clear:  to elevate Harlingen’s Girls' Athletics to unparalleled heights of excellence, a goal he passionately pursued and successfully achieved. After several years, Jesse seamlessly returned to the joint role of Head Football Coach and Athletic Director, showcasing his unwavering commitment to fostering athletic talent across the board.

He was RGV Coach of the Year in 1973, 1988, and 1989 and South Texas Coach of the Year Runner-Up in 1973.  Jesse was named 32-5A Coach of the Year in 1972, 1973, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1992.  He was inducted into the RGV Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and was nominated for the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Honor.  His National Championship Team at Texas A & I was inducted into the Texas A & I Hall of Fame in 2009.  He was inducted into the RGV Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2016.  His Harlingen Athletic Program was rated in the Top Ten Athletic Programs in the state for five years of his tenure (Houston Chronicle) and his teams went into the State 5A Playoffs for ten straight years.

He was a member of the Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association, the Texas Association of Health and Physical Education, the National Association of Athletic Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School Administrators (TAHPER), the Rio Grande Valley Coaches Association, the Southwest Basketball Officials Association, American Heart Association, and the Rotary Club of Harlingen. He held offices and served on the Board of Directors for many of them.

Outside of his coaching duties, Jesse cherished the moments spent at the deer lease, surrounded by friends and his sons, reveling in the camaraderie and the tranquility of nature. As the summer warmth set in, he found solace and joy in casting lines into the waters of South Padre Bay or unwinding at the North Cut alongside Mike McLelland, embracing the simple pleasures of the season.

Like his mother, Jesse loved growing vegetables.  The students from Treasure Hills Elementary made field trips to see what was growing in the Longhofer garden. He enjoyed canning and cooking just as his mother did. Like his father, he took pleasure in caring for citrus, and he had grapefruit, tangerine, orange, lime, and mango trees producing in his yard.

He enjoyed gambling visits to Nevada with family and friends and was a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan.

He said, “We were a big family, and my mother was the glue that held us together.  She ensured we went to school, church, and Sunday School.” 
 Five of her six sons served in the military.  Jesse’s coaches were his father figures, and he became the man he was because of them.

One of the highlights of his coaching career took place in the summer of 2023, when the Cardinal teams of the ’80s gathered for a reunion. Abel Guillen wrote a tribute manuscript on the ’89 season, when the Cardinals reached the quarterfinals. At the reunion, Jesse and his son David were inducted into the Cardinal Circle of Honor.  

In 2009, Dr. Greg Selber wrote and published Border Ball, a book chronicling Valley football. Jesse was honored that an entire chapter was devoted to him and his accomplishments.

Along with his coaching record, he was most proud of being inducted into the Rio Grande Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.  His son David was inducted in 2021, making them one of the few father-son teams earning this honor.  

Jesse is preceded in death by his parents, his beloved son David, his brothers, and their spouses Ed (Elsie) and Melvin (Jean). Vernon, Floyd (Rita), and Harold and his sisters and their spouses Ann Kieschneck (Sam), Wilba Koch (Harold), Julianna Longhofer and Bonnie Thomas, and his brother-in-law Bob Derryberry.

He is survived by his wife Kathy, his daughter Megan, her husband Don Saustad, his son Matt, and his wife Jenifer.  His beloved grandchildren are Matthew (fiancé Jackie Armas), Cade and Campbell Saustad, Graham and Cannon Longhofer, all of whom he was very proud.  He is also survived by his sister Kathy Derryberry, his sister-in-law Carolyn Longhofer, and many treasured nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren.

Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home will host a visitation from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23.   Services will be held at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 602 Morgan Boulevard, Harlingen, Texas 78550 on Wednesday, April 24, at 11:00 a.m. with the Reverend Nathan Wendorf presiding. 

Honorary Pallbearers are Mike McLelland, Kenneth Woods, David Garcia, Virgil Garcia, Jesse Landeros, David Smith, Manny Gomez, Scott Swinnea, Gus Torres, Bobby Lucio, and Walt Ridings.  Special Honorary Pallbearer is Estella Oviedo.   A reception at the church hall will follow.  Attendees are encouraged to wear Harlingen Cardinal colors.

Special thanks go out to Pastor Wendorf and Yvette Cano for their loving care, to Justin Simons, his physical therapist and sounding board, and to his doctors Jay Walther and Luis Reynosa, who tended to him through the years.

A scholarship honoring Coach Longhofer has been set up at Harlingen High School. Donations may be sent in care of the Bookkeeper at 1201 E. Marshall, Harlingen, TX 78550. 


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

5:00 - 6:00 pm (Central time)

Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home

1400 US-77 BUS, San Benito, TX 78586

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Memorial Service

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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