Memorial service for Max Lee Rife, 84, Lawrence, will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, December 29, 2011, at Plymouth Congregational Church, with the Reverend Dr. Peter A. Luckey officiating. A reception will follow the service in the Mayflower Room at the church.
Max Lee Rife was born November 9, 1927, in Harper County, Kansas, the son of Casper and Grace (Ford) Rife. He attended schools in Harper County and Anthony. In 1946 he joined the US Navy and served as a Submarine Serviceman until his discharge in 1948. Before graduating in 1951 from Southwestern College, Winfield, Max married Wilma Stratton on December 29, 1948. Max earned a Master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1968. Max taught and coached in Geneseo and at Inman, where his team won a state championship in basketball. He moved to Lawrence in 1956 as head basketball coach, where he became the basketball coach with the most wins in LHS history including many league championships. He coached and taught history at Lawrence High School until named Associate Principal in 1968, serving in this capacity until his retirement in 1991.
As an athlete at Southwestern College he lettered in track, football and basketball. He was named by the Topeka Daily Capital as an All-CIC football player in 1949 and 1950. He received honorable mention on the Little (small college) All-American Football team in 1950. In 1994, he was inducted into the Southwestern College Athletic Hall of Fame.
As a coach, Max’s enthusiasm and determination inspired his athletes to succeed on and off the court. This influence is reflected in the many calls and letters he has received throughout the years. Because of his long tenure and service as coach and administrator at Lawrence High School, he was inducted into the Lawrence High School Hall of Honor in 2005.
Max Rife loved Lawrence High and (for the most part) Lawrence High loved Max Rife. He truly enjoyed the challenge of interacting with teenagers. For 35 years, Max counseled, disciplined, kidded, mentored and lovingly hassled the youth of Lawrence.
Max greatly enjoyed living in Lawrence and was passionate about KU Sports. His other passions were trading and sometimes modifying cars, organizing excursions in a great variety of recreational vehicles, water skiing, boating, camping, and country living with frequent trips to town. Among his greatest joys was conversing with friends, students, rivals, acquaintances, car dealers, barbers, restaurant servers, shop keepers, perfect strangers and his cats Blanche and One-Eyed Jack. His sharp sense of humor was a defining characteristic and his stories and conversation will be missed by family and friends.
Max is survived by his wife, two sisters Lois McKee, Anthony and Donna Coble, Severy. Other survivors include four children, Kurt Rife, Kansas City, MO; Joel Rife and his wife Nancy Coleman, Albuquerque, NM; Trish Rife and her husband Patrick Robinson, Greenville, TX; Libby Rife and her husband Ed Holub, Denver, CO. Other survivors include four grandchildren, Shannon Rife, Wilson Rife, Jacob Robinson and Sam Robinson. He was preceded in death by his parents and his daughters-in-law Patti Rife and Gail Massey.
The family will greet friends from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 28 at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to the Lawrence Schools Foundation, or the Lawrence Humane Society, in care of the funeral home, 601 Indiana, Lawrence, KS 66044.
A private inurnment will be held at a later date.