Donald E. Kraft

Donald E. Kraft

September 9, 1932 – March 1, 2024

Donald was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia; his daughter, Sandy Gahan; son, Don P. Kraft; parents, Edward and Anna Kraft; siblings, Gene Kraft, Delores Blohn, Rosemary Conley, Ed Kraft, and Jerry Kraft.

He is survived by his brother: Tommy Kraft; children: Sue Ann (Raymond) Sobczyk, Cindy Chevalier, and Danny Gene (Lisa) Kraft; grandchildren, Dan P. (Courtnay) Kraft, Samantha Brown (Cory) Brown, many grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Donald was born and raised a South Omaha Boy (SOB). He received his education from Omaha South High School where he met the girl who later became the “love” of his life and wife, Patricia whom he married on November 1, 1951. Together, they shared many adventures throughout the city and even for a brief time in Hawaii. Donald was stationed at Midway in Hawaii during the Korean War and served our country in the US Navy from 1951 to 1955 as a Third-Class Radioman. He often told stories about his use of Morse code. Through his service, he received a few recognition medals for National Defense, Good Conduct; and his Korean Service, the United Nations Medal. They then returned to Omaha and established their roots, and had five children.  He attended college at Omaha University (UNO) where he received his Master’s degree in Education.

After graduation, Donald found a job at the Iowa School for the Deaf. He told many stories about how he enjoyed his time there but needed a different path to support and be more present for his family; so he then transitioned to Archbishop Ryan High School.

During his time at Ryan, Don was the head coach in baseball, basketball, and golf. He also served as the head coach for freshman and sophomore football. His biggest accomplishment at Omaha Ryan was leading them to two State Titles in 3 years during the high school season. (1967 and 1968) He then led Omaha Ryan Legion Baseball in the summer (Falstaff and Pepsi) to State Titles in 1965 and 1967. He also had one State Runner-Up. The Pepsi Team of 1965 placed 2nd at the American Legion World Series by losing to North Carolina 2-1 for a National Title. His team was the first team to get close to a National Title since Omaha McDevitt’s (Creighton Prep) won it all in 1939. During this short time frame of coaching Legion baseball, he held an outstanding record of 104 wins and 29 losses. Don was given the Key to the City by Mayor Bernie Simon in 1967 to honor his leadership in sports. Don was also later inducted into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame for Coach and Team in 2014.

Besides Ryan High, he was well known in Millard where he spent the remainder of his teaching and coaching career. He was particularly known at Millard South for being the first head baseball coach and PE teacher in 1970. In 1972, he became the Athletic Director and remained in that role until he retired in 1994. During his time as Athletic Director, Millard South won 16 state championships in 8 sports. As AD, he received the NSAA Distinguished Service Award in 1988, Hall of Fame for Millard Education Foundation in 1989, Nebraska Athletic Director of the Year in 1991, Man of the Year through Nebraska Baseball Coaches Association in 1991, Nebraska High School Athletic Director Coaches Association for Athletic Director of the Year in 1992. He was then inducted into the Millard South Hall of Fame in 2005. As AD, he helped build Millard South’s baseball field. He physically helped build it, along with getting donations to build it. He told his family he didn’t spend one penny on the field when it was built. He was very proud of that. The Don Kraft Baseball Invitational held at Millard South every spring season is named after him. 

Outside of the school setting, Don was continually active in athletics. He was a baseball umpire for nearly 60, years ranging in levels from high school, legion, and college. He also was a basketball referee for 29 years, ranging in levels from high school, junior college, and college.

Donald has touched many lives, particularly through his involvement in academics and athletics.  Even though he would deny the recognition, he was well known and honored. He said his greatest accomplishment was his family. He loved athletics and working with kids. The funny thing is that the majority of people who knew him usually have a “Kraft” story to shareHe said his favorite places were church, home, and the ball diamond.

VISITATION: Tuesday, March 12th,  from 5pm to 7pm at the West Center Chapel.  FAMILY SERVICE: Wednesday, March 13thInterment, Calvary Cemetery.  Memorials are suggested to Make-a-Wish Foundation.

To view a live broadcast of the Service, please visit and click the “Live Cast” button at the top of the home page.



  • Steve and Diane (Walters) Fila Posted March 3, 2024 11:39 am

    Coach Kraft led the ’63 & ’65 (Ryan High) Omaha Pepsi Team to second & third place in the Nationals, led by National Player of the year, Ken Fila. You were a mentor and a friend. RIP Coach.

    • Tony. Connelly Posted March 3, 2024 4:05 pm

      I owe so much to Coach Kraft as a teacher, coach, fellow athletic director, and a man for others. You hit a homer Don.

  • Tony Perrone Posted March 4, 2024 8:12 am

    Coach Kraft and I were buddies in the time he and I were at Ryan together and a few years after that. Even after I graduated, he would con me into picking up chicken for him and his family at the old Shortstop Cafe. Hadn’t caught up with him lately, but still have love for him in my heart! Miss you, Coach!

  • Robert Murray Posted March 4, 2024 9:28 am

    Don was a great competitor and in a class by himself. He was a great credit to the coaching and teaching profession.. Keeping his family and friends in my prayers.

  • Richard D. Brown Posted March 4, 2024 9:57 am

    Don Kraft was a hands-on Activities Director that cared as much about the non-athletic activities as he did sports. As the Student Council sponsor, I found him to be very attentive to what we were doing. In 1981 he was a proponent when our proposal to host the annual 1,00-attendee Nebraska Association of Student Councils’ state convention was drafted and accepted. Whether it was allowing a student group to start an annual creative arts magazine or supporting the Speech and Debate teams, Don Kraft had the respect of students and coaches. He and I didn’t always agree on everything, but if it was good for students he gave it the green light. A very authentic individual and community leader. My condolences to the Kraft family.

    Millard High/Millard South H.S.

  • Robert Murray Posted March 4, 2024 4:47 pm

    Don was a class act and a wonderful man. Sending prayers to his family and friends.

  • Chuck Christenson Posted March 5, 2024 4:08 pm

    Great man. Not enough words to describe his contribution to humanity. Vivid memories of many things, but one that stands out was being on site with my Dad, Mr Kraft, and others when they built what was then Millard’s (now Millard South) first press box at the baseball field. Thought of often over the years and was always a pleasure crossing paths with Don at many baseball fields across the metro. I was an umpire – when later in life he was keeping the scorebook for his grandson’s teams. Peace and comfort to all affected by Don’s passing.

  • Michaella Esters Posted March 5, 2024 4:51 pm

    You were a great person Mr. Kraft. Thank you for all the kind words and the second chance

  • Marc Shkolnick Posted March 5, 2024 6:12 pm

    Nothing but the fondest of memories of Don. May wonderful memories sustain his family and friends and may Don’s memory be an eternal blessing.

    Marc Shkolnick
    Class of 1986

  • Bob Lykke Posted March 5, 2024 7:40 pm

    The Kraft family is my thoughts and prayers. He was a hard worker, an outstanding coach, and good person. He gave a great effort to every place he served. I enjoyed subbing with his golf group years ago. I respected this gentleman.

  • Tracy Wernsman Posted March 6, 2024 6:01 am

    Mr. Kraft was an amazing educator who had a significant impact on me as a student leader at Millard South. He was a positive individual who truly cared about the students he served. Later in my life, I became an Activities Director in the Omaha Public Schools and I tried my best to emulate Mr. Kraft’s responsive leadership.
    May eternal light shine upon him.

  • Rich Cecetka Posted March 7, 2024 9:34 am

    I remember vividly our freshman PE classes!! The first time I really got into shape!!! I also was able to talk with him at a ball game at the revitalized Stella Field at Brown Park! Of course, he was keeping a scorebook!! But what an icon of South Omaha!

  • Jill Hickey Posted March 7, 2024 3:29 pm

    I graduated from Millard South high school in 1989. Throughout my four years there I was a cheerleader and had the honor to work with Mr. Kraft on amazing fundraisers, spirit events, and creating new traditions. He cared so much about the school and leaving tradition and the kids and the positive environment! He was one of a kind and so loved.

  • Elliott Evans Posted March 7, 2024 7:00 pm

    I’ve been telling “Don Kraft” stories for the better part of 60yrs. now, all from my days at Bishop Ryan. Most of my memories involved our JV basketball team and the World History class you taught.. Who knew a class in world history would require 4 chapters on the New York Yankees
    Rest in peace Coach.

  • RONALD OLSEN Posted March 8, 2024 9:41 am

    So sorry for your loss. He was a great person. Attended Ryan and knew Coach Kraft and Sue.

  • Bill & Linda Benson Posted March 10, 2024 4:00 pm

    WOW what can I say – there is so much to remember AND it’s all GOOD – so much fun so many laughs.
    The man was an inspiration to us all. Helped us all grow up to be better humans and to know good from bad.
    Took me a little longer than some – but his voice will always be in my head “Here’s some KRAFT Carmels now go out and win the game” Even to the end he was always on his game – even when Trish was gone he never lost his whit – this mind was sharp as a tack – some thing we did I was wishing he had forgot – but all the time he loved us all the same from the first time he met us till the last day i was with him. He thought the world of us all.
    Goodbye COACH I will miss you !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ken & Jody Fila Posted March 10, 2024 6:24 pm

    Coach Kraft was our leader, moral compass and father figure. He ran us all into the ground during basketball to get us in shape for baseball! I always had a love/hate relationship with him, but at the end of the day I loved him and would run thru a brick wall for him. Love you coach…GO YANKEES!!!

    • Shawn Boryca Posted March 11, 2024 7:15 pm

      Sorry to here of Ciach Krafts passing. Met as a child he coached my uncles later he was my Athletic Director at Millard. (I know he was still coaching Tony Pane even though Coach Pane was our ball coach baseball

  • Barbara Wagner Posted March 11, 2024 5:31 pm

    Don was a wonderful person who enjoyed his life and family! He was a wonderful mentor to me when I became part of the athletic program. His guidance was pivotal as I always told him I wanted his job! And one lucky day I became an athletic director and we would reminisce about my road to get there. Don was a champion for girl sports and convinced many others to get on board. He loved to joke around with people and laugh! I will miss him and and his words of wisdom and hope his family is blessed with good memories. God Bless Don and all of his family!

  • Dave Semerad Family Posted March 11, 2024 6:04 pm

    Coach. Thank you for teaching me and a bunch of South Omaha boys to play baseball the right way, and to win. I always felt honored to put on that Ryan uniform, and to play for you. We always believed we could win when we took that field with you, because letting you or our teammates down was not an option. God be with you Coach, and all of your family. May you Rest in Peace.

  • Shawn Boryca Posted March 11, 2024 6:53 pm

    Coach Kraft was a legend for South Omaha and later Millard ballplayers. I heard stories about him when I was probably still in diapers. He coached and was respected by my uncles that he coached at Ryan. I later had Don Kraft aa my athletic director in Millard. When the schools split to Millard North and Millard South. Coach Kraft could be found at either schools home games. I never had him as a coach but Oh DidbI hear the stories of brutal practices and fundamental mistakes were not tolerated. I am sure you are coaching a ball team in heaven made up of Yankee greats.

  • Clara Hoover Posted March 12, 2024 10:48 am

    Don was more than just an Athletic Director. He was in charge of all student activities. He made things happen. He was the biggest cheerleader for anything related to the school and students. As a faculty member during twenty of Don’s years at Millard South, I enjoyed working with him. Not only was he a great administrator, he was fun. One fun memory–probably from the early 80s: as adults who regularly ran, but not fast, we challenged each other to a foot race–one lap around the school’s track. We even had a small audience. I don’t remember who won. That wasn’t important. Thanks, Don, for your leadership and friendship.

  • Frank Stanek Posted March 12, 2024 10:48 am

    Coach coached us hard and pushed us to not only to be good ball players but responsible young men .He was a tremendous role model RIP coach You pushed me and made me a better player and person love ya.

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