Burbank High Loses Leader in Frank Kallem

Longtime athletic director was 83.

Kemp - Kallem Field Celebration (Photo by Ross A Benson)Kemp - Kallem Field Naming Celebration (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The Burbank High community has lost one of its biggest figures as a longtime coach and athletic director Frank Kallem has died.

Kallem, who was 83, taught at the school from 1962 until 2000.

He is remembered for coaching a number of sports, including cross country, track and field, and swimming. He was also the school’s athletic director for a number of years.

Kallem and his close friend Dave Kemp graduated from Hoover High in 1957 and then worked together down the street at Burbank High for more than four decades. In 2019, the Burbank High athletic field was named after Kallem and Kemp.

Under Kallem, Burbank won the 1964 CIF Southern Section 3-A cross-country title at Cal State Long Beach by defeating runner-up Westminster, 47-52.

His Bulldogs finished as the CIF 2-A runner-up in 1965 and the 3-A runner-up in 1967.
Burbank won yet another title under Kallem in 1970, topping Arroyo of El Monte 54-65 in the 4-A division.

“My great friend, fellow teacher, coach, athletic director, Frank Kallem passed away this morning. It is a sad day for all who knew Coach Kallem. He is best remembered as a beloved coach and teacher,” Kemp wrote on Facebook in paying tribute to Kallem. “Frank was a champion cross country coach, having won two CIF Cross Country championships, along with numerous League titles in all levels. Frank was a mentor to all new coaches and instilled the principles of honesty and integrity in all those he came in contact with. He was a great man, great husband, great father and grandfather. May his memory live on in the hearts of all the BHS Bulldog family.”

Kallem also helped produce several individual CIF champions like Rick Romero, who won the 1,600 in 1964 in 4 minutes, 14.0 seconds. John Musich was the state champion in the 800 meters in 1974, running 1:51.0.

Another of Kallem’s top runners, Mark Covert, is well known in the distance running community as he has one of the world’s longest streaks as he ran at least three miles a day every day for 45 consecutive years.

Aside from attending school and working together, Kallem and Kemp married the Nelson sisters, who also attended Hoover. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, daughter Lori, and son Scott.

“Frank Kallem was my uncle. He, along with my father Dave, built Burbank High School track and cross country,” Michael Kemp said about Kallem. “Uncle Frank was a great man, and this is a massive loss for my family, BHS, and the Burbank community. We lost one of the best today.”

MyBurbank sports reporter and columnist Rick Assad remembered Kallem when he first started covering high school sports.

“Many years ago, when I was new to sports writing, I wrote a weekly area feature which was on a topic of my choice. I would ask either a coach or an administrator a topical question or questions and they would give me their opinion and insight. One of the people I called was Frank Kallem, who was always ready and eager to answer my questions. If he weren’t available to speak when I called, he would always call me back. Over a period of time, I knew Frank Kallem could always be counted upon and that he would provide thoughtful answers. Plus, there wasn’t a nicer or more considerate coach or administrator that I dealt with. Kallem respected my job as a journalist, and I respected his job as a coach, administrator, and teacher,” Assad said. “Frank was easily my go-to guy when it came to Burbank. When I heard that Kallem had passed away, it made me sad knowing that Burbank lost someone with great integrity and a love for his students and was also a friend to a young sportswriter.”