100 Years Forward
100 years ago today: Knute Rockne married in Sandusky
Jul 15, 2014 at 3:00 AM
Editor's note: This story originally ran in the Register's '100 Years Forward' special section on Aug. 4, 2013.
While Knute Rockne gained notoriety for his summer workouts with the forward pass in the summer of 1913, his biggest catch didn't come on Cedar Point beach.
The iconic University of Notre Dame coaching legend also met his future bride.
As a frequent visitor to Cedar Point's Grill Room, a restaurant in the Grand Pavilion, Rockne met Bonnie Skiles, a waitress who was from Kenton, located 80 miles southwest of Sandusky.
The two became an item that summer, and early in the following summer, were wed as husband and wife in downtown Sandusky at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
On June 15, 1914, Rockne graduated from Notre Dame. By that summer, he had known the 22-year old Skiles for about two years. Father William F. Murphy had gotten to know Bonnie during that time and thought highly of her.
In early July of 1914, Bonnie went to see Father Murphy at his church. Skiles had recently converted to Catholicism, and had come to ask him to preside over her forthcoming marriage to Rockne.
On July 15, with Dorais as best man and Marie Balzarina, one of Bonnie's friends, as the other witness, Father Murphy pronounced Knute and Bonnie as man and wife in a short ceremony in the rectory at the church.
The wedding was not held in the actual church, as Rockne was not yet Catholic. Originally a Lutheran, Rockne converted to Catholicism in 1925 when he was baptized on campus at Notre Dame in St. Edward’s Hall.
Sandusky's seminal role in not only the development of a football legend, but also said legend's family hasn't been forgotten by the Erie County Historical Society.
A historical marker honoring Rockne was dedicated on May 18, 2008, in front of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 510 Columbus Avenue.
The plaque reads: “Legendary University of Notre Dame Head Football Coach Knute Rockne married Bonnie Skiles of Kenton, Ohio, in the rectory of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on July 15, 1914. Father William F. Murphy officiated. The two met in the summer of 1913 while employed at Cedar Point. Best man at the wedding was Notre Dame football teammate Charles 'Gus' Dorais, who with Rockne perfected the forward pass in their spare time while working together as lifeguards at Cedar Point in the summer of 1913.
“Throughout the 1920s, Rockne was head coach at Notre Dame. He sent members of his football team to Cedar Point, including the Four Horsemen, to work and practice at the Sandusky Resort.”
Anne Rockne, the coach's granddaughter, attended the event.
“On behalf of my entire family, we are very humbled by this,” Anne Rockne told the Register in 2010. “Grandma was not impressed with him at first, but he pursued her and won her over. It's remarkable there's still so much interest. It's just amazing. It's been 75 years.”
Sts. Peter and Paul was built in 1865 and was added to the National Register in 1983.
Meanwhile, the Grill Room at Cedar Point, was eventually remodeled and renamed the Green and Silver Grill.
Today, it is the present-day Coral Dining Room located in the Grand Pavilion, which is now the Cedar Point Convention Center. The building still stands on its original location near the beach.