Strange chain of events leads to Horvat's apparent suicideKevin Horvat, a longtime biology teacher and coach at Red Wing High School, was found dead at 9 a.m. Monday in his sister's car in Hermantown, Minn., the victim of an apparent suicide. He had been missing for more than 24 hours after slipping away from a foster care facility.
By: Brett Boese, The Republican Eagle
Kevin Horvat, a longtime biology teacher and coach at Red Wing High School, was found dead at 9 a.m. Monday in his sister's car in Hermantown, Minn., the victim of an apparent suicide. He had been missing for more than 24 hours after slipping away from a foster care facility.
He was 45 years old.
"He wasn't in his right mind," said Linnea Horvat, Kevin's widow. "He wasn't thinking clearly. That's not Kevin Horvat."
His death ends a traumatic two-year struggle with Parkinson's disease.
Horvat was diagnosed with the disease in 2006. He fought a constant battle to balance the medication. His wife and three children noticed small behavioral changes when he began taking Mirapex to control Parkinson's effects, but things became more pronounced during the fall of 2007 when he took over as the varsity football coach.
Doctors ordered him off the drug when the season ended in November, according to his wife. That decision led to the first of his eight extended hospital visits. He took a leave of absence from teaching and coaching that winter and never returned.
According to friends and family, Mirapex created a tragic alter ego. It's a drug that currently has many lawsuits pending.
"We had two different Kevins," said Russ Marshall, who coached football with Horvat for nearly two decades. "We had the Kevin we all knew and loved and we had the Kevin who was (unpredictable). … It created a different personality. He was doing things that were completely out of character."
He served Linnea, his wife of 25 years, divorce papers on Valentine's Day this February.
Horvat is suspected of setting fire to the Midway Town Hall Sunday prior to committing suicide. His sister's vehicle was spotted leaving the scene, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department.
Contrast that with Horvat the leader.
The Red Wing football team had the chance to hear Horvat speak prior to its 2008 Section 1AAA game against Northfield. The popular former coach kept every player on the edge of his seat with a quiet, intense motivational speech that centered on never giving up.
Former Red Wing baseball coach Brian Auge is concerned the suicide might appear that Horvat gave up. Auge believes the Horvat off the medication would never have done such a thing.
"He was convinced he was coming back to teach after the surgery," Auge said.
Surgery was seen as Horvat's last resort for more than a year. He and his family have been trying to get approval for deep brain stimulation — a treatment sometimes given to Parkinson's patients — at the Mayo Clinic. They finally got an appointment scheduled for June 17.
It would have cut his medication dosage in half and reduced the negative side effects.
"It's just been a tragedy unfolding," Linnea Horvat said.
News of Horvat's death was "tearing me up inside" Monday evening, Red Wing High School Principal Beth Borgen said.
"It's going to be such a big loss that I can't even get my arms around it," she said.
Borgen said a fitting memorial to Horvat might involve the Ring of Honor — a motivational tool near the football field — he hatched for the football program in 2007.
Horvat had a deep commitment to Red Wing High School, she said.
"From the day he set foot in Red Wing, he began to bleed purple," Borgen said. "That piece is going to be gone."
Borgen, who knew Horvat for about 10 years, called him "genuine, thoughtful, caring, beautiful, heartfelt."
She said Horvat cherished his role as a teacher. That was evident after medical issues prompted him to take leave of absence last year.
"He wanted so desperately to get back to the classroom," Borgen said. "He loved education. He loved making a difference in the lives of the kids."