Remembering Coach Compardo

by Janelle Hill | May 04, 2018

Remembering Coach Compardo

            “Back in 1967, I approached Coach and asked if we could start an intramural softball league. We had flag football and basketball but nothing in the spring. He told me, ‘That would be great,’ but would I be willing to run it. Then, he showed me where the equipment was — a few bats and balls, a catcher’s mask, and two sets of rubber bases. 
            We didn't have a field to play on so we made one where Billera Hall is today. We had four teams that first year: two from the dorms, one seminarian team, and one commuter team.            Well, after a few games, I went to Coach and told him we were out of new softballs. So he told me to use the old ones over and over again joking, ‘What kind of budget do you think they give me,’ or something to that effect.
            Well the next day I go to the room to pick up the equipment to leave at the field for the two teams playing that afternoon and there are a dozen new softballs sitting on the desk.
            Over the years I've thought about that. I would bet the house that Coach went out and bought those softballs, paying out of his own pocket, and never told anyone he did it. He wanted the guys to have the best playing experience possible. I still have the plaques that he gave me for each year of being the Softball Commissioner.”

-- Bud Rauber ’70

             “Coach John Compardo had an extraordinary gift of making you feel special while in his presence, and an innate ability to make you do things that you thought you couldn't. He was the most positive person I have ever known, and his kindness, compassion, and enthusiasm are what he left with everyone he met, especially me.”

-- Hank Kowaleski ’71

             “It was my unique and distinct honor to know Dr. John ‘Coach’ Compardo. I had the extreme privilege of knowing him during three phases of my own lifetime. While playing for Bethlehem Catholic High School, I had the opportunity to observe his dedication to the game of basketball through his players at Allentown Central Catholic High School. 
           As a player during the inaugural years of the basketball program at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, I further experienced his dedication and commitment to his role of athletic director. He laid a solid foundation for the program to flourish. 
            Finally, as the first graduate of the College to return to my alma mater as head basketball coach, I gained invaluable knowledge and confidence under his guidance that would stay with me to this day.
            If I had to describe Coach in one word it would be DEDICATED. His vision for the College was most definitely attained and continues to flourish over a half century of successful growth. In earlier days at Allentown Central Catholic, he was known as the ‘JET,’ however he became a ‘GEM’ that I nor DeSales University will ever forget. His love for the University, its students, and the entire community will remain with each of us forever.”

-- Jack Sobota ’69

            “Coach’s humility, leadership, passion, mentorship, and father-like love transformed me from a young, carefree college kid to a responsible man. He was a mentor and leader before those terms ever became popular. 
           Coach’s actions were real and heartfelt, and it was clear to me that he cared deeply for all of us. His strong hands rehabilitated my repaired MCL during my college years, his raspy voice provided teaching moments for life as well as athletics, and the twinkle in his eyes and swivel of his head made me feel like I was special. 
            Our greetings to one another over the years were a treasure, as we shared an embrace and a whisper of ‘I love you.’ His influence on me was profound and set in place a foundation of integrity, service, and excellence in my life. 
            During my career in the Air Force, we remained close and I had the opportunity to share stories of Coach and the principles he avowed with our troops. We even sent a picture from the combat zone telling Coach we loved him. 
            Coach touched my heart with kindness and love, and I am a better person because of him. I remain committed to his legacy of love and to share it with others to make this world a better place. Thank you, Coach!”  

-- Bobby Stormes ’75

             “One of Coach’s anthems was ‘when so little was so much.’ Today, this phrase becomes a self-portrait. That man of rather small dimensions was a powerful dynamo of spirit. Always approachable, Coach worked his ‘little miracles’ best when he transformed others’ personal impediments into positive action.
            As recent as December, upon observing an alumnus walking with cane in hand, he began his analysis, offered his remedy, and by January the cane was in the closet. Vintage Coach! It is so much love that will be missed the most.”

 -- Nick Nardo ’71

             “In the beginning was Coach and Coach was with the Athletic Department. As has been acknowledged often by those of us ‘early graduates,’ Coach John Compardo was the sum total of the Athletic Department staff at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.  
             One of his many hats was as the physiologist/trainer for varsity athletics, physical education, and any other student who had a sports-related ailment. Coach would not actually treat the ailment but provide counsel and advice on the treatment necessary.  
             For example, for someone who had a sprained ankle (now referred to as a lower-body injury) -- other than ice -- Coach would advise not to tape the ankle for practice but wrap it to allow faster healing. He would tell us to tape only for the games. Coach would not wrap or tape but merely tell us what should be done. We would believe him implicitly as his methods were usually correct.
             Coach’s reputation grew one night at an intercollegiate basketball game when he put the knowledge that we all gave him credit for into action. I believe we were playing a team from the Harrisburg area when a collision between two players occurred. The player from the opposing team fell hard to the floor and immediately began writhing in pain.  
             All those on the court merely froze and watched in empathy wondering what was to be done with him (since most of our opponents were similar types as AC without multiple coaches or trainers or water bottles). Then, Coach sprang into action. Sprang may be an overstatement. Coach was always the tortoise to the hare: methodical, determined, and glacial. 
             He watched the games on floor level under the window to his office. As Coach espied the catastrophe, he slowly began walking to the scene of the accident as a hush fell over the crowd with all eyes on him. Our first assumption was he would lean over the player and tell him to get up and play through it – no pain, no gain.  
             Given the state of the kid on the floor, it appeared that would not work and it also appeared he had a separated shoulder. Upon arrival, Coach surveyed the situation and laid his hands upon the player’s shoulder. Feeling around momentarily, Coach then jerked slightly on his shoulder.    
             The player immediately jumped up off the floor, rotated his arm in the air, and pronounced he was ready to play. Coach nodded and started his slow walk back to his previous position below his office. As he walked, you could hear the strains of Jesus Christ Superstar coming from the stands. 
Coach was not Jesus Christ but he was our Superstar.”

-- Jerry "Wilk" Wilkinson ’72

             “Almost 30 years ago, I gave a testimonial to Coach Compardo on 10/07/1989. Like many of us, we flashback to the photos, stories, experiences, and Coach’s words of advice and his unique style of encouragement. Like you, I have researched my personal archives to remember not only the experiences but the words that distinguished who he was and what he meant to so many. 
            I am drawn to the word “legacy” as my historical catalyst; what makes a legacy is starting something that lives on after you. All of us have stories and experiences to share as part of Coach’s influence. There may be a tendency to think that Coach’s legacy is primarily athletic, certainly documented by the number of graduates who have coached and achieved in their sports. Examples from our class and recent graduate classes after 1969 are numerous: Jack Sobota, Roger Antonelli, Tom Shirli, Den Romello, Denni Cense, both my sons (DeSales grads), and many others. I’m certain hundreds of other graduates have coached at some level and mirror Coach’s temperament and philosophy. 
            However, Coach’s legacy transcends athletics to those who shared his classes, his personal advice. His family knew he echoed the platitude of St. Francis de Sales’ ‘gentle’ but ‘firm,’ as that was his blueprint for daily life.
            I have to believe that every graduate — no matter the profession, career choice, or life endeavor — has identified with the thoughts, words, and guidance of Coach [and] the expectation that you should be all you can be and achieve to your potential, which predated Gatorade [and] Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ commercials. 
            What fascinates me the most is that our experiences with Coach allow us to pass on a shared legacy to our children, employees, peers, and athletes. What we teach, model, expect, and believe has been directly influenced by our Coach. It is and will be a permanent legacy of Coach that will be passed on generation to generation, both consciously and unconsciously. 
            The fact that I will mark my 50th year of coaching next September is a reflection of his legacy on me personally. He was my model. His tone of voice, his cerebral substance... to his advice, his passion, love, and expectation of total effort shaped who I am as a teacher, parent, coach, and colleague. 
            I would ask the administration, faculty, graduates, family, and friends to collaborate, honor, and recognize all he gave us beyond today’s ceremony. If possible, identify his memory with as many physical testaments as we can create by the future Compardo Center, The Compardo Award, The Compardo Cup, and Compardo Drive, etc.
            A note of thanks to Nick Nardo, Jim Van Horn, Don Wright, Jack Sobota, Tony Mazzeo, and countless others who made time to be with Coach and appreciate his presence. Finally, I know I speak for all the graduates, but the Class of ’69 in particular, when I say thank you for your legacy.”  

-- Bob Koch ’69

Funeral Homily for John Compardo 2-05-18

Darlene, Darrell, Marilu, John’s grandchildren, & great grandchildren as well as his friends gathered here this morning - on behalf of the Oblates: Father Tom Dailey, Sandy Pocetto, Tim McIntire, the entire DSU community & myself [Deacon George Kelly], I offer you our profound thank you for the gift that your Dad, Coach Compardo, was to this community. Be assured of our condolences, our sympathy, and [most importantly] our prayers.

There will be a reception after Mass in the University Center where we will reminisce about Coach. Our stories will help begin the healing at the loss of a beloved father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend, & mentor.

St. Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint, was Bishop of Geneva; Dr. John Compardo, the gentleman coach: a devoted husband, loving father, and one of the Founding Fathers of this University. 

Family Circus Comic: Dolly and her Mom were looking at a picture book with a drawing of the gates to Heaven. Dolly says to her Mom, “I wish we could go to Heaven without dyin’, look around, then come back home.” Dolly almost had it right, here is where we come to look around, and then after we die, we go back home to Heaven.

John met the Lord in “the land of the living” – the Lord showed him, the heavenly kingdom in all its’ splendor. Coach is once [again] with his beloved wife, Mary Jane, and his John Jr.

From the Prophet Isaiah we heard, “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces....” John’s crosses have all been carried; his hardships and his joys each given to God!

Coach loved his family and he adopted the students from Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales [now DeSales University] into the Compardo family. De Sales said, “In ordinary acts of kindness, we have a chance to practice virtue more often, with greater humility and with greater holiness.” (Every Day with St. Francis DeSales, 05-11)

Coach excelled in filling his ordinary actions with kindness and humility. “The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.”     [St. John of the Cross]

Coach lived with a quiet grace and love that we can only hope to emulate. His smile: warm, loving, and endearing; a smile of welcome; offered to all. He made time for everyone, challenging each one of us to be the best that we could be.

Let me share this story about Michelangelo with you.

One day when Michelangelo was working in his studio (with his hammer and chisel) a friend walked into his work area, and admired his work.  

He said, “Michelangelo what a great gift to be able to carve a statue from that big chunk of marble.” Michelangelo said, “No, the statue is already in the marble all I do is draw it out.” The same is true for each person we meet. They have good in them, good that God put in them, we have to find that good, and draw it out. Coach found good in everyone!

This morning we tearfully acknowledge that there is a “time to die,” BUT we do so in the sure knowledge that Coach lived for the Lord, died for the Lord, and presented himself for his accounting before the Lord. [Romans 14: 7-9, 10c-12]

“Heartbreak is impossible unless there is great love. Without love, sorrow & tears would disappear.” [Eugene Kennedy]

Darlene, Darrell, & Marilu, your family’s sorrow is deep & painful because of your great love for your Dad! I believe that Coach joins us this morning along with the heavenly hosts at our Eucharistic banquet.

The Gospel reminds us that Jesus is “Truly … the Son of God.” John Compardo not only believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but he lived his life to reflect that BELIEF to the world. Our patron St. Francis de Sales said, “Saints are people who do ordinary things extra-ordinarily well.” Coach did the ordinary, extraordinarily well.

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love.” (Thornton Wilder) Jesus is that bridge! 

Today take your favorite memory of Coach and thank God for the gift of Coach in your life and then treasure that memory. When the sadness comes as it inevitably will go to your head and reach into your heart, bring out that memory and allow it to begin your healing.

We Remember Coach

 In the rising of the sun and its setting,
We Remember Coach.

In the blueness of the skies and in the cold of winter,
We Remember Coach.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We Remember Coach.

When we are lost and sick of heart,
We Remember Coach.

When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share,
We Remember Coach.

So long as we live, he too shall live, for he is part of us.
We Remember Coach.

[Adopted from the Jewish Book Of Prayer]

May God bless and comfort you, May His healing come upon you, today and everyday!

May God Be Praised!

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