Friends, Players, Family Mourn Wonderful Coach And Gentleman


February 06, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

There was nothing complicated about Dick Hart. Simply put, he was a good and decent man, one who personified what a husband, father, coach and teacher should be.

That's why there was no need for more than one eulogy at his funeral service yesterday, the one given so eloquently by the Rev. William F. R. Gilroy.

There was no question what Dick Hart stood for.

The funeral service in memory of Richard Clarke Hart took place in a packed St. John's Lutheran Church in Linthicum. Today, he will be laid to rest in his native town of Clear Spring in Washington County, near Hagerstown.

"Richard was a man of faith and will always be here to coach us,"Gilroy said. "We will all be better people because of him."

Hart,the former Andover High basketball coach of 28 years, passed away Saturday morning at 53 after a 1 -year battle with complications causedby a brain tumor.

"I don't think you could find anyone who has anything bad to say about Dick," his wife, Pat, said Monday afternoon at Singleton Funeral Home in Glen Burnie.

A native of Bethlehem, Pa., and a graduate of Hood College in Frederick, Pat met Dick on a blind date while he was attending the University of Maryland. Hood is not too far from Dick's hometown of Clear Spring.

"It was the best thing I ever did," said Pat Hart, who works in the main office at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn.

After all Pat and her children, Mike and Tracey Lee, had been through the last year and a half and especially the last few months, their composure was remarkable at the funeral home and funeral service.

Their composure made everyone else feel easy and able to enjoy memory of a truly remarkable man.

"That's the way Pat and the kids went through this entire ordeal,"said North County boys soccer coach Steve Malone, who shared an office with Hart at Andover High (now North County after a merger with Brooklyn Park) for 25 years.

"Pat made it so easy for all of us to stop by anytime to see Dick during the last year, and that couldn't have been easy or convenient."

Unfortunately, as usually is the casefor those who suffer from the dreaded disease of cancer, Dick was not Dick at all near the end. For those who had been to see him, it waspainful to see the man unlike the way they had known him.

"Even though his death was expected, it was still tough to face, but now hisfamily feels that he's at rest," Malone said.

Dick Hart always was willing to help anyone who needed help and when he became your friend, you had a friend for a lifetime.

Those who were helped included many former players, such as Jim Spencer, Tim Murphy, Billy Warren,Ron Brecher, who continued to keep in touch with Hart long after graduation from Andover.

Mike Vladitch of Gambrills was one of scoreswho played basketball for Hart and says he never will forget what Coach Hart did for him.

"I really think there were a few other guys who should have made the team over me, but Dick kept me on the team,"Vladitch said. "I later realized he did it for me because he thoughtit would help me as a person to be on the team.

"I was having personal problems, and I will never forget how much he helped me."

That was a story that many Hart proteges could tell, and many of them were there yesterday at St. John's Lutheran to pay their final respects. They were there with family, coaches, administrators, teachers andfriends to pay tribute to a wonderful man.

There wasn't an empty seat in the church.

Southern basketball coach Tom Albright was there with a few of the non-teachers who work the games at his school. They had a reason to be there for their friend.

"Whenever Dick cameinto our gym to play, he would seek out the people who worked the doors and cleaned up, the people most don't even think about," said Albright, the 26-year veteran coach of the Bulldogs. "When our games were over, no matter what happened, we were always friends. There was never any bitterness."

What was extraordinary about Hart is that he was like that with everyone, including the referees.

"I can't everremember Dick ever calling up to complain about a referee in all theyears he coached," said county Coordinator of Physical Education Paul Rusko. "He was a total gentleman."

Several local officials, suchas Warren, Greg March and Dave Kropfelder, attended the funeral.

Despite his gentlemanly manner, Hart was as fierce a competitor as the next one, but only in his unique style, a style that many would love to emulate but don't have the patience to do so.

He had 330 career wins and five trips to the final four at the University of Maryland for his beloved Archers in his tenure. And there was also a light side to the man.

"He was a funny man, and one that could make up a story so he wouldn't have to go canoeing with me," said Spencer, the former American League Gold Glove first baseman who played baseball and basketball at Andover.

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