Tom Callender, Natrona Heights youth baseball coach and father of 5, dies at 39
When it came to coaching youth baseball, Tom P. Callender knew it was about more than just winning the game.
“He was focused on the kids learning and becoming better,” said Gary Meanor, president of the Natrona Heights Baseball/Softball Association. “A conversation we had at the end of this fall’s season was: ‘We were not that good, but we got better every week.’
“That’s what he was proud of.”
Thomas Paul Callender died Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at home from an apparent heart attack. He was 39.
Mr. Callender was born in Harrison, the son of Thomas S. and Rebecca L. Callender, of Winfield. He graduated from Knoch High School in 1996.
Mr. Callender and his wife of 14 years, Selena M. (Vokes) Callender, had five children — Marissa, 16; twins Alison and Abigale, 13; Thomas Paul Jr., 11; and Ethan, 8.
“We wanted a big family,” Mrs. Callender, 39, said. “I’m an only child and he has just a sister.”
The couple met at Penn State New Kensington, where they were involved in the Student Government Association. They both took part in the Penn State THON dance marathon in 1998.
“It kind of just took off from there,” she said, adding that it was her future husband’s personality and “funny humor” that attracted her to him.
While Selena Callender graduated from Penn State, Tom Callender, who was majoring in business, did not.
“College really wasn’t for him,” she said.
Mr. Callender became a carpenter, and worked his way up to being a union boss for Turner Construction in Pittsburgh.
“Growing up, he was always interested in tinkering at home, helping me doing stuff,” Mr. Callender’s father, Thomas S. Callender, 61, said. “After he went to school, he knew people who worked in the carpentry union. He decided he wanted to do that the rest of his life.”
The elder Callender said he took his son hunting and fishing a lot. Mr. Callender took his own kids fishing, but they hadn’t got into hunting yet.
Mrs. Callender said her husband was an “amazing father,” involved in all of their kids’ activities.
That led to him having an even larger family in the community through his coaching with the baseball/softball association, and also the Highlands sixth-grade boys basketball traveling league, which he began coaching three years before his oldest son, Tom Jr., began playing on it.
“He enjoyed being with the kids and helping them strive to do their best,” Selena Callender said. “It wasn’t about the win. It was about making sure the kids enjoyed the game.”
In September, Mr. Callender became a board member of the Natrona Heights Baseball/Softball Association as a player agent.
“I was really looking forward to working with him on the board. He had a lot of good ideas,” Meanor said. “He understood what the volunteer aspect of what we do is. He was always there helping to get things done around the field. He was going to get further involved in the organizing of the whole league.”
The Callenders didn’t have much free time, but when they did, they enjoyed going to the movies and dinner, and hanging out with their groups of friends, Mrs. Callender said.
“He might have been a very private person, but he would be there for anybody when they needed him at any time,” she said.
In addition to his parents, wife and children, Mr. Callender is survived by a sister, Katie S. Perry, of Saxonburg; mother-in-law, Toni Vokes, of Lower Burrell; maternal grandparents, Paul and Betty M. Lincoln, of Frazer; and a niece and nephew.
Visitation will be 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Duster Funeral Home, 347 E. 10th Ave., Tarentum.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Bull Creek Presbyterian Church, West Deer. Burial will follow at Bull Creek Cemetery.
Contributions may be made to the Thomas P. Callender Memorial Fund in care of First Commonwealth Bank.