Longtime coach, educator touched countless lives over the years
After playing high school basketball, Rick McLeary of Ligonier kept up his involvement in youth sports by becoming a referee.
That frequently put him at entertaining odds with his father, Richard “Coach” McLeary, who spent much of his free time living out his nickname as a coach for youth basketball, football, baseball and softball in the Ligonier area.
“We’d have, well, some interesting conversations about sports and who was right about a certain call,” Rick said.
Rick’s brother, David McLeary of Ligonier, agreed.
“He loved coaching,” David said.
Richard R. McLeary of Ligonier died Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, of an infection-related illness. He was 85.
Mr. McLeary was born Nov. 1, 1933, in Johnstown, a son of the late Cecil and June Strayer McLeary. He attended high school in Johnstown through his junior year before his family moved to the Bedford area, where he graduated in 1952.
Mr. McLeary earned a degree in education from Gettysburg College in 1956, and spent a 37-year career as a teacher in the Ligonier Valley School District, retiring in 1993.
He began dating his wife, the late Mary Jane Fritz McLeary, while the two were in high school together, and they married shortly after Mr. McLeary’s college commencement in 1956.
During the summers, Mr. McLeary owned and ran Max’s Market, selling fruit.
“It was a full-time job all summer long,” David said.
“Me, my brother and our friends worked there during the summers from about eighth grade until I graduated from college,” Rick said.
In the rare free moments when Mr. McLeary wasn’t coaching or managing the rental properties he acquired after selling Max’s Market in the early 1980s, he enjoyed cooking.
“Once he retired, he really got into fixing meals,” Rick said. “And he also enjoyed coin collecting.”
It was Mr. McLeary’s time working with young people that truly made an impact on his community, according to his son.
“It was interesting to hear about all the different lives he’d touched as a teacher and as a coach,” Rick said. “He touched a lot of people and we really didn’t know the extent of it until we started hearing from them.”
Mr. McLeary is survived by two sons, Richard W. McLeary and David W. (Andrea) McLeary, all of Ligonier, two grandchildren, Noel (Glenn) Campagna of Nashville and Devin McLeary of Los Angeles, and a brother, Barry (Donna) McLeary of Johnstown.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 4 to 8 p.m. today, Friday, at J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel, 144 East Main St., Ligonier. A celebration of life will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the chapel. Interment will follow in Richland Cemetery in Johnstown.
A 7:30 p.m. service will be held today, Friday, at the funeral chapel by the Free & Accepted Masons Ligonier Lodge 331.
Memorial contributions can be made to St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, 300 West Main St., Ligonier, PA, 15658, or to your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.