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Robert D. Spagna Sr., 90, South Abington Township, died peacefully at home after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson's Disease. His loving son, Jeffrey, and his daughter-in-law, Marlene, were at his bedside. His wife of 62 years, the former Anne Lewis, died November 14, 2010. Born February 3, 1925, he was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. George Spagna.He honorably served in the United States Navy and was honored for distinguishing himself by meritorious acts while participating in aerial flights in operations against the enemy in the Marshall Islands, the Nansei Shoto and the Japanese home waters. As radioman of a carrier based torpedo bomber, he participated in five strikes against enemy installations. His skillful employment of his equipment contributed materially to the success of the missions. His skill and devotion to duty were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Services. He received the Pacific Theater Ribbon, Victory Medal, Air Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal.He was a graduate of Scranton Central High School and received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from East Stroudsburg State College. As an alumnus, he was particularly proud that both his son, Jeffrey, and granddaughter, Kaitlin, followed in his footsteps and received their diplomas from what was then East Stroudsburg University in 1972 and 2011, respectively. He began his teaching career at Robert Morris Elementary School for several years before moving to West Scranton High School, where he taught for 42 years. During his tenure there, he also coached the swimming, track and field and cross country teams before becoming the Athletic Director for many years. His popularity in sports circles eventually led to many speaking engagements which earned him the title of "the Toastmaster General."One of the area's all-time most respected sports officials, he refereed high school and college football and basketball for over 40 years, including his final gridiron game, which was for a State Championship in Hershey, Pa. But his true love was track and field, a sport to which he dedicated his time and efforts for over 60 years. His long- time service to both the Jordan Relays and District Championships, along with his many years as an official at the State Championships, were duly rewarded when in 2005 the local meet was renamed "the Robert Spagna Track and Field Championships."He was inducted into the Northeast Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame as a member of its initial class in 1983, the Chic Feldman Hall of Fame, was presented the Meritorious Achievement Award by the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, the Joseph M. Butler Award, was voted the Sportsman of the Year in 1998 by the Scranton Association of Life Underwriters, was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Scranton Area Organized Runners in 1999 and has widely been recognized for his years as starter for the Ronald McDonald House Run, Steamtown Marathon, and the annual St. Patrick's Parade Day Race.He was a member of the Elm Park United Methodist Church and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association for over 60 years, the College Swimming Officials Association and was a Gold Circle member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.His legacy will live on through not only his family, but also through the thousands of young men and women whose lives he has touched as a teacher, coach, official and track and field icon. He left a lasting lesson and his special wisdom with all of the scholastic student athletes he came into contact with during his 60 years as one of the area's most respected, admired and beloved sports figures. The family would like to give very special thanks to his incredibly dedicated at home nurses, the physical therapists at Allied Rehab, the medical staffs of the skilled nursing facility at Regional Hospital, the Spirit of Mercy and Compassionate Hospice. Surviving are a son, Jeffrey L. Spagna and wife, Marlene, South Abington Township; and grandchildren, Jeffrey L. Spagna, Jr. and wife, Noelle, South Abington Township; Kaitlin Spagna, East Stroudsburg; Lauren Spagna, Pittsburgh; and Christopher Spagna, Boston; and a daughter-in-law, Helen Spagna, Pittsburgh.He was preceded in death by son, Robert D. Spagna, Jr.The funeral will be Saturday at 11:00 a.m. from the Jennings-Calvey Funeral and Cremation Services Inc., 111 Colburn Avenue, Clarks Summit, with services by Reverend Dennis Gray, Compassionate Care Hospice Chaplain. Interment with full military honors at Fairview Memorial Park, Elmhurst Township.The family will receive relatives and friends Friday from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until the service.Memorial contributions may be made to Elm Park United Methodist Church, 712 Linden Street, Scranton, PA; or the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509, New York, NY 10018.
Jeff, Sue and I were sorry to hear of the passing of your father. I remember him when I was playing sports in high school. Truly a great man. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Sue and Pat Grady
Pat and Sue Grady Mar 7 2015 12:00 AM
Both of us were fellow basketball officials with Bob many years back.We are from Luzerne County---We remember Bob as one of the best Officials' Representatives in Pa. He mentored many officials from both the Wilkes Barre and Scranton area--he was always well respected and our career highlights will always include times when we were able to officiate with Bob in playoff games.We know we were only a small part of his wide scope involving other sports and administrative duties.He will be sorely missed but never forgotten.
Matt Himlin and Walt Allabaugh Mar 2 2015 12:00 AM
Jeffrey, So very sorry to hear about your dad. We were just blown away by all the wonderful accomplishments this man has achieved over his lifetime. You and your family must be extremely proud. He was an exceptional individual and will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies to you and your family. Connie Hinds & Jackie Graham
Jackie Graham Feb 26 2015 12:00 AM
He was always MR Spagna to me because i met him when i was 10 years old and he was 28 working as the instructor at Weston Park playground in North Scranton. I was always good at sports and he recognized that early on, encouraging me to particiate in the playground ping pong championships held at Weston Fieldhouse at the end of the summer and introducing me to competitive swimming, and eventually officiating as well as instructing through the Red Cross. He became a wonderful friend and mentor as i grew up and we remained life long friends , greeting each other every Sunday at church services. He always followed my life thru marriage, children and sports accomplishments and complimented me in many ways. When he became seriously ill and could no longer attend church, i went to visit him at home and we could hardly believe he was now 89 and I was still "that kid from the park" at 71 , but could never call him"Bob"----it would sound so disrespectful. He will always be MR Spagna to me and I will always hear his voice and the lessons he taught me. I feel so fortunate to have known him.
joan kleha macderment Feb 26 2015 12:00 AM
My sincere condolences to the Spagna Family. I remember when I started running track in 1989 at Mid Valley & Mr Spagna was our starter. He was such a wonderful man. He helped inspire me to get into coaching and later become a track offical. I haven't been around track now for over 10 years but many memories of Mr Spagna have come back to me. What he did for track & field is unbelievable and to say that I got to know Bob is something I will cherish.
Chris Trently Feb 25 2015 12:00 AM
Dear Spagna Family, Mr Spagna was a joy to be around, always smiling. He has a long history with our family,my father's track coach at Central, our sons track official for so many years and a light each Sunday at Elm Park. Such a dear man will be missed.Praying for your peaceful hearts and happy memories.
Dale and Jeanne McCloe Feb 25 2015 12:00 AM
Jeff, I am very sorry to hear of your fathers passing and keeping him in my prayers as well as the entire Spagna family. Bob certainly made an impact of many area athletes & students. May he rest in peace. Mark
mark j. mchale Feb 25 2015 12:00 AM
Mr Spagna, who spoke to me like a man when I was 16 years old and a student at West. He knew all the poor kids, and the kids who came from better family's. It mattered not, he treated us all the same. When I told him I had to quit school and go to a full time job he had a heart to heart with me. Never forgot what he said. Do you want your first ticket punch in life to be you quit School. Tough it out, be something Graduate!!! Did it 1969 and 6 days later I was in the USN. Went to more schools than I care to list. Next mentors were a bit different where I learned. The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday!!!! HooYah!! Mr Spagna.
Charles Cobb Feb 25 2015 12:00 AM
It was early 70s I think we were the first girls hygiene class Mr. Spagna got assigned to...he wasn't happy about it but we were the luckiest girls to have him. Even though he told me i was too heavy @140lbs. I never held that against him. He was my fav teacher by far. @15 he taught me to drive as he was my drivers ed teacher, 50+ years later, I wish I was still 140lbs but I never had a major accident thanks to him, I'm sure. I will never forget what a great teacher he was and the impact he had on my life. Thank you, Mr. Spagna. May you rest in peace knowing you made such a great impact and was so loved by so many of us.
Carol T Feb 25 2015 12:00 AM