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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.
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