Obituary: Charles R. Ream / W&J football coach with a can-do attitude

Oct. 3, 1928 - April 20, 2013

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Charles R. Ream never stopped learning.

Whether it was his doctorate degree, a harness training license or becoming a private pilot, Mr. Ream took on each challenge with a positive, can-do attitude.

His 19-year-old grandson, Joseph Phillips, even had his grandfather's favorite saying, "Hard work pays off," tattooed on his arm.

"He was always looking for something new to learn," said his daughter, Cynthia Ream Phillips. "If he was going to tackle something, he wanted to be 100 percent."

During the past several months, his family watched as the family patriarch deteriorated due to complications from open heart surgery last year and several ensuing infections. They were at his side when Mr. Ream died at the Donnell House hospice on Saturday.

"It was heartbreaking," said Mrs. Ream Phillips, 55, of Washington, Pa.

Her father and mother, Marian Cover Ream, left their home in Jensen Beach, Fla., in late February in the hope that Mr. Ream could recuperate near his family.

Known affectionately as "Chuck" by colleagues, students and players, Mr. Ream is perhaps best known as a football coach for several local high schools and colleges, including Washington & Jefferson College.

Mr. Ream coached the Prexies from 1960 to 1972, including during the school's first Presidents' Athletic Conference title in 1970.

In 1968, Mr. Ream suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident, but he worked through the pain, remembered Bob McLuckey, 62, a player then and now a retired principal of Connellsville High School.

When the students heard that Coach Ream needed more than 30 pints of blood after the accident, 90 of them showed up at the hospital to donate, Mrs. Cover Ream remembers.

Born in Johnstown right before the start of the Great Depression, Mr. Ream graduated from Johnstown High School in 1946.

In the 1950s, Mr. Ream lived in a closet at the Pennsylvania School for the Blind, as he worked his way through the University of Pittsburgh, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in 1952 in biology and physical education. A year later, he earned a master's degree.

He worked first as a coach at the school for the blind -- teaching students how to swim, wrestle and roller-skate -- then began his football coaching career at Wilkinsburg High School in 1955.

In 1957, the family moved to Carlisle, Pa., so Mr. Ream could coach football, wrestling and lacrosse at Dickinson College.

He and his wife also spent some of the time during those summers at the Carlisle Airport, where each learned to fly and obtained pilot's licenses.

By 1960, Mr. Ream was ready for a change and went to work at W&J. After his coaching career ended in 1972, Mr. Ream stayed on at the college as the chair of the Education Department until his retirement in 1992. He obtained his doctorate from Pitt in 1972, after just 14 months of classes.

During his tenure at W&J -- where he also served as track coach -- Mr. Ream began researching a coaching method called interval training, in which players would sprint quickly, then slow to a walk alternately.

When the Meadows Racetrack was closed during the winter months, he would bring track athletes to the harness racing track to practice. Soon, horse trainers and owners grew interested in his methods for their horses. Mr. Ream agreed to obtain his horse trainer's license from the U.S. Trotting Association to work with horses.

While he was learning about training horses, Mr. Ream brought along his son, Steve, who also got a trainer's license.

"I would go with him, and he actually inspired me to get my trainer's license and open my own stable," remembered Steve Ream, 53, of East Washington.

While he was with W&J, Mr. Ream also chaired the Washington County Red Cross and hosted a sports talk show on a local cable network.

Mr. Ream and his wife moved to Florida after he retired in 1992, though the move didn't slow the couple down at all.

Mr. Ream did work as an independent contractor and, with his wife, formed the Universal Learning Corp., which developed schools in Korea, the Philippines and South America for the children of employees of Westinghouse and Bechtel corporations.

After he moved to Florida, Mr. Ream was named a state Supreme Court mediator, along with his wife, and he served as president of the condo-owner's association at Island Dunes.

In 1998, her father was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.

"The prognosis was three years," Mrs. Ream Phillips said.

But Mr. Ream was a big believer in physical fitness and "mind over matter," his daughter said. He beat the cancer, and even used a stationary bike in the hospital while he was receiving chemotherapy treatments.

Joseph DiSarro, W&J professor and chairman of the Political Science Department, said he was most touched by Mr. Ream's positive outlook on life. It could be contagious, he recalls.

"I was better off for having known him," he said. "I will miss him."

Along with his wife and children, Mr. Ream is survived by four grandchildren and two brothers, James Ream of Wisconsin and David Ream of Washington, Pa.

There will be no public visitation and services will be private.

Condolences may be sent to the family at 67 LeMoyne Ave., Washington, PA 15301, and memorial contributions may be made to Donnell House c/o Hospice Care of the Washington Hospital, 155 Wilson Ave., Washington, PA 15301.

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Janice Crompton: or 412-851-1867.


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