Obituary: Daniel P. Richtar / Local coach made athletics a lifelong passion

May 15, 1947 - Jan. 9, 2014

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Rudy Richtar says his brother "never met the right girl."

A bachelor his entire life, Daniel P. Richtar, a Vietnam veteran and longtime youth sports coach from Mt. Lebanon who died Thursday at 66, didn't have time for that kind of thing.

"He was too busy coaching his kids," said Rudy Richtar, 71. "Just teaching basics to the kids, teaching them that those basics would carry them through life, not just basketball."

Mr. Richtar's natural athletic ability and family pedigree -- his uncle Thomas "Pidge" McCarthy was a professional baseball scout, former president of the West Penn Basketball Officials and a member of the Pennsylvania American Legion and Western Pennsylvania sports halls of fame -- made athletics his lifelong passion.

"He was a wonderful athlete. He was not a good student," Rudy Richtar said of his brother. "He would have started for Mt. Lebanon's high school [basketball] team, but he could not make the grades."

Instead, he played Catholic Youth Organization basketball and joined the Army after managing to graduate from Mt. Lebanon, his brother said. He served 16 months in Vietnam and spent nine years in the Army before starting a job processing claims for a Department of Veterans Affairs office in Pittsburgh, where he worked for 23 years.

He rarely talked about his experience in Vietnam, though VA doctors later told him the throat cancer he was diagnosed with 11 years ago was related to exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant widely used to clear heavily forested jungles.

"Any time you brought it up, he changed the subject," Rudy Richtar said. "He never regretted it. ... He was very proud that he went."

During his years in the Army, Mr. Richtar was a director of athletics at Fort Carson in Colorado and later rose to the collegiate level as a football and basketball official.

He spent decades coaching football, baseball, softball and basketball at all age levels in the Pittsburgh area, including at St. Anne in Castle Shannon, St. Pius X in Brookline, the former St. Francis Academy in Castle Shannon and at Sacred Heart High School in Shadyside, where he helped coach the girls basketball team to a state championship in 1989.

"He wasn't the kind of coach who worried about wins and losses. He worried about what he was teaching the girls," Rudy Richtar said. "I think sometimes coaches didn't understand that and that always aggravated him, coaches who would win at any cost."

He also coached at the Steal City Amateur Athletic Union, a girls developmental program, and at McGuffey High School in Claysville.

"He primarily coached girls basketball," his brother said. "He said they were easier to coach: They listened."

He also was the head softball coach and assistant basketball coach at Carlow University in Oakland.

Mr. Richtar continued to help coach at Keystone Oaks High School and St. Anne even after his throat cancer made speaking difficult, his brother said.

However, dementia began to set in about two years ago and quickly got worse. Mr. Richtar, who stood about 6 feet 2 inches and weighed about 186 pounds, dropped to 126 pounds.

"He was a gentle, kind man who I never heard say anything bad about anyone," his brother said. "There were hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls he helped. ... He always was involved somewhere every day of his life, from high school to the day he died. That's what he lived for."

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 tonight at Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon. A Mass with military honors will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Anne Catholic Church, 400 Hoodridge Drive.

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.


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