Known as “Coach” at Archbishop Curley, Richard Patry was an old-school mentor on the gridiron and a light-hearted prankster the other countless hours he spent at the Sinclair Lane school as a physical education teacher.
Everybody who knew Mr. Patry closely has a million stories to share about a man who was devoted to his family, the community and the school he continued to visit all the years after he retired.
Mr. Patry, who was the Friars varsity football coach for 17 years and spent 39 years on faculty before retiring in 2001, died after a stroke Saturday at Franklin Square Hospital with his two children by his side. The Parkville resident was 85.
Father Michael Martin, a 1979 Curley grad who went on to spend nine years as the school’s president, described his former teacher and colleague as a character and blessing.
“One of the things about ‘Coach’ was that he realized what his gift was, that he brought a spirit to the staff,” said Father Martin, who now serves as the director of the Duke Catholic Center in North Carolina. “What he did was he created a spirit of community and conviction with his colleagues that brought people together and made people appreciate that they were part of something bigger than themselves. And he did that not by persuasive words or dramatic gestures, but a spirit of fun and a spirit of connection that made people want to be around when he was around.”
An All-American football player at Catawba College, Mr. Patry joined the Curley faculty in 1962, one year after the school opened. He coached freshman football and basketball, junior varsity basketball and produced 78 wins as the varsity football coach from 1966 to 1982. In 1977, the Friars went 8-2 and won the Catholic League championship. In 2015, he was one of 10 charter members inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was the father of Scott and Susan Patry (his wife, JoAnn, died last August) and a father figure to so many more.
“Curley was everything to him and the boys were everything to him,” said his son, Scott.
“He had such an impact on so many lives throughout the time he was there and then it continued. Even after he had been retired for years, he still went over every Tuesday morning to heckle the faculty and students.”
Gene Hoffman, the school’s longtime track and field coach who was a player and student of Mr. Patry before becoming a colleague, doesn’t hesitate when declaring Mr. Patry was the most well-liked teacher the school has ever had.
And, oh boy, the pranks and all the stories that are still told to this day.
Like the time Mr. Patry sneaked into late baseball coach Al Frank’s locker and found some new baseballs that were used for a game later that day.
“On one of the balls in the box, he wrote, ‘You’re blind ump,' ” Hoffman said. “So when the ump asked for more balls, here’s this ball that says, ‘You’re blind ump.’ Everyone knew who put that there.”
Former Curley basketball coach Dan Popera, who spent 25 years at the helm before stepping down in 1999, can attest. He was all set to host a basketball tournament and told the out-of-town opponents that he would have practice balls available for them. After dashing away to get the tournament trophies, he returned to school to find something altogether different on the basketball rack.
“I come back to go get the balls and they were all gone. He had replaced them with some old ABA rubber red, white and blue balls and some old leather ones — half of them were deflated,” Mr. Popera said. “First thing I yelled out was ‘Patry!’ I’m running around all over the school wondering where the hell he hid my basketballs.”
Mr. Popera continued: “When I heard he passed away the other day I thought of two things: No. 1, as he’s approaching the pearly gates, he’s already got a prank for St. Peter and No. 2, once he gets inside, he’s going to look for Al Frank to irritate the hell out of him.”
Viewings will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Ruck Funeral Home in Towson. The funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Loch Raven United Methodist Church.