On May 28, 2016 Coach Stan Slaby passed away. Days later, brothers and sisters of our Farragut Family, along with friends and family members of our beloved “Coach,” gathered together at the Cathedral of the Air in Lakehurst, New Jersey, to bid adieu to one of Farragut’s all-time greats during a touching ceremony. Through a coordinated effort by “Coach’s Boys,” Stan was given a burial befitting of a man who gave his heart and soul to Farragut during his 39 years of service with the school. Slaby, who graduated from Ware High School in June of 1943, enlisted in the U.S. Navy one month later to serve his country. During his service Slaby received the Navy & Marine Corps medal for saving a drowning marine in the sea at Normandy on June 9, 1944. He received four additional medals for his service and was honorably discharged in April 1946. Coach was laid to rest and honored with a special ceremony on November 4, 2016 at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Read a recollection by Bob DaSilva, class of 76N’
“It was truly a fine day in Arlington Virginia as Farragut Nation turned out to pay final respects to our dear Coach. As we know Coach’s wishes, he would have been so proud and touched by the Ceremony. So fitting COL Richard W. Bower, US Army (ret), AFA ‘65N was present and in full dress uniform to lead us in prayer and the singing of “Eternal Father”. Richard spoke of his relationship with Coach and Polly and the influence they had on his life. At the conclusion of the interment ceremony, we sang the Farragut Alma Mater.
The writing below, is from Bob DaSilva ’76N whom I had not seen in over 40 years. Bob is Retired Navy. I think Bob said it wonderfully …
“It was a beautiful, clear day. The cloudless blue sky was the perfect accompaniment for the slight crispness of the air.
Slowly, a small group of about 40 makes their way from cars, past a formation of Navy Sailors in full dress uniforms; an Honor Guard awaiting orders. The solemn group of mostly men makes it’s way to the ornate cement shelter where another squad of sailors stands at stiff attention as they hold the folded American Flag over the urn containing the cremains of a lesser known American Hero.
The group gathers and the ceremony of interment begins. The Navy Chaplain intones Prayers and delivers a brief biography of the more than 90 years of the deceased life. He notes with some pride, the testament to the departed’s full life; as evidenced by the gathering of family and so many students of the man we honored on this day.
As the bugler blows “Taps” and the Honor Guard renders the traditional 21 gun salute, We, the gathered mourners silently pray. We remember.
The sound of a flag draped, casket laden caisson can be heard on the small lane, just yards away from this gathering. It reminds us that ours is not the only American Hero who is laid to rest this day.
Our quiet group makes it’s way to the final resting place. An outdoor structure with small marble squares which cover cubby holes for the cremains of the departed. The stones are engraved with names and military titles. Dates of birth and death are a stark reminder that it is not only those who were able to live a full life who are memorialized in this hallowed place.
As all the ceremony ends; we, the living visit. For me, it had been 4 decades since I had seen some of the faces here. It’s strange how, with death, we can find the fellowship of rekindling old friendships.
This was Arlington National Cemetery. My friends and I were honored to know and ultimately say a final goodbye to an American Hero.
In the grand scheme of history, our teacher and coach will not be famous. He did indeed save a life on that “Day of Days” more than 70 years ago. But, his act is lost in the fog of history as such acts usually are. But, although not known by all, our friend and mentor will be remembered by we few who also remember a small New Jersey military school on the Tom’s River.
Like many things at our school, “The Coach” helped mold us into the people we grew to become. For good or ill, we each took away some small part of the man whom we laid to rest, finally, yesterday.
It struck me as very fitting that my friends and I were able to visit Arlington just days before a National Election. That place, especially reminds all it’s visitors what the meaning of America is, through it’s rows of stones which stand as silent sentinels of the freedoms we do indeed enjoy in this place we call “America.”
Rest well, Coach Slaby. Rest now, with all those who have served and sacrificed, old and young; for America.”