Robert M. “Ben” Blue, 77 – Exceptional Athlete, Inspirational Coach
Robert M. “Ben” Blue, 77, of Barnesville, died peacefully early Thursday morning, March 4, 2021, at his home, surrounded by his family and God’s angels, after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
“Bob” or “Ben” as he was called was born at the Locust Mountain Hospital in Shenandoah, on September 6, 1943. He was the beloved son of the late Agnes (Colahan) and Martin Blue of Mahanoy City, the same town where he grew up along with his 2 sisters, Betty and Babs.
In the 1950’s, he began his athletic journey in the Mahanoy City Little League, playing for the VFW. In 1961, as a talented center/forward on the Mahanoy Are High School basketball team, he helped lead the Golden Bears to a 22-0 season and was selected as the outstanding ‘TEAM’ player by the Mahanoy City Lions Club. Along with his high school friends, Ben participated in several community sports including: volleyball with the Big Green, flag football in the Shenandoah League, and softball with Brayford’s Angels.
While in high school, Ben took part in several activities including choir, acapella choir, baseball, and theater arts. He graduated in 1961.
Ben entered Bloomsburg State College (BSC) to study business. He became a starter on the BSC Varsity Team in his sophomore season. He and his teammates had a 17-4 senior season, which was the best record for a Bloomsburg team at that time. Again, he was recognized by his peers and coaches for his role as a team player.
Ben graduated from Bloomsburg State College in 1965 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education and immediately began his career at Tamaqua Area High School teaching typing, accounting, business law, and bookkeeping. He served as Head of the Business Department for many years. He continued his graduate studies earning an M.Ed in Business also from Bloomsburg.
Ben was not only an exceptional athlete but a compassionate and inspirational coach. In 1968, he became head coach of the JV team at Tamaqua Area High School. Eventually, he became assistant varsity coach. He taught his players not only the fundamentals of basketball, but also good sportsmanship, and most importantly, encouraged these young men to excel in academics as well as athletics. He was recognized by the Lions Club in 1969 and the Mahanoy City Business Association in 1997, both for his athletic prowess and inspiration to the youth of his community and those of Tamaqua. He was deeply involved as an educator and a coach. In 2019, Ben was inducted into the Jerry Wolman Northern Anthracite Chapter of Pennsylvania’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honor that he shared with both his daughters, Ally and Leslie, who were inducted in 2007.
Ben taught business education for many years at various levels including Reading Area Community College, Lehigh County Community College, Frackville State Correctional Institute, and community classes at The Senator James A. Rhoades Community Center in Mahanoy City and Rockwood Center in Cressona. In 2001 after spending 36 years in secondary education, he retired from Tamaqua Area High School.
In 1971, Ben married Carol (Koval) the love of his life, in St. Canicus Church, Mahanoy City by Father Michael Connaughton with Rev. Aubry Bucher in attendance. They began their partnership together living in Barnesville, where they raised two children, Allyson and Leslie. Ben enjoyed many hobbies including: gardening, yard work, cutting wood, running, playing basketball and shuffleboard, fishing with his daughters and grandchildren and vacationing with family and friends in Rehoboth Beach. Ben introduced his daughters to sports at a young age, eventually focusing on basketball and developing weight and conditioning drills, going for runs, and rebounding countless shots in the driveway basketball court. Ben, Carol and the girls enjoyed spending time with a close group of friends and their children, many of whom were teachers, and are considered extended family and a great support system, to this day.
Ben was a member of Christ Lutheran Church where he served as treasurer and on the endowment fund committee for several years. In 2018, he was honored for 50 years of service in the Pennsylvania Masonic Lodge #357, Mahanoy City. His strong devotion to his faith and his church was evident as he served as lector at Sunday services and annually at Good Friday services where he participated in the reading of the Passion. He also was a member of the church choir.
His fulfillment in life was undoubtedly his family. He treasured time spent with his grandchildren whom he adored. They enjoyed trips to Locust Lake, fishing, miniature golfing, hiking, and vacations at the beach. He was known affectionately as PaPa. Ben was a kind, gentle man with a keen sense of humor. His actions spoke louder than words. He was a unique and special person with values and ethics which guided him throughout his life. He will be sadly missed by his wife, Carol, to whom he was married for 49 years; his two children, daughter Allyson Schaller (Marc) of Maple Glen, PA; daughter Leslie Shultz (Matthew) of Marlton, NJ; five grandchildren, Ben, Kyle, and Chase Schaller; Sarah and Matthew Shultz; a sister-in-law, Patricia Lausterer; nieces, nephews. great- nieces and great-nephews.
Ben was preceded in death by his parents; two sisters and their husbands, Elizabeth Kehler (John) and Barbara Tuggle (Thomas); a nephew, Jack Kehler and cousins.
The family would like to thank Lenny Zakrewsky for his loyalty and untiring dedication to Ben during his illness, his caregivers: (CNA’s) Alice Michaels and Jodie Crowley and the Staff of Advantage Home Health and Hospice for their professional and compassionate care. They truly found a way to brighten Ben’s days. A special thanks to our family, neighbors, and friends for their unending support along this journey.
Friends and family may call from 5 to 8 pm on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at Louis D. Truskowsky Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc., 300 West Center St., Mahanoy City, PA.
Interment will be private at Sky-view Memorial Park Hometown, PA.
Memorial donations may be made to Christ Lutheran Church, Main St., Mahanoy City, PA and Mahanoy City Public Library.