Remembering Rome Sports Hall of Famer Manfred

Published Mar 11, 2018 at 9:00am

Bob Manfred passed away last week at the age of 89. I first met him in 1986 when he asked me to get involved in coaching the Fran Allison Basketball travel team for fifth and sixth grade athletes. One cold December night I was coaching at St. Peter’s and we scrimmaged his travel team. He asked me if my twin sons would like to play on his team after the game. Of course we were flattered to be coached and picked by this special man.

Over the next 10 years I would travel with him and take teams to cities like Boston, Philadelphia and all over New York State. His wife Phyllis would give up her weekends and be his roommate for most games. They were married for over 63 years. They gave up their social life to teach hundreds of young boys the game he loved while they both had demanding jobs to boot. Bob worked in management at Revere and Phyllis was an elementary school teacher.

Rome sports nickname: Phyllis Manfred, Bob lovingly called her “Phib.” They raised three children who went on to have very successful careers. Rob, Lee and Lynn were his pride and joy as were the 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

I once asked him why he didn’t ask a certain talented young sixth grader to travel with us to a tournament in Connecticut. He winked at me and said: “When we travel out of town these kids represent Rome, New York, so I don’t take the best players but I take the best behaved.”

Coach Stan Evans was the varsity basketball coach at RFA back then and I think he was so successful because of the people he surrounded himself with. Besides Bob he had dedicated people like Don Bruce, Ray Tarkowski, Dave Bovi, Gail Evans, Dick Stropp and Dennis Parry just to name a few. Coach Evans would be the first to tell you that the success of his Fran Allison youth program however was due to Bob Manfred, and he did it for over 20 years.

Back in 1993, Bob and I took 30 kids to Boston for a huge tournament. A Nor’easter with two feet of snow stranded us in a hotel and we couldn’t get home. Some of our players came without parents and we had to feed them. The hotel would put out special food but it was expensive. I told Bob and he winked at me and said, “I got this.” Nobody realized what he did that weekend but me, and as I look back he must have spent hundreds of dollars of his own money feeding those kids. Words can’t tell you how special Bob was.

The boys he coached are all young men now and most are raising children of their own. Let me mention some: Steve Evans, Eric Bird, Billy Menter, Pete Sestito, Chris Destito, Tom and Danny Nelson, Archi Cianfrocco, Tim Penix, Kelvin Carney, Eric Stropp, Dave Campbell, Bob Taylor, Mike Walker, Calvin Griggs, Tom Pugh, Dave Caldwell, Brad Collins, Tommy Campbell, Mike Hoke, Tommy Myslinski, Marc Watson, Dewayne Bennett, Joey Karam, Merlin Dixon, the Moffatt’s, the Baker’s, the Bottini’s, the Mody’s, and my four sons the Ryan brothers. He touched each and every one.

Vernon-Verona-Sherrill athletes like Dr. Tom Cummings, Danny Deblois and Scott Knapp played for him as well as Holland Patient stars Daryl and Randy Crist.

Bob was inducted into our Rome Sports Hall of Fame two years ago and it was awesome that he received this much deserved recognition.

The positive impact Bob Manfred made on the Community of Rome will never be forgotten. I send him my favorite Irish Blessing: May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.