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Stah's Coaching Enthusiasm Will Be Missed

As Andy and Laura Stah recalled fond memories of their father, images of batting contraptions involving a whiffle ball rolling down a PVC pipe or a softball on a rope stood out.

"He corrected wrongs by pointing out rights," Andy said.

"He had all these weird contraptions," Laura remembered.

Energizing children through coaching was the legacy that Don Stah left behind. The 58-year-old Springfield man died on Sunday, Feb. 8, while at a winter softball camp at Hayfield Secondary School.

Stah was in his eighth year coaching the winter camp at Hayfield, where he also did a stint as an assistant coach for the girls junior varsity softball coach in 1998 as well as a Little League Baseball coach for several years. At Fairfax Memorial Park, Thursday, Feb. 12, the viewing room was dominated by students he coached in the past.

Wife Judy Stah could see his love for sports and the teens. "He did it [coaching] way too much, way too long. He loved it," Judy Stah said.

Don Stah went as far as lying across home plate, holding a child's ankles, while the baseball and swinging bat flew inches above his face, to teach the child the importance of staying in the batter's box. Andy laughed while he told the story.

Hayfield softball coach Ron Giovannucci worked with Stah on several occasions, especially the winter camp, which was put on every January.

"He enjoyed the teaching part of it. He pushed them to another level," Giovannucci said.

The Stahs were members of the Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence. Debbie Streicher, the director of youth and family ministry at the church, saw Stah's effect on children. She was aware of the student presence at the funeral.

"His proof is in the pudding that he touched lives," Streicher said.

DURING THE SERVICE, Andy Stah and Steve Humphries, both seniors at Hayfield, strummed out Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," on acoustic guitars. Sobs and sniffles could be heard over the acoustic introduction before some of the audience joined Justin Farthling in the vocals. Farthling, Stah's nephew, was urged to provide vocals at the last minute.

"They planned the whole thing and pulled me in at the last minute," Farthling said.

"How I wish, wish you were here," the song goes. Everyone in the room recognized the significance.

Steve Humphries on guitar remembered practicing bar chords in the Stahs' basement. He and Andy played the Pink Floyd song at a friend’s funeral two years ago.

"He [Don Stah] let us play it as loud as we could in the basement. That's where we learned to play," said Humphries.

Steve Titunik's son, Michael, who died in an earlier car accident, was one of Stah's players through the years. Michael "was impacted by Don's love of sport. I met Don through Lorton Little League. I thought that [coaching] was his career," Titunik joked. "Today Michael has his coach back."

Titunik is working on establishing a scholarship in Don Stah's name.

Aston Bourri is a Springfield resident who spent a lot of time at the Stahs'. He choked back the tears.

"Don is like a second dad to me," he said, remembering a spaghetti dinner at the Stahs' with humor. The table was divided into devotees of thick spaghetti noodles and thin vermicelli noodles.

"Andy asked for a piece of bread, and Mr. Stah threw it across the table," he said.

Roy Judy coached with Stah in the Lorton Little League. He assembled some of the teens who were previous players on Stah's team on the side of the altar. They almost had enough to fill up the baseball diamond.

"This is what Don was all about," Judy said.

Erica Fick, a friend of Laura Stah's, is now a James Madison University student. She remembers Stah's sense of humor.

"He was a really nice guy that joked around a lot," Fick said.

Stah even had a stint in professional baseball himself, when he was invited to try out for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates in his younger days. He attended West Point for a few years before joining the Army and going to Vietnam.