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Beloved coach's funeral expected to draw many mourners

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Herald File Photo Vic Paternostro, former Pope John XXIII Regional High School football coach, will be laid to rest Friday. Herald File Photo Vic Paternostro, former Pope John XXIII Regional High School football coach, will be laid to rest Friday.
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By JESSICA MASULLI REYES

jmasulli@njherald.com

SPARTA -- One former Pope John XXIII Regional High School football player described Vic Paternostro as an educator who "molded and fine polished a lot of fine young men in this world today."

For all those men and women who were touched by Paternostro's life and who would like to say goodbye to the longtime coach, a funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of the Lake R.C. Church in Sparta. The interment will follow in Good Shepherd Catholic Cemetery in Green Township.

Visitation will be Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 9:30 p.m., also at Our Lady of the Lake R.C. Church.

Paternostro, a former Pope John football coach, died Monday at Morristown Medical Center at the age of 68. He began his career at Pope John in 1967 as an assistant football coach and teacher. He moved on to vice principal and head football coach at the high school before his contentious retirement in 2010.

The former football player, Sparta police Sgt. John-Paul Beebe, was just one of the young men "molded and fine polished" by Paternostro's coaching legacy. Beebe played under him in the 1970s before coaching alongside him later in life.

But he said Paternostro was more than a "fabulous football coach."

"He also loved teaching," Beebe said. "He taught his classes the same way he taught his football team. He was very intense and he motivated you."

State Sen. Steve Oroho, R-24th Dist., also a Pope John alumnus, remembered sitting in Paternostro's algebra class.

"He had the most beautiful penmanship there was," Oroho said. "He loved teaching kids algebra."

Beebe said that even as Paternostro's role changed from algebra teacher to administrator at Pope John, he still wanted nothing more than to be back in a classroom.

"Up until last year, he talked about wanting to get back in the classroom to teach again," Beebe said. "That was his calling."

The funeral and visitation are expected to draw a large number of people because of Paternostro's great tenure at Pope John. While coaching football for 43 years, Paternostro earned the title of the state's all-time winningest football coach with 373 victories.

"What makes this accomplishment even more outstanding is the fact that he achieved all of his wins at one, and only one, high school, a feat that will unlikely be replicated by any other coach in years to come," a Pope John alumni newsletter from April 2011 said. Pope John cited this newsletter in a prepared statement after Paternostro's death.

Paternostro won 20 state championships, 19 Sussex County Interscholastic League titles and two Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference crowns during his career, ending with a final record of 373-68-5.

Oroho, who was an assistant football coach for 12 years on Pope John's coaching staff, saw that Paternostro used tough love on his players.

"He was a guy who probably got offers to go to different places," Oroho said of Paternostro, adding. "His whole idea was helping kids.

But, Paternostro didn't just excel with his team on a football field. He was also a family man with a wife of 41 years, Patricia Willis Paternostro; one son, V. Dean Paternostro of Fredon; and one daughter, Angela Paternostro-Pfister, and her husband, Russ, of Newton.

Beebe said Paternostro was a father figure to many of the young men he coached.

"Next to my father, who I am very close to, nobody has had a greater impact on my life than Vic Paternostro," Beebe said.

Pope John cited an excerpt from an April 2011 alumni newsletter that said that alumni remember Paternastro in two ways -- as the man who guided them on the football field and as the teacher who guided them through math class.

"On the field or in the classroom, Coach Paternostro influenced decades of Pope John students, and we are grateful to him for his dedication to Pope John," the statement read.

That dedication didn't go unnoticed.

"I can speak for every player: We are far better people for playing for him," Beebe said. "He was a true legend."

 

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