To those who did not know Barry Gorodnick, Robinson Secondary School would seem like an odd place for a memorial service.
But Gorodnick, or “Coach G.” as students knew him, lived for the school where he had attended since the seventh grade. He was 47 years old when he died on Saturday, and it seemed like he had never left the place.
“He loved it so much he graduated and came back here for another 24 years,” said Robinson principal Dan Meier, who gave an opening statement at the memorial service held in the school’s gymnasium on Thursday afternoon. “Barry was Robinson.”
The memorial service brought out hundreds of people — Gorodnick’s family, his extended family, the Robinson community. The service welcomed comments from the school principal, Gorodnick’s family members, co-workers and former students.
Gorodnick coached the school’s softball team, worked as a technology specialist and a football coach. Beyond school, they spoke about the man who devoted his life to his wife, Jennifer and children, Kaitlyn, 11, Taylor, 10 and Ryan, 7.
“Barry adored his wife,” said friend Paul Jansen at the service. “When I was at their wedding and Jen went to kiss Barry, I saw she was wearing high-top sneakers with her wedding dress. And I knew it was a match made in heaven.”
Gorodnick and his wife had met through their mutual love of softball, both of them being coaches on different area teams. Jennifer Gorodnick was by her husband’s bedside since he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2010.
“I saw firsthand just how pure her love was for my brother,” said Paul Gorodnick, who also spoke at the service. “I want to thank her and all of you from the bottom of my heart.”
After Gorodnick’s diagnosis, the Robinson community rallied around the family for support, raising more than $50,000 for his family and medical treatments through a fundraising website.
The money was raised in part by former students, who recalled the coach who they said believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves, and who always made them laugh.
“The school was his life line,” said friend Daniel Locke. “Every Friday night after a game he would watch the game films so he would have comments for the players the next day.”
Mark Bendorf, who was the head coach for Robinson’s football team before his recent retirement, worked with Gorodnick, who served as the team’s defensive coach. He called Gorodnick “a players coach.”
“The demands were high, but every player had days where things didn’t go well,” Bendorf said. “He was a coach who would seek those players out and would tell them it gets better. … You can’t fake passion or sincerity.”
A video shown at the end of the service brought comments from students and former students who remembered the coach, calling him a father figure and mentor. Many came up to speak even after the official eulogies had been read.
Gorodnick’s football helmets laid on his casket. As friends said, he walked the same halls and wore the same uniform as many of the players he later would teach.
“School meant the world to Coach G.,” said Bryan Hazard, who hosted the services. ”We were blessed to know him.”