MORRIS – During the graveside services for Charles “Chuck” Farinella of Morris, eight of Chuck’s “sons” each talked about how much Chuck meant to them.
These men weren’t his biological sons, said Chuck’s son, also named Chuck Farinella, of Woodridge. They were Chuck’s former students, just eight of thousands Chuck impacted during his more than 30 years of service at Proviso East School in Maywood, where Chuck worked as physical education teacher, mentor, and football and track coach.
One man had driven all night from Maryland to attend the funeral, Farinella said. Another came in from Georgia, missed the services, but made it to the cemetery, just because he wanted to pay his respects.
Chuck had taught and coached them an era of race riots, Farinella said, which caused some of the teachers to leave. Chuck was not one of them.
“My dad was a father figure to them. He really saw them as his kids,” Farinella said. “They came from all walks of life and very easily could have gotten into drugs or gangs, but my father had a unique ability to motivate them. He’d make numerous phone calls to colleges – with the kids sitting in his office – and say, ‘Your institution will be better by having this kid in it.’ ”
According to information compiled by Chuck’s family, a number of athletes under Chuck’s mentoring went to the Illinois High School Association State Track meet each year and nearly 100 of them placed. Noteworthy occasions were winning the team state title in 1980, as well as third place in 1976 and fourth in 1975 and 1985.
Student athletes under Chuck’s direction also won numerous conference titles. One former student, Greg Foster, won state titles for the 120 yard high hurdle and the 330 yard low hurdle; he also won titles at the national level. He went on to win medals at the Olympics and the World Championships, the information also said.
But for all the successes that had their start with Chuck’s guidance, Chuck’s family knew little of Chuck’s own athletic career until they began pouring through his scrapbooks after his July 7 death at the age of 82.
They had known that Chuck, after graduating from the now closed DePaul Academy High School in 1950, had attended Kansas State University on a football scholarship and started for the Wildcats as a 210-pound offensive tackle, Farinella said.
“We didn’t know he had been the captain of the boxing team and the track team in high school,” Farinella said. “He didn’t talk about himself. It was never about him.”
For Chuck, said Joe Farinella of Arizona, it was always about his kids, the ones he taught and coached, as well as his own. In addition to Farinella and Joe, Chuck and his wife of 57 years – Annette – raised Laurie Sobol of Morris and Carol Radek of Naperville.
It wasn’t just his kids’ participation in sports that interested Chuck, Joe said, but how they fared in the overall game of life, long after many of them lost interest in athletics. That, Joe added, was the pride of his father’s life.
“He’d offer advice, but it was homespun, common sense advice, and these kids took it. We all did,” Joe said. “When we needed a firm hand, it was there. When we needed a shoulder to cry on, it was there. That’s what mattered to him the most.”