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Determined coach, principal inspired by example

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Francis Kondrad was a retired principal at Hempfield Area High School.

At 6 feet, 7 inches, Ted Kondrad seemed like a giant to the seventh-graders at Manor Junior High School back in the early 1960s.

Mike Stewart said he remembers “Coach,” who led the football and basketball teams there before becoming principal of Hempfield Area High School, as an imposing figure who used tough love on his players and students.

“Maybe not the best students, maybe not the best home life, but he took care of them,” Stewart said. “He rooted for the underdog. He influenced the lives of a ton of kids.”

Francis Theodore Kondrad, 76, of Irwin, died Tuesday Nov. 19, 2013. He had been fighting cancer and Parkinson's disease.

His daughter, Debbie Gustafson, said he took those difficult students and dubbed them his “sweathogs.”

She said his childhood as the son of Lithuanian immigrants in Bentleyville, Washington County — using an outhouse and learning English in kindergarten — gave him a determination that he passed on to his students.

“Dreams are possible if you work hard and aim high,” Gustafson recalled her father as saying.

Mr. Kondrad was a University of Pittsburgh graduate, where he played basketball. He later earned a doctorate in education from West Virginia University.

Stewart, a former Hempfield Area school board president, remained close to his former teacher throughout his life and will deliver a eulogy at Mr. Kondrad's memorial service, recalling a phrase the former coach often used.

“‘Desire and pride lights the flame of eternal champions' and that has stayed with me over the last 50 years,” Stewart said. “You can be whatever you want to be, but you have to work for it.”

Daughter Michele Santicola said her father worked hard, but also had fun, spending his free time deer hunting, playing banjo, painting in oils and singing.

Mr. Kondrad's determination as an athlete didn't falter as his body eventually did. He continued to walk a mile every day, even when it took four to five hours, Santicola said.

“He fought like heck every day,” she said. “He was such a positive person.”

In addition to his daughters Debbie Gustafson and Michele Santicola, Mr. Kondrad is survived by his wife of nearly 53 years, Jane Parker Kondrad; daughter Lisa Lowry; and eight grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday in William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Brush Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church, Irwin. Interment will follow in Brush Creek Cemetery.

A contribution may be made to the Ted Kondrad Scholarship Fund c/o The Community Foundation of Westmoreland, 951 Old Salem Road, Greensburg, PA 15601.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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