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Norwin athlete formidable in sports, classroom

| Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Paul Naponick, a former star basketball and football player at Norwin, died Monday, August.17, 2015.
Paul Naponick, a former star basketball and football player at Norwin, died Monday, August.17, 2015.

As half of Norwin High School's larger-than-life sports duos, Paul Naponick and his family shared one of the tiniest homes in their neighborhood.

“I remember seeing that and saying, ‘Wow, this is probably the smallest house in Strawpump,' ” said former Norwin principal Ronald E. Peduzzi, 82, of Swansboro, N.C. “But their parents were great, and the Naponick brothers made Norwin history.”

Paul Michael Naponick, formerly of Irwin, died of natural causes on Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 67.

During his high school days, he stood 6 feet, 5 inches and weighed about 220 pounds. His older brother, John, was 6 feet, 10 inches and weighed about 285 pounds. Both played basketball and football and are inductees in the Norwin Athletic Hall of Fame.

The brothers shared a room in their parents' tiny house, said Mr. Naponick's wife of 23 years, Ruth.

“It was a happy home,” she said. “His mother was always cooking.”

Norwin was a basketball town in the 1960s, and the Naponick brothers set records that still stand.

John Naponick scored 33 points and pulled in 21 rebounds in a 1963 WPIAL title game in the Civic Arena. Paul Naponick's school record of 47 points in a single basketball game has yet to be broken, said Brandon Rapp, Norwin's athletic director.

Their size caught the eyes of Norwin coaches early on.

“John was big and used his size well,” said former junior high basketball coach Chuck McHugh, who was instrumental in their development. “Paul moved around more with the ball.”

Mr. Naponick was selected to the Big 33 football game, the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic and the Westmoreland County All-Star Classic, where he was the 1966 MVP. In 2012, he was inducted in to the Norwin Athletic Hall of Fame for his achievements in both sports.

The Naponick brothers were more than their accomplishments on the basketball court or the football field, one former Norwin coach said.

“He and John were just great people,” said former high school basketball coach Tom Shrump.

Mr. Naponick attended the University of Pittsburgh where he played defensive end on the football team and played basketball. He graduated in 1970 with a degree in political science and went on to earn a law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans and a master's degree from Georgetown University in Washington.

He practiced corporate law in Florida for 20 years. He and his wife were in the process of moving to a new home when he died.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Twila Raygor Naponick and Michael Naponick; and his in-laws, John and Jean McWalter. He is survived by his wife, Ruth McWalter Naponick, and his brother, John Naponick of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A memorial service will be held at noon Sept. 12 at The Little Church of La Villita in San Antonio, where Paul and Ruth Naponick lived for 10 years.

Memorial donations can be made to The Little Church of La Villita, 508 Villita St., San Antonio, Texas 78205.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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