Former football coach brought best out in Latrobe players, students
Coach and teacher Lew Hart’s passion for football, his forthright attitude and his approachability left a positive mark on generations of students and athletes who attended Greater Latrobe Senior High.
“He approached everything the same way: You work hard and do what you’re supposed to and, hopefully, benefits are gained,” said his son, Michael, a 1991 alumnus of the school who played at defensive end during his father’s years as a varsity football coach. “He was a pretty straightforward guy.
“He was tough but fair. He was a tremendous motivator. He had a way of bringing out the best in anybody,” drawing out “their ability to achieve things maybe they didn’t think they could achieve.”
Michael Hart’s wife, Nicole, a fellow Greater Latrobe graduate, said her father-in-law was “always encouraging and never made you fill ill at ease. Within five minutes, you were comfortable with him.”
Mr. Hart made a positive impression that stuck with the young people he guided on and off the football field. “He really enjoyed the students,” his son said. “You couldn’t go to the grocery store with him; it would take three hours because he knew everybody.”
Mr. Lewis Eugene Hart, 78, of Latrobe, died Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Excela Latrobe Hospital. Born March 14, 1940, in Grove City, he was the son of the late Dean and Lille Belle Hart.
Mr. Hart was an all-conference guard while playing football at Grove City High School. He returned to the sport, playing in a Division II game at the Rose Bowl, while later earning a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education at Slippery Rock University. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, completing a Mediterranean tour, and then switched from active to reserve duty, until 1964.
He began teaching physical education at Greater Latrobe Junior High School in 1966 and moved two years later to the senior high, where he also taught drivers’ education.
Mr. Hart joined the school’s football staff in 1966, initially serving as an assistant coach, then as head coach from 1977-86. He returned as an assistant coach in 1990 and remained with the program until he retired from teaching in 1999.
A banner year for the coach and his team was 1984, when the Wildcats were undefeated in the regular season and were the Keystone Conference champions.
Re-enlisting in the military in 1976, Mr. Hart served as a sergeant first class and certified mechanic, overseeing the motor pool of an Army Reserve unit in Johnstown until his honorable discharge in 1990.
He enjoyed hunting and helping his sons repair their cars.
“He gave respect to get respect,” Michael Hart said.
Mr. Hart is survived by his wife of 55 years, Barbara of Latrobe; three sons, Patrick of London, England, Ryan and his wife, Jennie, of Springfield, Mo., and Michael and his wife, Nicole, of Latrobe; and six grandchildren.
Friends are invited to celebrate Mr. Hart’s life from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Frederick Funeral Home, 1543 Ligonier St., Latrobe. Military honors will be conducted there by the Veterans Honor Guard. A private memorial service will be held Thursday.
Memorials may be made to the Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation (www.glpief.org).