Two relationships have formed the foundation for Lowell Klinefelter's life for the past 48 years. At the end of the just-concluded school year, one of those relationships came to a close.

Two relationships have formed the foundation for Lowell Klinefelter’s life for the past 48 years.

At the end of the just-concluded school year, one of those relationships came to a close.

Klinefelter spent nearly five decades teaching and coaching at Central Catholic High School, shaping the lives of generations of students. As the 2013-14 school year came to a close, the veteran coach and educator officially retired. He spent the past 41 years as the school’s head football coach, winning a Stark County-record 257 games, including state titles in 1988 (Division IV) and 2000 (Division III). He taught chemistry and math during his tenure at the school.

On June 13, former players, students, co-workers, friends and family members gathered at La Pizzaria in Canton to celebrate Klinefelter's career and, more importantly, his impact on their lives. By his side was his wife of 48 years, Sharon. The couple smiled and chatted as they prepared for the arrival of their guests and reflected on his career.

“It’s been a great ride and a great journey, but everything’s got to come an end sometime and I just felt like it’s time to let someone younger do it,” Klinefelter said. “I still have a passion to teach, but I just felt it was time and I sure hope the best for the school because the school has been good to me.”

Despite his success on the field, Klinefelter said he always wanted to be known as a teacher first. Although the school’s enrollment is smaller now than it was 48 years ago, he is confident that the quality of the education and the overall high school experience Central Catholic provides remain strong and will prepare future graduating classes for life after high school.

CELEBRATING A CAREER

Surrounded by their children and grandchildren, the Klinefelters greeted more than 300 well-wishers as they filed in for a night of fun, food and memories. Proving that his memory is as sharp as ever, Lowell Klinefelter laughed and smiled with former players as they recalled moments from games that happened 40 years ago. Others pored over a display of trophies and framed newspaper articles marking key moments from the coach’s accomplished career.

The magnitude of the moment was not lost on Dr. Tim Novelli, who played for Klinefelter on the 1977 team that reached the state playoffs for the first time in program history. Novelli, who returned to serve as the team doctor for Central Catholic, recalled the moments he spent with Klinefelter during his formative years and noted the impact those moments still have on him.

“I’ve known him now for more than 40 years. I met him when I was in grade school and I had the privilege of working for him for four years to pay my tuition,” Novelli said. "He helped mold so many young men's minds in so many different ways. Any time you were with him, I don't care if it was painting or mowing the lawn, it was always a classroom with the coach. There are things he said that I still carry with me and I still quote him to this day."

Klinefelter joked that his biggest concern was making sure he didn't forget a name or face among the many who showed up to share the occasion with him. He admitted that seeing so many people from so many different eras of his career in one place was humbling. That, along with the dozens of letters he has received since announcing his retirement, has been overwhelming.

Still, as his time coaching and teaching officially comes to an end, it is a predictable group that Kilnefelter says he will miss the most in retirement.

"I undoubtedly will miss the kids most," Klinefelter said. "Whether it was in the classroom or in the weight room, or if it was on the football field, what has always made our school special is the students that we had and I will sure miss them."

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
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