Roger Rada, beloved coach, teacher, mentor and friend was a man of few words, so when he spoke, his words carried weight. One of his favorite sayings was, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” By that measure, Rada, who passed away December 6 at the age of 91 with family by his side, was employed for 59 years, but never worked a day in his life.
Born in Chicago in 1929, Rada graduated from DePauw University in 1950 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. After he was honorably discharged in 1951, Rada spent the next three years playing professional baseball for various teams in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox organizations. When his playing days ended, Rada turned to teaching and coaching and didn’t stop for the next 55 years. Along the way, he found his true love, Virginia Faris. They were married in 1954 and enjoyed 61 years of wedded bliss until the time of her death in 2016.
After several years of teaching at the high school level, in 1964 Rada was hired at Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey, as head baseball coach and assistant professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. After stepping down as head coach in 1974 to devote himself to teaching full-time, Rada continued to serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the TSC men’s baseball and women’s softball teams. It was a time of great success as both teams produced multiple All-Americans and the women’s softball team won six NCAA Division III National Titles. While he never sought accolades, Rada’s contribution was officially recognized when he was inducted into the TSC/TCNJ Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Rada retired from his full-time teaching duties in 1999, but he continued to serve as a part-time faculty member until 2009. Some of the more notable teaching experiences he provided were in those classes where he and his college students taught students from the Katzenbach School how to swim and when his students worked with children from local Head Start programs.
Rada was also actively involved in the community, coaching in the Ewing Township public schools and recreational leagues. In an arena often known for coarse language, Coach Rada endeared himself to students and players through his creative ways to express displeasure. A few of his favorites were: “Fudgebuckets,” “Horsefeathers,” “Shucky Ducks” and “Goodness Gracious and Little Fishies.” Rada was also known for witty one-liners. If a player was slow making their way around the bases, he would say, “It’s OK to run like you’ve got a piano on your back, but don’t stop to play it!” During one game at Trenton State College, when one of the pitchers was knocked down by a line drive, Rada came to check on the player’s welfare and told him, “You gotta charge those before they get a chance to build up speed.” He was also known for his ingenuity as he would develop creative devices, such as wooden gloves and sawed-off bats, to help players work on their technique. Rada’s knowledge and insight on the ballfield and in the classroom were widely known and he was in high demand as a guest speaker, teacher and clinician.
In addition to his teaching, coaching and community involvement, Rada was also an active member of Hope Presbyterian Church in Lawrenceville. In 2009, Rada moved to Silver Spring, Maryland to be closer to family. While there, he was a volunteer coach with the High Point High School Girls Softball team and a Therapy Dog Handler with Fidos for Freedom. In 2011, Rada moved with his family to Central New York and served as a volunteer coach with the Ithaca College baseball team. In 2016, he moved to Syracuse where he spent his time watching baseball and volunteering with Helping Hounds Dog Rescue.
Rada was preceded in death by his daughter, Rebecca; and wife, Virginia.
Surviving are his daughter, Deborah; and sons, Paul and James.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Roger Rada Scholarship Fund at TCNJ by visitng give.tcnj.edu.