PHOTO: Friends, family. RBR administration and Board of Education members celebrate the dedication of the street to the RBR stadium after beloved and most-winning coach in RBR history, Robert Strangia. The event took place prior to the September 15 RBR first home football game.
LITTLE SILVER, NJ - On September 15, at the Red Bank Regional (RBR) first home football game, history was memorialized as RBR’s legendary football coach Robert Strangia was honored by friends and family (inclusive of the many students whose lives he touched and changed forever.)
Two former students, Jerry Agee and Pete, Soviero petitioned the RBR Board of Education to honor their hero and mentor and fundraised for the event. Mr. Strangia lives in Florida and his health prevented him from attending. A plaque was erected under the street sign designating the road that leads around the school building to the football stadium as “Robert Strangia Way.”
PHOTO: Event organizer and Robert Stranger player Jerry Agee looks on as Michele Stranger Hale and her son, Matthew, unveil their dad and grandfather’s plaque and street sign as “Robert Strangia Way”, honoring RBR’s most winning coach in its sports history.
Part of the dedication plaque states, “Dedicating Robert Strangia Way as a path to the stadium field where the historic 1975 Central Jersey Group II Championship Game was played symbolizes the past, present and future of Red Bank Regional. Coach Strangia is a legend and a leader that put Red Bank Regional’s Football Team in the record books and RBR on the map.”
PHOTO: Pictured is the famous newspaper picture of RBR coach Robert Strangia, reprinted on the t-shirts that helped fund the purchase of the plaque and street sign.
Robert Strangia joined the RBR teaching staff in the late 60s and enjoyed an educational career spanning four decades, which included his elevation to Supervisor of the History Department. Coach Strangia’s historic career as the BUCs football coach was highlighted by three undefeated teams in 1971, 1974 and 1975, and one of the longest winning streaks in the Shore Conference history of 28 and 0 from 1973-1975 . His players included two future NFL players: Lonnie Algood (Syracuse Univ. and played for the Cincinnati Bengals) and “Big” John Lee (Nebraska Univ. and played for the San Diego Chargers). Coach Strangia is a member of the NJ Sports Hall of Fame. Robert Strangia was inducted into the RBR Distinguished Hall of Fame in 2002.
Beyond his coaching success, it was the person he was to his players that caused them to clamor for this accolade.
Lonnie Algood explains, “During the 70s the country was going through a lot of crazy stuff. Lots of the boys in our locker room were from broken homes with no dads around. He would leave all that outside the locker room and would ask the question. ‘Are we all in?’ He told us there is a champion in each one of us. His job was to bring the champion out and together we could win championships. That was the secret. It wasn’t just about football; it was about life, to be a champion in life. That is what he taught me and everyone else on our team.”
PHOTO: Pete Soviero, former Robert Strangia championship player who, along with Jerry Agee, petitioned the RBR Board of Education to honor his coach, addresses the audience at the dedication of Robert Strangia Way.
Pete Soviero told the assembled crowd, many of whom were wearing “Robert Strangia Way” t-shirts, “Robert Strangia was so much more than great football coach he was an educator, disciplinarian and mentor to hundreds of students and athletes. There were numerous times I can recall, and more I don’t know of, that these men and women could have easily been derailed and taken the wrong path in life if it wasn’t for Robert Strangia. He would open his doors, not only to his office here at the school, but this man would open his doors to his home, …I was one of them.”
PHOTO: Representatives of Robert Strangia’s family are pictured at the pre-game barbecue prior to the special ceremony honoring RBR’s most winning coach. They are: (left to right) Gail Strangia, Tony Strangia, (Robert Strangia’s sister-in-law and brother), Michele Hale and Matthew Hale (Robert Strangia’s daughter and grandson.)
Jerry Agee thanked the RBR administration (including Athletic Director Del Dal Pra and Principal Risa Clay) RBR Board of Education President John Garofalo and the RBR Board for working with him and Mr. Soviero to make this honor happen. He brought along five pages of notes from the honoree.
He stated, “He wanted to share with you one of the big disappointments --the kids no longer with us (he then named them all.) It was never about him and always about the kids.”
He added that Coach Strangia was also disappointed that his health precluded him from traveling but sent his goodwill ambassadors instead, his daughter Michelle and grandson Matt, who unveiled the plaque and street sign to much applause.
Michele Hines later spoke about her father at halftime. She mentioned, “My dad is all heart. Anything he has ever done was directly from his heart and for the wellbeing of others. I know that he sent five pages of notes, but really that is because he is speechless (about this great honor.)”