One was a high school basketball All-American who was a three-year starter in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Another was the greatest soccer coach in Berks County history.
One was considered the greatest softball pitcher in the world.
Another was a Reading High icon who guided the Red Knights baseball team to a state championship.
And one touched the lives of thousands as a pillar of the Berks sporting community, if not the community as a whole.
Five legendary Berks sports figures passed away in 2021: Dick Braucher, Ray Buss, Dick Flannery, Cooter Jones and Ty Stofflet. Each one made a lasting impact.
Braucher was a 6-5 guard who led Kutztown High to four consecutive Berks championships (1962-65), a 91-14 record and the District 3 Class B title in 1963. He finished with 1,668 career points, third-most in the county at the time.
“Braucher had more talent than anyone I ever had,” longtime Kutztown coach John Silan said. “He was a real magician.”
A three-time All-Berks pick and a two-time All-State selection, Braucher was named to the Parade All-American team in 1965 with future Basketball Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pete Maravich. He also was voted Pennsylvania’s Mr. Basketball that year.
Braucher went on to play at North Carolina State, where he was a three-year starter and team captain and averaged 11.3 points as a sophomore and 12.6 as a junior. An eye injury and the Hong Kong flu interrupted his senior season and hurt his chances to play in the NBA.
He later played with the Exeter Black Knights and helped them win a national amateur basketball championship in 1970.
Braucher also was a three-time All-Berks pick in baseball and a two-time selection in soccer. He died in April at the age of 74.
One man made Fleetwood synonymous with success in boys soccer, and that was Buss.
He turned the Tigers into a state powerhouse, guiding them to a 476-83-42 record from 1964-90 with 14 Berks, nine District 3 and two PIAA championships.
Buss coached seven All-Americans, including current Fleetwood coach Keith Schlegel.
“He just had this knack,” Schlegel said. “I wanted to do great things for him. I never wanted to disappoint him. In practices, in games or even gym class or health class, I wanted to do well. I didn’t want him to think anything less of me.”
Fleetwood went a remarkable 150-7-2 from 1978-82, which included two PIAA titles, a runner-up and two third-place finishes. The 1980 team is widely regarded as the best the county has seen after it went 32-0, scored 179 goals and won a state title.
Buss played baseball and on two national championship teams in soccer at Penn State. He was a catcher who played six seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Buss died in January at the age of 92.
Richard “Dick” Flannery
Flannery was an outstanding athlete, coach and administrator who was respected throughout the county.
In track, he won the first Gene Venzke Mile at Boyertown in 1950 and also ran at Oklahoma State. In basketball, he won 17 scoring titles in a 27-year amateur career, once scoring 92 points in a game.
Flannery coached track and cross country at Boyertown and led the Bears cross country team to 53 straight wins in dual meets, a 132-22 record and five Ches-Mont League titles.
He left a lasting mark on the county as the executive director of the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association from 1998-2014 and as the president of the Berks County chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame from 1992-2017.
Flannery also was a longtime board member of the Reading-Berks Basketball Association.
“He was like the Godfather of Berks County sports,” Alvernia men’s basketball coach Mike Miller said.
Flannery had an encyclopedic knowledge of Berks sports, even of those athletes and teams who competed long before he graduated from Central Catholic in 1950.
“He was unbelievable with what he could recite off the top of his head,” said retired Gov. Mifflin athletic director Dave McCoy, who also served with Flannery on the Hall of Fame board. “Now I don’t know who I can go to to ask the questions I asked him.”
Flannery died in March at the age of 88.
Paul “Cooter” Jones
A North Carolina native, Jones first came to the area in the 1950s as a shortstop with the Reading Indians, raised four children and made Berks County his home.
He played parts of six minor league seasons here before he retired in 1959. He was Reading’s all-time home run leader for 40 years and was twice an Eastern League All-Star.
Jones played with Berks County resident Rocky Colavito and Roger Maris and against Willie Mays, yet he rarely spoke about his playing career.
He coached the Reading High baseball team for 24 seasons (1973-96) and guided them to six league championships and PIAA and District 3 titles in 1983.
“I don’t know anybody who didn’t love him for who he was,” said Jeff Kantner, who played on Reading High’s 1983 team. “He made everybody feel important. He brought the best out of everybody. You couldn’t do anything but respect that man.”
Jones began teaching phys ed in the Reading School District in 1962, primarily at Northeast Junior High. In addition to baseball, he coached junior high basketball and football.
He was a fixture at Reading High games. He operated the Geigle Complex scoreboard for basketball games for nearly 50 years. He was the PA announcer for football and baseball games for nearly 30 years.
Jones also served as an official scorer for Reading Fightin Phils games at FirstEnergy Stadium for more than 25 years.
He died in April at the age of 90.
The left-handed Stofflet is regarded as one of the greatest softball pitchers of all time. He was born in Coplay in Lehigh County, graduated from Whitehall High School and lived in the Lehigh Valley his entire life.
He pitched for the Leesport-based Sunners, the Allentown Patriots and Sal’s Lunch of Philadelphia in his career. He threw 58 perfect games, 172 no-hitters and 650 shutouts and had more than 1,500 wins.
He played for the Sunners from 1970-86 and led them to Amateur Softball Association national championships in 1975, ’77 and ’78 and a share of the International Softball Federation World title in ’76.
“I’d put him in the top three in the world, and I saw most of the ones in New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.,” longtime Sunners manager Rocky Santilli said. “He was the finishing touch to our ballclub.”
Stofflet’s fastball was once clocked at 104.7 mph. His greatest year came in 1978 when he was 46-1 with a 0.67 ERA and 661 strikeouts in 334 innings and led the Sunners to their third national crown. He had a 71-game winning streak for them in 1977-78.
In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”
In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.