Friday, January 26, 2024

Schuylkill League Teams Pay Tribute to PIAA Officials Lost to Cancer

The Schuylkill League began to honor the memory of two beloved PIAA officials, Dr. Frank D’Angelo and Mike Klembara, who bravely battled cancer and sadly passed away last year.

This weekend, from Thursday, January 25, to Saturday, January 27, 2024, all Schuylkill League teams will don specially designed tee-shirts bearing the initials FD and MK along with green and purple ribbons during warm-ups, as a tribute to these dedicated individuals.

Klembara’s referee career spanned nearly 40 years. In 1985, he began refereeing basketball before expanding into baseball and football. In 2011, he became a Division III Collegiate Football Referee for the Centennial Conference. In 2022, he was called up to be the referee for an NCAA Division I football game at Bucknell. He refereed many district, state, and champion level games.  Klembara passed away on July 10th, 2023 from lymphoma.  He was 56 years old.

D'Angelo was a high school sports official for the PIAA for 43 years. He worked football, basketball, and baseball games year round, including 7 PIAA state championships and 29 state semifinal contests. He assigned game officials for multiple sports in the Lehigh Valley and Schuylkill areas and made numerous presentations at annual PIAA conventions. He served as PIAA District XI male officials representative for 6 years, advocating for officials in all sports. He also officiated college football, basketball, and baseball.  D'Angelo passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer on October 24th, 2023.  He was 61 years old.

The tributes began on Thursday evening as teams took to the courts adorned in the commemorative shirts. 

In a poignant moment during the Boys Basketball match between North Schuylkill and Blue Mountain, Mike Klembara's wife, Anita, graced the occasion.

Before the game commenced, Anita Klembara met with both teams, along with PIAA officials Mike Groody, Tim Sheeler, and Richard Wojiechowsky at center court of Blue Mountain's Gymnasium. The group gathered for a quick photo, and Anita shared heartfelt hugs with each PIAA official and several of the players.

Reflecting on the overwhelming support, Anita Klembara expressed her gratitude, stating, "From the time Mike fell ill until now, the Schuylkill League has been there. Reaching out, sending messages, sending their support, and it's just been amazing."

She continued, "I never really knew what community support meant; before, they were just words, but now when you are on the receiving end of it, you can really feel it. It really does make a difference. The support came from every school and even organizations within the school. We are so grateful that Michael had an impact on their lives and that they appreciated him."

Schuylkill League teams will wearing the shirts during warmups through Saturday.

Story and Photo by J. Reed / Skook News