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WEST CHESTER — For a man who spent so much of his life promoting West Chester and almost all of it living in West Chester, it was a fitting tribute to have that very same community pay its respects back on Thursday morning at St. Agnes Church.
Hundreds packed into the church for the Funeral Mass of Richard “Dick” Yoder, leaving just standing room only as people said their final farewells to a man who left quite a mark on the borough.
“He was a great, great ambassador and leader,” said Danny Hale, a friend and former head coach of Bloomsburg University’s football team. “He was Mr. West Chester. … He was a great inspiration to me.”
Yoder spent 38 years at West Chester University, serving as a full-professor in the Department of Kinesiology, a football coach, the track coach and the athletic director.
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He even went on to serve as the chair of the Physical Education Department, acting associate dean of the School of Health Sciences, coordinator of Safety Education and helped to develop, teach and coordinate the Sport and Athletic Administration graduate program at the university.
“He was a football coach who prepared his players to succeed not only on game day, but long after they left the field,” said U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th, of West Goshen, in a statement shortly after his passing. “And he was a public servant with a passion for solving problems and transforming West Chester into one of Chester County’s best places to live and work.”
After retiring from the university, Yoder then turned his sights onto public service, becoming mayor of West Chester for two terms from 2002 to 2010.
“He lived to make a difference,” said Susan Schick, his daughter. “Dad truly viewed his time as mayor as a way to serve the community that he loved so very much. It’s an understatement to say dad took that mayor assignment very seriously.”
Even after his time as mayor came to an end, it never slowed Yoder down.
Yoder made such a difference in the community that he was even named the 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.
“Dad was a passionate man, full of positivity, optimism, kindness and fierce drive,” Schick said. “Dad once said that he wasn’t afraid to die because he already had been given all of the opportunities in life to do everything he wanted to do.”
Due to his far-reaching impact, numerous groups reached out to take part in the funeral ceremony on Thursday.
Members of West Chester University’s Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band, dressed all in black, paid tribute by playing the university’s fight song as his casket was carried out of St. Agnes Church.
Crawford was able to have the American Legion Post 134 in West Chester, the Marine Corps League, the Congressman’s Academy Board, active duty Marine Corps soldiers, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and the West Chester Police Department take part.
Yoder was given a 21-gun salute, along with the playing of taps, at St. Agnes Cemetery.
“One of the brightest lights in West Chester has surely gone out,” Schick said. “My special dad will be remembered for his larger-than-life character and generous heart.”