The impact Joe Stauffer left in the Central York classroom and athletic fields didn't end with his retirement after 37 years of teaching -- or even his death at the age of 76 on Saturday. The footprint of a life spent teaching and relating and communicating with young people is still visible in and around York County.
Current Central York football coach Brad Livingston -- the longest-tenured football coach in the YAIAA -- credits Stauffer with changing the course of his life in high school. One day in the mid-1960s, a teenaged Livingston found himself storming off the football field, believing he had walked off the field for the last time. The next day, his coach -- Stauffer -- found an emotional Livingston and talked to him.
"He was a gentleman in truest sense of the word," Livingston said Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview from Reno, Nev., where Livingston was coaching a volleyball tournament. "He knew how to treat individuals and handle them in a personal manner. He's the man who encouraged me to stick with football and encouraged me when other people had kind of given up on me. ...
"He pretty much refused to let me do this. I could never thank him enough for believing in me. I was a kid willing to walk off the field and quit the sport. Joe was the one that said, 'No you're not.' ... It's because of him I probably ended up pursuing a career in coaching and teaching."
Stauffer, a Red Lion High School and Lebanon Valley College graduate, worked as an English teacher at Central for 37 years. He coached varsity baseball and football. The YAIAA honored him this spring with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Livingston's story about Stauffer's ability to relate to teenagers is not unique.
"He was a good teacher and everyone liked him," former student and football player Philip Crowl said. "I don't know anyone who had anything against him."
Crowl remembers traveling to an away football game when one of the better players on the team had forgotten to bring his cleats. Crowl wore the same sized cleats as the player in question and expected to be told to take off his cleats so his teammate could play. After all, Crowl knew he was not a star. But coach Stauffer would have none of that: The star player didn't play, because being prepared was part of the job.
"He didn't pick on somebody like me. ... He gave me a chance, and that's why I looked up to him," Crowl said. "He gave everyone an equal chance."
Another Central English teacher -- Bob Harteis -- paid him one of the best compliments. In every profession there are people who just show up. Stauffer was different. He made an impact in students' lives, he made a connection.
"He was a natural," Harteis said.
"Kids are instinctive," said Harteis, who taught with Stauffer in the Central York English department for three-plus decades. "They know when someone is genuine. They worked hard for him."
And they never forgot what he did for them.
"It's absolutely true he was a good guy, and I knew him under many different circumstances," Livingston said. "I played for him, then he was my boss (when Livingston returned to coach seventh and eighth grade football), then he was my mentor and friend.
"I loved the guy, and I'm sad he's gone."