We did not know Coach Bahr, not really. In fact, when he first came into our lives, we didn’t know him at all. We were at the funeral home for the Mack’s viewing. Glenn, the funeral home director, came forward and asked if we minded if “Coach Bahr” could come in, even though it was “family time.” I was a bit befuddled, but said of course and an old gentleman came forward. Gentle and kind, he apologized for intruding on our time with family, but said he had been ill and didn’t want to give others his cold. He was not a large man and he graciously offered his condolences and he presented is with his US Soccer patch as a gift to Mack.
After Walter had left, Glen told us that he was “the Joe Paterno of soccer.” The next day I told the director, I had looked him up and Coach Bahr was no Joe Paterno. If anything, he was better. Walter was not only an exceptional coach at Penn State, he played pro soccer and for our national team. In fact, as US Soccer is noting today on the news of his passing, Walter was the last surviving member of the 1950 US Men’s FIFA World Cup team, the team that beat England 1-0 (on Walter’s assist).
The last surviving member of the USA’s 1950 FIFA World Cup team, Bahr appeared in all three of the team’s matches in Brazil and famously provided the pass to Joe Gaetjens for the lone goal in the team’s 1-0 upset of England on June 29, 1950, in Belo Horizonte. He served as captain in the final group game against Chile.
“We are all saddened by the loss of Walter Bahr, a true legend in soccer in the United States,” U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said. “His contribution to one of the most iconic moments in U.S. Soccer history was only part of a lifetime of selfless contributions to the game. As a coach, a mentor, a friend, and a colleague, Walter touched the lives of so many people in our sport, ensuring a legacy that will last for generations. Our thoughts are with his family and all those who were impacted by this extraordinary man.”
We are so thankful for the joy and gift of getting to meet and know Coach Bahr. He was, as President Cordeiro noted, a mentor and friend to so many. Thank you Coach, God bless you and your family.
May light perpetual shine upon him. ✠