St. Francis community loses longtime friend Joe Schram

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MOUNTAIN VIEW — It was near impossible for Joe Schram to talk about himself. He would much prefer to hear about you.

An encyclopedia of athletics at St. Francis High in Mountain View, many of the people who knew him best gathered on campus for a reception inside Raskob Gymnasium on Wednesday after his funeral mass in the morning at St. Simon Church in Los Altos.

Schram died on Aug. 1 at the age of 86 after a long battle with diabetes.

“The service was beautiful today,” said Terry O’Donnell, whose first encounter with Schram came decades ago while playing boys basketball in grammar school. “I’m sure he would’ve been happy. He’s impacted so many people. The priest today said something like, ‘He knew what his purpose was early in life and he had such a positive influence on everybody that he came in contact with.’ And it really speaks to how profound a character he really was.”

Steve Filios, a former St. Francis boys basketball coach and current Central Coast Section assistant commissioner, shared many rides to and from games with Schram over a friendship that began in the late 1970s.

They discussed every sport you could think of, Filios recalled, as well as Schram’s time growing up in Cleveland.

Schram was so beloved in the Bay Area that oftentimes when Filios’ teams made trips, people from the opposing school would ask the coach, “Is Joe coming with you?”

“He knew so many people in Northern California,” Filios said.

Even as his health deteriorated, Schram made sure to ask Filios about his family, including a granddaughter. “Genuine” was the adjective Filios used to describe Schram.

“He made people feel important,” Filios said. “He always made me feel important. He’s a model for all of us, how we should treat others.”

Filios was on his way to Schram’s vigil when reached by the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s tough losing a longtime friend,” he said.

Born in 1931, Schram moved with his wife Anne to Los Altos in 1959, where he became the first athletic director at St. Simon after establishing the sports program at the elementary school, eventually winning more than 1,000 games as a boys basketball coach.

Many of those kids went on to enjoy success at St. Francis, which opened the door for Schram to become involved with the Lancers.

“Next to his kids and his grandkids, watching the St. Francis kids compete and representing our school was his biggest joy,” said Mike Pilawski, the director of athletics at St. Francis. “The last few years, especially when he’s been sick, going over to his house and giving him updates of kids’ situations and what’s going on at school, he just wanted to hear and wanted stories.”

Pilawski added: “He would just remember the little things. If something happened in a game or in a situation years back, he would bring it up with you. And it would make you feel good and connected with him. Just an awesome, awesome person who saw the best in other people.”

As the students came and went, Schram remained a fixture on the football field, inside the gym and even by the pool.

“He absolutely loved announcing the swim meets,” said O’Donnell, class of 1987, who coaches boys swimming and diving at St. Francis, as well as boys water polo. “He just had a great way to include everybody. He always made everybody at that moment feel special, and I loved it. I’m going to miss him.”

For over 40 years, Schram kept detailed stats for football, basketball and baseball. At one point, he took all of the team photos.

It felt strange not to see him either on the sideline or in the stands, almost like an ageless figure.

“That was kind of the thing for us, how old is Joe?” said Greg Calcagno, class of 1983, who took over as football coach in 2013. “Nobody knew, because Joe was just always Joe. You could never put a frame of reference on how old he actually was, because he was just always there and always the same. And kind of in the background, but taking care of all the statistics, calling it in to the newspapers or putting it online. Just all the behind-the-scenes stuff, always with a smile on his face, always trying to make sure that St. Francis was represented as best as possible.”

Schram read multiple newspapers from cover to cover on a daily basis, remembering to bring the Cleveland Plain Dealer to campus.

That allowed St. Francis boys basketball coach Mike Motil to also stay in touch with his roots in Ohio.

“Just a very generous man, a very kind man,” said Motil, who first met Schram in 1998. “Gracious guy and always really giving of himself.”

This didn’t go unnoticed.

The baseball field at St. Simon was dedicated Schram Field in 1975, with a scholarship in his name at the school to reward sportsmanship.

Five years ago, the Joe Schram Scholarship for an outgoing senior was established at St. Francis, while more recently the long-standing boys and girls basketball tournament held over Christmas break was renamed the Joe Schram Holiday Classic.

“Even the last couple of years, when people would come back and he would be in the gym, alumni would go over and kneel next to him or sit next to him and just share a conversation, because they knew, right?” Pilawski said. “I mean, they’d come back and they’d see a lot of teachers and a lot of different people, but it was always Joe.”

Motil said: “When he quit doing the book a couple of years ago for the basketball team, he was still doing the programs, taking care of the records and he was still involved up until his passing. He never left.”

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