Cover photo for James J. "Junie" Rich's Obituary
James J. "Junie" Rich Profile Photo

James J. "Junie" Rich

December 8, 1932 — May 20, 2023

For devout Catholics throughout the world, the date December 8th looms large, because it is a holy day of obligation, commemorating the Immaculate Conception. For those touched by the life of James “Junie” Rich, that date also has represented another “sacred” event and a welcome reminder of an urgent imperative: “Phone Junie!” because its his birthday, especially if you want to feel valued and loved. Junie passed away peacefully on May 20, 2023 at St. Lukes inpatient hospice surrounded by loving family and leaving behind a rich legacy as a father, grandfather, coach, teacher, friend, and mentor. Junie Rich is part of a breed of coaches from the South side of Bethlehem, that includes Pete Carril and Roco Calvo, whose athletic roots are in the Bethlehem Boys Club, along with those of star athletes, such as Moravians Ernie DeAngelis. After starring in basketball for the Bethlehem Catholic High School Hawks, Junie went on to a Hall of Fame career at West Chester University where he once outscored national player of the year Paul Gola in a matchup against cross-town Philly rival, LaSalle.

Junie graduated from West Chester with a B.S. in Physical Education, a credential that would be crucial to the career that followed. After graduation, Junie served a two-year hitch in Company A, 13th Armored Infantry Battalion, 3rd Armored Division. As its name suggests, the battalion prided itself on its “mobile fire power,” and Junie brought new meaning to that slogan as a member of the Combat Command “A” basketball team, with the fast-paced playmaking that would be a signature of his later coaching. His teammates included many college stars besides himself, such as Sheldon Greenholtz who had recently played for then-college powerhouse NYU. Their shooting was arguably more explosive on the basketball court than their Bradley-mounted cannons were in the field. At the conclusion of his service, Staff Sergeant Rich was commended for “initiative, leadership, sportsmanship and competitive spirit,” all qualities that would serve him well in the career that was ahead.

Junie began his coaching and teaching careers at Notre Dame High School in Green Pond in 1957, the year the school was founded. Over the next 11 years, his duties there included teaching classes in General Science and Physical Education, as well as serving as head coach for the basketball and baseball teams. For the schools first five years, Coach Rich also served as Director of Athletics. While Junie brought the qualities of professionalism and dedication to all of these responsibilities, coaching the basketball team always remained a singular passion. Notre Dame did not boast a huge enrollment during Junies time in Green Pond, but his ability to blend the talents of multiple role players routinely resulted in winning seasons, which included victories over much larger schools, such as Easton High and Allentown Central Catholic. Not everyone on his teams had the same opportunity for stardom, but Junie helped tender egos adapt to the needs of the team, and his players realized that in the view of at least one person their contributions mattered. Before departing Notre Dame in 1967, Junie engineered one of the most stunning wins in school history, a defeat of St. Peters of New Brunswick, a team led by John Somogyi, who was then the highest scorer in the history of New Jersey. Junie was honored for his Notre Dame career by being a member of the first class of inductees into the schools Athletics Hall of Fame.

In 1967, Junie Rich brought his teaching and basketball coaching talents to Broughal Junior High (now Middle) School of the Bethlehem School District, where he added soccer to his coaching resume. He remained there until his retirement from “official” coaching in 1993. Junies success nurturing students and athletes at Broughal was clearly evident at his retirement testimonial dinner where dozens of those he had helped in the Bethlehem school arrived to express their admiration and affection. Junie finished out his work life as a Sheriffs Deputy at the Northampton County Court House from 1993 until 2015, where he provided a respectful and friendly welcome to all who entered there, whether jurist, jailer, or janitor. So, from now on, when December 8th rolls around, it wont be a prompt to place a phone call. But for many who had known Coach Junie Rich it will be a reminder of being touched by his kindness. More than team victories, Coach Junie Rich nursed scores of personal triumphs, helping his students and athletes, as well as his friends and family, navigate lifes challenges by marshaling all of his immense capabilities and willingness to help.

Survivors include Kelly Sterner and husband Ronald of Burdett, NY, James T. Rich, Kathleen Hutchinson and husband Chris, Kristen Ruth and husband Troy, and Kasey Bowe Troiani and husband Daniel, all of Bethlehem. Grandchildren: Jacqui, Matthew, Maryann, Colin, Shane, Carley, Logan, Junie, Madeline, Hayden and Kordelia. And, eight great grandchildren.

The family will hold a calling hour on Friday May 26, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. at Notre Dame of Bethlehem Church 1835 Catasauqua Road Bethlehem, PA immediately followed at 11:00 a.m. by the Mass of Christian Burial and interment at Holy Savior Cemetery 2575 Linden Street Bethlehem, PA.

Holy Saviour Cemetery
2575 Linden St.
Bethlehem PA 18017

Calling Hour
Friday, May 26, 2023
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Notre Dame Catholic Church
1861 Catasauqua Rd
Bethlehem PA 18018

Mass of Christian Burial
Friday, May 26, 2023
11:00 AM
Notre Dame Catholic Church
1861 Catasauqua Rd
Bethlehem PA 18018

Funeral HomeConnell Funeral Home, Inc.
245 East Broad St.
Bethlehem PA - 18018

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James J. "Junie" Rich, please visit our flower store.


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