An awkward silence fell over the Collingswood High School gymnasium as the Celebration of Life for late athletic volunteer, Dan Trainer, was about to begin Sunday afternoon.
It was missing one crucial element.
That silence was broken as Joy Trainer, wife of the late Dan Trainer, walked back in to take her seat, and was greeted with a huge round of applause.
The stories varied when his former charges talked about the 50 years that Dan Trainer volunteered with Collingswood Little League, his 38 years of wrestling or 30-plus years of football. But they all shared common a theme:
"He believed in me."
"Everyone wanted to be on his team" remembered Claire Gunnison, who presented Joy Trainer with a flag once flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in honor of her husband's great respect for the military.
Nancy O'Neill remembered being picked by Dan Trainer as one of the few girls to play on the boys team, and said she "hopes to teach her athletes as he did."
Two other of Dan Trainer's teacher-coach colleagues, assistant principal Michael Sherican and CHS football coach Jack McConnell, spoke about their mentor and friend's role in teaching life skills and values to children along with sports.
Sheridan remarked, "My kids became like his kids," and said that Dan Trainer took all of his athletes under his wing in more than just sports. McConnell said, "He taught us how to be men and women."
Both agreed: Above all else, Dan Trainer always strove to get the best out of Collingswood youth.