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Family, Friends, Students Pay Last Respects to Coach

Funeral for Robert Chandler held at St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills.

A funeral Mass for longtime Madison High School teacher and coach Robert Chandler was celebrated Tuesday morning at St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills. The service was attended by family, friends, teachers, coaches and students he taught in his 30 years at the school.

Visitation on Monday at Bradley, Smith & Smith Funeral Home in Springfield included sports themed elements as a nod to the physical education teacher and coach who led Madison to two state  championships in soccer, a sectional championship in baseball and the state tournament in basketball.

Chandler died Thursday after battling pancreatic cancer for several years. In June, students and alumni in his honor and to wish him well in his retirement.

Tributes from students parents, teachers, Board of Education members and coaches have been posted and to a Facebook group created in his memory, recalling Chandler as a teacher who was extremely loyal, made students and colleagues smile and taught everyone to be a little more tough-skinned.

Madison Education Association President Robert I. Grundfest, who coached with Chandler when the soccer team won state titles in the 1990s, said, "Bob taught his players, and me, the importance of preparation and dedication, but he also coached fairness, teamwork and love of the game."

Board of Education President Lisa Ellis said her five children adored him.

"He was tough but fair, irascible, yet endearing…complicated, unique," she wrote. "He helped teach my kids respect, the value of hard work and made them laugh. He was one of a kind and can never be replaced. My heart goes out to his family."

Board of Education member Kevin Blair had Chandler when he was a student at Madison High School and recalled Chandler sometimes giving him pokes to the chest that could be heard across the gym.

"I can only hope that Chandler knew how beloved a teacher and coach he was to thousands of kids whose lives he touched," Blair said.

Dan Phillips wrote that Chandler made his sons better men in everything they do.

And Eileen Reeve said three of her four children had Chandler, and the one daughter who did not get to have him wished she did.

"The kids loved & adored him for the honest & fair person he was," she said. "And his 'way' was what endeared him to us all the more. Madison has lost more than a teacher, we've lost a great example of a human being."

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