Marian Catholic High School's class of 2014 will enter the halls of the Hometown institution this August unaware that one of the school's major players is missing. After 12 years of service, veteran Vice Principal Paul Coombe has moved on to the green pastures of retirement.
"I retired simply because I was able to," Coombe said. "Originally, I planned to wait for my 40th anniversary as an administrator, but there are certain things that I want to do in my retirement, and I wanted more time to do them."
Coombe officially stepped down at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, though his announcement was not met with much fanfare, per his request.
"He wanted to leave quietly, with as little attention as possible," Sr. Bernard Agnes, Marian's principal, said. "I think that him wanting to do it that way shows his modest and unassuming nature."
Before his return to Marianhe is a member of the school's class of 1967 in 1998, Coombe served a 19-year stint as a teacher at Mahanoy City Catholic before helming the Holy Family School in Frackville as principal for eight years.
He claims that when the Marian position was first made available, he jumped at the chance to come back to his alma matter.
"It's just a class place," he said. "I took the job knowing that I wanted to close my career there."
Yet Coombe admits that the most attractive aspect of returning to Marian was his ability to coach the school's track and cross country teams. In fact, as he looks back on his time at the high school, some of his fondest memories stem from this perk.
"Watching the kids I coached improve and progress will forever be some of the best experiences I had at Marian," Coombe said. "I've taken athletes to states and seen the track team win district and division championships."
The athletes that performed under Coombe seem to share in his enthusiasm.
"From the beginning, Mr. Coombe was always there.", Michael Lindenmuth, a 2008 graduate of Marian and former mid-distance runner said. "He not only made me better, but the entire team as well."
Lindenmuth was a member of the school's track team during his entire high school career, and learned much from Coombe. He cites being a member of the division-winning 2008 track team as one of the highlights of his time at Marian.
"Mr. Coombe is knowledgeable in all aspects of track coaching," Lindenmuth said. "Personally, he brought me more toward a sprinter's mentality than a distance runner's mentality, which helped to bring out my full potential as an athlete."
The former vice principal also helped Lindenmuth in his application and acceptance to Mt. Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., which Coombe himself attended.
Future Marian athletes can rest assured, however, as Coombe plans on helping out with the track and cross country teams on a seasonal basis. Coombe simply can't get the school out of his system.
"I'll be around, no question about that," he said, "I'm available for whatever Sister Bernard needs."
In the immediate future, Coombe plans on taking things easy, visiting his son Patrick's family in Florida. A future cross-county road trip to California is also on the horizon for the former administrator.
"I can't stay home or I'll drive myself crazy," he said. "I'd like to eventually work part-time, either in education or social work. A new door will open for me when the time is right."
There is one thing, however, that is definite: Marian Catholic High School will never be the same.
"Paul has been an integral part of my life for the past 12 years," Sr. Bernard Agnes said. "I wish him all the best in retirement, but there will certainly be a hole here, in Marian."