By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2009
Thousands filled the football stadium at St. Pius X High School on Thursday, Oct. 8, not to cheer on one of the school’s many sports teams, but rather to honor the life of the influential man who created its program.
George B. Maloof, a legend in St. Pius and Georgia high school football history, died on Oct. 4 at his home at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer.
A crowd of all ages arrived at the Atlanta school for the funeral, revealing the many lives the football coach and teacher had impacted. Many say he did not teach in the classroom or even on the field, but rather by providing an example of true Christian living.
However, no one can talk about St. Pius football without mentioning Coach Maloof. The tough but loving coach, in whose honor the St. Pius stadium is named, began his 26-year St. Pius career in 1958, when the school opened.
Maloof, an Atlanta native, was born on Jan. 4, 1930 to John J. Maloof Sr. and Sadie Azar Maloof. He attended Marist School, where he was a high school All-American, and Georgia Tech, where he continued to be an outstanding athlete. He played on Tech’s 1951 undefeated football team and scored four touchdowns in a 48-6 win over the University of Georgia that year, a record that was untouched for decades.
After college, he spent two years in the Air Force before returning to his alma mater as a part of the Marist football coaching staff. The following year he was hired by the brand new diocesan high school, St. Pius X, where he would coach and teach for more than two and a half decades.
Over his career at St. Pius, Maloof amassed an impressive 168-85-12 record before resigning in 1984. He led the school to its first state championship and seven regional or sub-regional titles. He was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame earlier this year. His sons, Keith and Kevin Maloof, both coach at metro area high schools. Whenever he returned to St. Pius, he was still called “coach” by everyone.
In 1982 he received the Papal Medal Benemerenti (well-merited) from Pope John Paul II and the following year, his silver anniversary at St. Pius, was named Man of the Year by the archdiocese. A member of Holy Cross Church in Atlanta, he was a third degree Knight with Knights of Columbus Council 660.
Msgr. Richard Lopez, a religion teacher at St. Pius who taught many of those in attendance, served as the principal celebrant for the funeral Mass, which was held on the school’s athletic field with a dispensation from Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
Donning suits, ties, football jerseys, sunglasses and the occasional umbrella to keep safe from the sun on the unusually warm October day, the crowd listened intently to testimonies given by friends and family members.
Lisa Maloof, the wife of Maloof’s son Keith, took a few minutes to share her thoughts and a few of the hundreds of e-mails the family had received during the preceding days.
“The love and support you have shown to him and his family” is greatly appreciated, she said.
Lisa reminisced about the lessons Maloof gave to many young adults, helping to prepare them for life outside of football and St. Pius. He taught them that true champions do not chase fame or things, she said.
“Believe in possibilities,” she said, echoing the legend.
Paul Standard, who is in his ninth year as head football coach at St. Pius, also spoke at the end of the Mass.
Maloof’s mission was to build young boys into men, said Standard, who played for the legendary coach and belongs to a group of five “Class of 1980” graduates who now coach football.
“Mission accomplished, coach,” Standard said. “The PiHi spirit you created is alive and well today.”
Maloof chose to walk with Jesus Christ and because of that he never lost faith, or even a sense of humor, said Msgr. Lopez during his homily.
“I saw a holy death,” the priest said.
Msgr. Lopez challenged the large crowd to love and honor what Maloof loved and honored: Christ and the Catholic faith.
The priest then addressed Maloof’s wife. “Anita, thank you for showing us the way God loves us by loving our George,” he said.
“What a perfect spot to say goodbye to our George,” Msgr. Lopez said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children and their spouses,
Kevin and Debbie Maloof; Keith and Lisa Maloof; Karen and Labron Rackley; and Kathy and Brooks Kieffer; his daughter-in-law, Marcee Maloof: his brother, Wiley L. Maloof; 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Edna Joseph Maloof; his brother, John J. Maloof Jr.; and his sons, Brett and Scott.
Contributions in his memory may be given to the St. Pius X High School Capital Campaign at www.spx.org.