A high school gymnasium seems like an unusual place for a memorial service. But for longtime coach and tech specialist Barry Gorodnik, Robinson High School was sacred ground.
That's why hundreds gathered there Thursday afternoon to pay tribute and say goodbye to the man most simply called "Coach G."
Gorodnik, 47, died Saturday after an 18-month-long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Gorodnik graduated from Robinson High School in 1983. He was a two-sport athlete there and played baseball in college. He returned in 1988 to become the head girls softball coach and to serve as an assistant football coach.
"This was his life. The blue and gold, he bled it, " said Robinson Student Activities Director Jeff Ferrell.
On Thursday, Gorodnik's colleagues placed a Robinson banner over his casket, topping it with a football helmet and softball helmet. Several long tables were filled with photos, trophies and other sports mementos. Gorodnik's wife and three children sat near center court, the bleachers behind them filled with family, friends, students and Robinson faculty.
Ferrell said Gorodnik was the "go-to" guy at Robinson, whether the issue concerned sports or technology.
"He was the guy who would get things done. He was the rock, he was the constant," said Ferrell. "When you came to Robinson he would always be here."
Ferrell said that when Gorodnik was out for treatment, he still found himself calling his name into the school's two-ray radio when he needed something.
Gorodnik had great success as the head softball coach, compiling a record of 323 wins and 184 losses. His team won the Northern Region championship in 2007 and this spring, even though he was on leave, he was named the 2012 Concorde District Coach of the Year.
His players say they turned to him for guidance both in school and on the field.
"He knew how to work with different people," said senior pitcher Lauren Stapleton. "He's the only coach I've ever met that everybody who knows him just loves him."
Even in their sorrow, the girls won their first district tournament game, ensuring them a spot in the regionals this years.
"We're definitely playing for him and that's what we said before the games," said Stapleton. "This is bigger than us. We need to play for him and do what he taught."
School administrators say they plan to name the Robinson softball field for Gorodnik. The community has also come together to raise nearly $60,000 in just five days to help the Gorodnik family.