In Memoriam

In Memoriam of the handball community members who have passed away.  Online obituary notices and pictures can be emailed to U.S. Handball This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   


June 2018

Robert E. Sparrow, Hollis Hills, N.Y.

Robert E. Sparrow of Hollis Hills, NY passed away on June 9, 2018 at age 83.  Beloved husband to Marcia for 61 years. Devoted father to Laurie and David, father-in-law to James and Darcy. Loving brother to Joyce. Cherished Grandpa to Dallas, Cody, Matthew, and Isabella. 

He was a top-ranked player, starting in his teens on all outdoor courts in Brooklyn, especially Coney Island. While at Columbia College and University earning his BA & JD, he excelled on all the indoor courts, winning many tournaments and trophies.  His longtime handball doubles partner was Michael Dikman.  Bob played with many of the old time greats—the Oberts, Vic Hershkowitz, Jimmy Jacobs, Steve Sandler and Artie Reyer.

He excelled in every racquet sport-squash, racquetball, paddleball, and tennis. He was a founding member of the New York Handball Hall of Fame.

He piloted a small private plane for many years, taking our young family on many adventures. He was also a certified scuba diver, a world traveler (including Antarctica, Iceland, China, India, Australia, Ecuador and the Galapagos, to name just a few of the places he visited), and a poet (especially in rhyme-a new one legally themed published regularly in the Queens County Bar Association Bulletin). Any inspiration evoked a poem.  An outstanding criminal defense lawyer covering courts in the metropolitan area for 53 years; he was a true hero—donating a kidney to his daughter 28 years ago, which provided him with 2 beautiful grandsons, now both college grads. 

A gentleman to be very proud of and a man for all seasons.  Bob was a U.S. Army Veteran and Four Armed Service members were present to perform a special flag ceremony at his funeral. 

-Marcia Sparrow (widow)

May 2018

Joe Cassidy, Jersey City, N.J.

Veteran New Jersey handball champion Joe Cassidy, 76, passed away at his Jersey City home May 14.

Cassidy learned to play handball during the 1960s as a member of the Jersey City YMCA team which competed in the North Jersey Handball League. He also played outdoor handball on the three-wall courts in Bayonne, NJ, and on the modified one-wall courts in Lincoln Park in Jersey City. 

During this time, Joe's handball game was improving as he moved up the ranks of the Jersey City Police Department.  He really took to three-wall and wound up winning National Three-Wall singles titles in Golden Masters Singles in 1992 and 1996.  He also won singles titles at the East Regional Three-Wall championship tournaments held in Baltimore. 

In four-wall, he won the 2004 Super Masters doubles championship at the New York Athletic Club.

On the job, Cassidy rose to the rank of deputy chief, as he became the top-ranked officer in the Jersey City PD Detective Bureau.   After he retired, he was elected Hudson County Sheriff.  It was as a county sheriff, that Cassidy made his greatest contribution to handball.  He persuaded the county to tear down the modified one-wall courts in Lincoln Park, and replace them with four often used three-wall courts.

He leaves his wife, Marion, and a daughter, Trish, who is East District Commander as a captain for the Jersey City PD. 

Arrangements were by the Greenville Memorial Home of Jersey City with a viewing May 17 and 18 4-7 p.m. and a funeral Mass  May 19 out of St. Patrick's Church of Jersey City.    

-Bill Kennedy

April 2018

John Barry McGrath, Carlsbad, Calif. 

Barry, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, September 6, 1937. He attended St John’s High School in Worcester, and accepted a full basketball scholarship to Boston College. His freshmen year his team was 18-1.  Barry’s Senior Basketball Season (1958-59), Boston College earned their first invitation to the NCAA Div. 1, Basketball Tournament.  In 1998 Barry was inducted into Boston College Hall Fame.  The ceremony was held during the halftime of the Boston College football game against Syracuse.
Barry had quite a teaching career at University High (now Cathedral) teaching English Literature. Barry also coached the University High tennis team to a CIF State Championship. He retired from teaching in the juvenile court system. His students in the court system really needed an understanding teacher and friend, and that was Barry.
Barry, loved being close to the ocean and the sun. He built his house overlooking the surf in Carlsbad as close to the ocean as possible and enjoyed body surfing. The problem, Barry was very sensitive to the sun and he had many visits to the dermatologist over the years.  Early this year, recovering from a fall he notes a dark spot on his ankle that appeared to enlarge very quickly and was diagnosis as Merkle Cell Carcinoma.  This is a very aggressive cancer and took our friend very quick. Barry passed away 2:07 A.M. on April 29.

This is a very brief out line of Barry’s life, and we hope to share many more stories from those who knew him. 

-George Tiana
Funeral Mass for John Barry McGrath will be held Friday, May 18, 4:00 p.m. at the
Immaculate Conception Church (Old Town), 2540 San Diego Ave., San Diego, CA.

Jack Austin, Menlo Park, Calif.  (July 30, 1921 - April 20, 2018)

Jack D. Austin died of natural causes on April 20, 2018, at Silver Point Plaza Menlo Park, California. Jack was predeceased in 2014 by Kit, his wife and soul mate of 67 years; he is survived by his sons Frank (Peg) Austin and John (Gloria) Austin; his grandchildren Betsy (Steve) McBride, Amy Austin, and Greg Austin; and his great grandchildren Ashlyn and Austin McBride and Juniper Austin.

Jack had a memorable handball career that spanned six decades, and was inducted into the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame in  November 4, 1995.  He observed that  “The secrets for playing handball well are imilar to qualities needed in boxing---determination, physical endurance and playing a lot. Moreover, ambidexterity is extremely important. Speed, agility and experience are key also."

However, it was off the court, where the real measure of Jack Austin could be taken. He was a man of great honor and integrity, the epitome of a true sportsman and friend --- and a class act, win or lose. Throughout Jack's life, for his simple goodness and generosity of spirit, he was loved and held in warm and extremely high regard by friends and family. 

 Jacks active participation, personal interest and support made great contributions to Sacramento Handball, as a founding member of the Sacramento Area Handball Association, as well as a charter member of the USHA.  His significant  "Nationals" accomplishments were realized while he was a member of our Northern California Handball community -- as a resident of Fair Oaks/Sacramento for over a decade. 

Jack participated in hundreds of local tournaments at various levels -- winning more than his share.  In due course, he prevailed in both the singles and doubles tournaments for players "60 to 70+" in both "National" and "World" tournaments  Jack's handball accomplishments included being the school champion for Franklin High School in Highland Park (1938), champion of the University of California, LA, (1940) -- where he played with former LA Rams coach Bob Waterfield. Jack entered his first tournament at North Hollywood High, where a "peeled tennis ball" served as the handball, and the court consisted of one wall and three lines drawn in the dirt. He observed he sobbed when he lost.  

The following is a summary of his numerous Handball accomplishments:

1992 Four-Wall Nationals:  70 Singles Champion, 70 Doubles (semifinalist)
1991 Four-Wall Nationals:  70 Singles Runner-up, 70 Doubles Runner-up
1991 World Championships:  70 Singles Champion, 70 Doubles Champion
Four-Wall Nationals:  65 Singles (semifinalist)
1987 Four-Wall Nationals:  65 Singles Champion
Four-Wall Nationals:  65 Singles (semifinalist)
1983 Jack Tone (Modesto, CA) 60 Singles Champion
1965 Southern California Regionals Contenders Champion

Alfonso Vega, Ogden Dunes, IN

Alfonso Vega "Mr. Vega" "Coach Vega", 86, of Ogden Dunes, Indiana, passed away on April 8, 2018. He is survived by his loving wife Cindy and beloved pets Humphrey and Luigi, many brothers and sisters-in-law and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother Irene Bargas and stepfather Luis Bargas.

Al was born on December 26, 1931 in El Paso, Texas. He grew up in the South Derring area of Chicago. He attended Chicago Vocational High School where he became an accomplished wrestler. He is in the CVS Hall of Fame. He was recruited by Purdue University for his exceptional wrestling ability and became a Purdue All-American and Big 10 Champion. He earned a Master's Degree in Education from Purdue University and an Administrator's License from Loyola University.

Al proudly spent a total of 54 years in education. He was a biology teacher, wrestling and cross country coach, and administrator at Thornton Fractional North High School for more than 20 years before becoming Superintendent of School District 215. After retiring from School District 215, he became Superintendent of Burnham Elementary School. He was a teacher, coach, and mentor to many. Al enjoyed getting to know people and spending time with friends. He was an avid handball player, fisherman, and gardener. He enjoyed golfing and playing cards or shooting pool with friends. He lived with a positive attitude, fine sense of humor, and caring spirit. He was always generous and giving of his time, talent, and wisdom to help improve the lives of others. He will be dearly remembered and truly missed by all whose hearts and lives he touched.

Online condolences to the family may be made at www.ee-fh.com 

February 2018

Benjamin James Agajanian, Cathedral City, CA

Ben Agajanian, passed away on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at the age of 98.  He is survived by his son, Lewis (Mindy) Agajanian and daughters, Lynne (Bruce) McVay and Lori (Bobby) Hinkle.  A Celebration of Life Ceremony will be held for family and friends on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 11 am.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607

Ben was known in the national football community as “booten Ben, the toeless wonder” and the local football community as “oldest living Ram”.  To the handball community he was known as the developer and first owner of the legendary Long Beach Athletic Club.

From the Long Beach Independent in 1972:
“Aggie will open his brand new Long Beach Athletic Club at 4000 Long Beach Blvd. July 1 and he, like many others, feels this project will fulfill a long-needed Long Beach requirement -- a first-class athletic club and one aimed primarily for handball and the national tournaments which such a club can attract. Since the Pacific Coast Club fell by the wayside, there has been a desperate need for an athletic club in the Long Beach area. The YMCA does a great job, but like the public schools, it needs the parochial schools -- in this case, the private club -- to handle the overload. "I've put all my cards on the table," said the prominent Armenian gin rummy player. "When the Pacific Coast Club expired, here was a gap. And Long Beach is too big of a city to be without an athletic club. "I've always been an exercise fanatic. I feel this new club will fill the need for both men and women interested in exercising." HANDBALL IS THE THEME of the Long Beach Athletic Club, but that doesn't preclude other activities there. "We'll have everything else the all-around athletic club has -- weights, exercise machines, table tennis, volleyball and tables for the tired, old gin rummy players," remarked Agajanian. The old placekicker has his head screwed on correctly. Without the old, tired gin rummy players no athletic club would ever succeed. AGAJANIAN IS GOING major league immediately. "Next week I'm sending the Long Beach Athletic Club handball team to the nationals in Seattle," said the legendary one. "I've already got the uniforms. They're powder blue, red and white. It's an all-American production. "Our club commissioner is Ed Kelly, who is the Southern California AAU handball commissioner. Kelly will get us national tournaments here in Long Beach. Val Moore and Earl Russell will represent Long Beach Athletic Club in the Masters' division in Seattle, and I'll be in the Golden Masters' division. Skip McDowell and Matt Kelly will be our Long Beach doubles' team...”

Ben was inducted into the SCHA Hall of Fame in 1997.

January 2018

Raymond O. Anderson, Wilmington, NC

Raymond O. Anderson, age 76 of Wilmington, NC, completed his circle life on January 1, 2018.

He was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September 25, 1941 to the late Charles Dodd Anderson and Doris Davis Anderson. He was a self-made man in his dealings in Real Estate investing.

His passion for the game of handball led him around the United States playing tournaments leading to long lasting friendships with many wonderful people around the US. He was actively involved for well over 30 years with the Shrimparoo Handball Tournament in Wilmington, NC. He took great pride in hosting a cookout in his backyard on Saturday night of the tournament.

He also shared his love for the outdoors with his sons and many, many others hunting, fishing, and boating.

He was preceded in passing by his brothers; Charles Anderson Jr. and Glenn, as well as his son Wade Anderson.

He is survived by his special friend Barbara Hall, his son Brett Anderson, and his daughter Diana Dee Barnish and grandchildren all of whom will miss his presence.

A Memorial Service will be held at Coble Ward-Smith on Oleander Dr., Wilmington, NC. Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 12pm. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.

In lieu of flowers please donate to your charity of choice as to help others in this circle of life.
Read the Ray Anderson Tribute by Mike Rusinak [HERE].

Edward Allen Mendell, Los Altos, CA 

Ed Mendell (November 23, 1933 – January 3, 2018) passed away peacefully of natural causes, as a result of dementia, on the morning of January 3, 2018 with his family by his side. Ed touched many lives as a teacher, businessman, and athlete. He was an adventurer, visiting far off places such as the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Antarctica, and the Amazon.

Ed was born at Fort Lewis, Washington, the son of a military family that traveled from base to base. As a teenager, he left home and completed high school in Miami, Florida. When asked, “Why Miami?” he always responded, “After I walked out the front door, it was cold, so I headed south.”

After graduating from Miami High School, Ed applied to the US Military Academy, West Point. He also applied to Harvard University. He was accepted to West Point and had no hesitation in making that his choice. Growing up in a military family, he looked up to those who served, especially those who attended West Point. However, shortly after beginning his studies there, he was reprimanded, not by West Point, but by Harvard for skipping his orientation. Apparently, he was so excited about his acceptance to West Point that he forgot about Harvard, who also accepted him as a student. However, Ed made the right choice and was very successful at West Point. As a cadet he excelled in both the ranger program and the paratroopers. He also played on the football team, threw the javelin, and was a heavyweight boxer on the boxing team. He graduated from West Point in 1955 and received his diploma from President Eisenhower.
Ed spent two years in the army before pursuing his dream of being a school teacher. He relocated from New York to California and continued to box, turning pro to earn some extra money. His professional boxing career was short, but he didn’t lose a fight and had one memorable bout against the number one heavyweight contender at the time, Eddie Machen. Ed was asked to box a three-round exhibition against Machen in San Francisco, and after losing two close rounds, Ed stunned Machen in the third, resulting in gasps from the crowd who came out to see the top contender in action. At least one ringside promoter scored the fight a draw.

Eventually, Ed found a position as a teacher at Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto. He spent several years at Ravenswood, then at Woodside High, before finishing his career at Ravenswood. Ever the businessman, Ed opened coin operated laundry mats in the early 60s before moving on to rental properties. In 1968 he took a sabbatical from teaching and received a doctorate in education from Stanford. In the mid 1970s he was instrumental in the growth of the Supreme Court Racquetball Clubs, having a part in the growth and expansion of the clubs in San Carlos, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Hayward, and Alameda.

No longer interested in boxing, Ed took up handball and joined the Palo Alto Elks Club. There, he met many of his longtime friends. And years later, he was instrumental in keeping the club alive when it ran into financial trouble. He was elected as the Exalted Ruler of the Elks, a very proud moment in his life.

Ed also volunteered as a little league coach, coaching one son while being assisted by the other. He then coached soccer, coaching his daughter while being assisted by one of his sons. Ed loved sports and was always quite the athlete. He competed in handball tournaments with his oldest son, winning four titles including one at the age of 80. He also enjoyed fishing trips to Alaska, and in recent years, he combined his love of fishing with his love of the military by donating all of his catch to the veteran’s hospital in Palo Alto. On a very special night, the veterans were treated to fresh Alaskan Salmon and Halibut, prepared by a local chef.

At 6’ 3” with a very muscular build, Ed could be an intimidating figure, especially for those who knew about his boxing background. However, he had a soft spot for children and animals and often found humor when it was least expected. He liked to dress up as Santa if it made kids happy, and he would wear extra loud Hawaiian shirts if he thought it would get a laugh or two. He would break out his old guitar and sing a tune if the crowd was right, and he loved to share stories originally told by his dad.

Ed is survived by his wife of 58 years, Nancy; his sons, Glenn and Dale; daughter, Diana; and grandchildren, Yvette, Shelby, and Alexandra. He is preceded in death by his parents, Col. Martin Mendell and mother Lela, his brother James and his sister Patricia.

Ed will be buried on January 10, 2018 at 11 am, at the Alta Mesa Cemetery in Palo Alto on 695 Arastradero Road, followed by a celebration of life at the Palo Alto Elks Club located at 4249 El Camino Real. For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Richard "Dick" Roberson, Austin, TX

Richard "Dick" Roberson passed away peacefully at home on Friday, January 5, 2018, after living a very full and wonderfully blessed life. He was born on Friday, the 13th of February, 1931, to Spurgeon and Kytha Roberson, who preceded him in death. His son, Russell "Rusty", and his sister, Wanda Ware, also preceded him in death along with many dear relatives and lifelong friends. What a reunion he must have had upon his arrival! Richard's family moved from Houston to Austin in 1941, where he attended Fulmore Junior High, Stephen F Austin High and the University of Texas graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Banking and Finance. He attended First Baptist Church, Tarrytown Baptist Church, Highland Park Baptist Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, and most recently, Austin Christian Fellowship. He served in many capacities from Elder, Deacon and Committees faithfully.

Richard's love of baseball and his gift of athleticism allowed him to play from high school, college, Austin Buddies, Austin Pioneers and many more Semi-Pro teams all the way to the major league for the Atlanta Krackers (now known as Braves). His baseball career was full of National Championships and relationships he always held very dear. Richard was also an avid handball player and as the Handball Coach for five years at the University of Texas, he coached several teams to become National Champions. He was also able to bring his dream of the Glass Court to fruition at Gregory Gym often referred to as the "House that Robby Built". In 1960 Richard joined the Trust Department of the Capital National Bank. In 1965 Richard became a stockbroker and was one of Austin's Top Brokers for many, many years. Retiring in 2002 after 37 years, he continued to help people whenever asked. Richard is survived by his loving wife and best friend of more than 32 years, Teresa Connally Roberson, sons, Rick (Carol), Randy (Debbie) and Brian; daughter, Dee Bow (Bob), granddaughters, Stephanie Smith (Brian) and Melissa Manifold (Mark), grandson, Clayton King (fiancé Madelaine), great grandchildren, Carolynn and Landon Smith, and nephew, Bill Worrell.

In lieu of flowers, family and friends who wish to honor Richard's life may do so by making a contribution to Muscular Dystrophy Association, Hospice of East Texas or their preferred charity.