Allegany Communications Sports

Patrick J. O’Rourke, who died unexpectedly at his Lancaster, Ohio home Sunday morning at the age of 74, may have been the most in-touch person I have ever known. He was in touch with God, with his loving family, his legions of friends and with the communities he loved the most, beginning with ours.

He was a loving and devoted son, brother, husband, father and grandfather, and I would bet anything I own he was the favorite uncle of his family. He was an athlete and always a coach, always seeing the best in all of us and inspiring each one of us to realize and maximize the best in ourselves and in others.

A lifetime member of the American Football Coaches Association, Pat didn’t love football, he needed football and he spent much of his life instilling his passion and love for the game and its life lessons into all of the players he coached, with “attitude and effort” long being his mantra. There was, after all, nothing better than being a member of a team.

He remained loyal to his alma maters, Bishop Walsh High School and the University of Dayton, from where he graduated with a degree in political science.The moment you met Pat O’Rourke, you had a friend for life. I know this to be true firsthand.

Upon graduating from college he returned home to Cumberland to begin his career and immediately became involved in the community. He was inducted into the Western Maryland Catholic Athletic Hall of Fame and was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Rotary Club. He coached football at Bishop Walsh and at Frostburg State University.

Later he would join the broadcast team for high school football at WCBC where he broadcast alongside his brother, the great Tom O’Rourke, and the two O’Rourke boys shared a bond and a kinship the likes of which I had not seen before and have yet to see since amongst brothers.

Tom, who died in June of 2008, was the oldest and Pat so admired and looked up to his big brother, while Tom made tremendous sacrifices for Pat, for which Pat was eternally grateful, because Tom admired Pat every bit as much as Pat admired him.

Pat held Tom as an invincible spirit and Tom knew in his heart there was nothing in the world Pat could not accomplish. And both of them were right.

In the broadcast booth, Tom was the play-by-play man, the storyteller, and Pat was simply referred to as “The Coach,” as he would be by Tom even after Pat left the booth to pursue other ventures in 1985 when he and his family moved to Lancaster, Ohio.

In Lancaster, Pat stepped right up, volunteering much of his time to Fairhope Hospice and Palliative Care. He read to preschool children and coached the freshman football team at Lancaster High School, which he absolutely loved because he felt the joy and a duty to reach out to young people and to help them learn and grow, and because football was such an enormous part of Pat’s life.

I met Pat in the fall of 1984 when he was broadcasting a football game with Tom and I was covering the game for the Cumberland Times-News. I had just returned to Cumberland and was new to the beat, but Tom and Pat took me under their wing in numerous press boxes in the area as well as in postgame eating and drinking establishments, sharing with me their experiences and always encouraging me and supporting me as I was just getting my career started.

That encouragement and support followed me through every venture I have undertaken since, and it continued though last Thursday when Pat reached out to me because he wasn’t able to find one of my articles. He followed our community and our local sports teams with a fine-tooth comb and returned to Cumberland every March for the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, as well as for reunions, weddings, funerals, special events or to merely stay in touch with family and friends.

And every time I saw him or talked to him – in person, on the phone or by text – he referred to me as “brother.”

The truth is, Pat O’Rourke always made you feel as though you really were.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on X at @MikeBurkeMDT


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