Long-time Brentwood Famly YMCA coach and referee John Ognibene was remembered over the weekend as a man who had a special place in the hearts of the young children he taught over the decades.
Ognibene, 59, died Thursday.
Ognibene was a driving force behind the YMCA's basketball program in the late 1970s, and had spent every season since impacting the lives of hundreds of children while teaching the fundamentals of the game.
"He just made the world a better place," longtime friend Ken Neil said. "He was a man with a big heart." Neil said the death of his friend is going to leave a hole in the community.
"Sometimes you just know the world is no longer going to be the same," Neil said. "This is one of those times."
Senior YMCA Program Director Jeff Gillies, who first met Ognibene in 1983, said the way he dealt with young children learning the game was priceless.
"You can't call traveling and double dribbling on everything that the 6 and 7-year-olds do," Gillies explained. "He knew the right time and when to let them dribble and when not to let them dribble, when to let them travel and when not to let them travel, when to call a foul and when not to call a foul and how to keep the games close.
"And the coaches and the parents could see that really quickly that he was there for more than just to referee a game."
Ognibene, who had retired from the insurance business, also assisted Gillies behind the scenes.
"To me, you have to have somebody to go back to every season to talk basketball, talk rules, talk what works and what doesn't and he was perfect,"
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today in the chapel of the Roesch Patton Funeral Home, 9010 Church St. in Brentwood. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Brentwood Family YMCA youth sports program.
Ognibene was cremated and the mayor of Brentwood has approved scattering his ashes at the ball fields at Granny White Park, where he umpired many softball and baseball games.