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Loss of a legend: Tributes ring for Coach Bob Stem

Bob Stem
Courtesy photo
Bob Stem coached Bethlehem Catholic and Phillipsburg high schools' football teams to more wins than anyone else. Stem, 84, died Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

  • Bob Stem won 285 games in his high school football coaching career
  • He was an elementary school teacher in the Phillipsburg School District
  • He played on Syracuse's 1959 national championship team

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Tributes are pouring in for Bob Stem, the legendary high school football coach who died Friday night at age 84.

Stem grew up in Phillipsburg, played with Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis at Syracuse and won more games as football coach at Bethlehem Catholic and Phillipsburg High School than anyone else.

Keith Groller of The Morning Call in Allentown wrote a tribute to Stem, whose last game coaching was the 2010 Thanksgiving Day game in which Phillipsburg defeated Easton 3-0 in overtime.

Stem coached at Bethlehem Catholic, where he won 173 games in 18 years. He coached at his alma mater, Phillipsburg, for 15 years in two different stints, amassing 112 wins.

Phillipsburg Mayor Todd Tersigni expressed condolences on behalf of the entire town. Stem grew up in its Dishwater Hill section and was a retired elementary school math teacher in the Phillipsburg School District.

Stem lived in Palmer Township and was a key figure in the historic rivalry between Phillipsburg and Easton. Besides it being the last game he ever coached, he coached in the 100th and 75th anniversary games and played in the 50th.

In the Lehigh Valley's rabid scholastic sports scene, Stem commanded a presence since the 1950s. He was a teammate, rival and coach to countless people.

A social media message from Phillipsburg High School paid tribute this way, describing Stem as "the embodiment of Phillipsburg excellence and toughness."