April 22, 2022

A story of a coach and the special effort to honor him and help the CYO

Janet and Rich Andriole shared many times of joy together. (Submitted photo)

Janet and Rich Andriole shared many times of joy together. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Janet Andriole didn’t expect that the dedication ceremony in honor of her late husband Rich would touch her so deeply.

Yet she soon became overwhelmed with emotion on March 16 when she saw the huge, permanent sign that now honors him at the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) headquarters in Indianapolis.

The sign is behind one of the basketball goals in the CYO Gym, and the heart of the sign captures Rich’s initials and the three-pronged mantra that the longtime baseball coach and literature teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis wanted his players to live by: “Be prepared. Be coachable. Be a great teammate.”

The sign also shares the length of his life, 50 years of trying to make every moment count.

“It’s overwhelming and so humbling,” Janet said. “When you lose someone, you hope their legacy lives on. I think he was trying to be an example for young men—and the young women he taught in the classroom—to use their God-given talents, to stay committed to what they’re doing, and to be there for others. His players will tell you he used baseball to teach life lessons. To see that logo on the gym was quite impactful in my heart.”

The ceremony on March 16 was to dedicate, in Rich’s honor, all the efforts to restore and protect the CYO gym’s wooden floor—and the details of how that came about reveal a great deal about how he affected people’s lives and why so many people and companies wanted to come together to honor him.

The condition of the CYO gym floor had increasingly become a serious concern through its more than 60 years of use. In recent years, flooding, humidity and draining issues occasionally led to moisture gathering underneath the floor, causing different areas to pop up, making it unsafe to play sports there.

“One time, one section raised 7 or 8 inches above the floor,” said Bernie Price, the archdiocese’s CYO girls’ athletics director.

In October of 2020, Price knew that, in order to save the floor, one of the major improvements had to be installing a heating and cooling system in the gym that would eliminate moisture from forming under the floor.

Her research also led her to learn that Johnson-Melloh Inc. “was very active in contributing to the Catholic community,” so on a whim she sent an e-mail to the Indianapolis company’s president, Nick Melloh, asking him if his business would consider helping CYO.

At the same time, Rich Andriole—a 1988 graduate of Cathedral High School with Melloh—was in the last days of his life. And that reality was setting in for Melloh.

“About five years ago, Rich and I reconnected a casual friendship,” Melloh recalled recently. “As our friendship started to deepen and meaningful conversations were taking place, our faiths were deepening. And then, on Sept. 25, 2020, I was informed that Rich was in the hospital. I sent him a text message. I still have the text I received from him that night, ‘Need prayers, Love ya Nick.’ ”

When Rich died of cancer on Nov. 3, 2020, Melloh reflected on how thankful he was for being able to reconnect with his friend. And he soon learned how Rich had touched the lives of so many others.

“Conversations with former players, parents, fellow coaches, friends and co-workers showed me that I was far from the only one Rich reached out to when they were hurting,” Melloh said. “He did this often, and the loyalty from those he touched was incredible because, like what I had experienced, the conversations were real and from a place in a man’s heart that could only come from a seed planted by God.”

As Melloh committed his company to help CYO with everything that needed to be done to preserve the gym floor, the idea started to grow to honor Rich by dedicating that effort to him.

“Being able to recognize Rich at CYO seemed very appropriate,” Melloh said. “Rich devoted most of his career coaching and teaching so many young men that were part of the CYO programs.”

Johnson-Melloh wasn’t the only Indianapolis company with strong Catholic connections that was part of making sure the gym would be a safe place for games and matches for years to come. And it seems appropriate that since Rich coached a team sport that involves nine players on a field at a time, that nine companies donated their work to this effort.

Besides Johnson-Melloh, the others were Poynter, Electric Plus, F.A. Wilhelm Construction, Dotlich Crane Service, Superior Roofing Services, Langendorf Supply Company, A Taste of Indiana and IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), Local 481.

“Once we got it started, all these companies came together. It’s just amazing,” Price said. “The dream has now become a reality for CYO. I’m still in awe of it.”

So is Janet Andriole.

“This is something Rich would be so onboard with—how these companies came together for the CYO and for all the thousands and thousands of kids who have played and competed there, whether it be for sports, chess tournaments or science fairs,” said Janet, the principal of St. Joan of Arc School in Indianapolis.

For her, the gym project dovetails perfectly with the Rich Andriole Memorial Golf Outing in Indianapolis last October, an event that raised funds to help more children get a Catholic education in the archdiocese. She views that purpose as fitting since she and her husband of 27 years—high school sweethearts at Cathedral and the parents of three children—both have dedicated their lives to Catholic education.

The golf outing raised $17 more than the $60,000 goal of the event. Janet loves that total, as “17”is the number that Rich wore as the head coach of Cathedral’s baseball team, which won two state championships under his leadership.

She also savors that his three-pronged approach to sports is there for all to see in the CYO gym: “Be prepared. Be coachable. Be a great teammate.”

“I love that Rich’s mantra is in a place where kids compete and where his impact will live on.” †

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