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.

August 2020

Richard Daniels, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, CANADA

Richard (Rick) Daniels, a fixture for many years in Canadian handball passed away at his home in Wolfville Nova Scotia on August 7, 2020.

Rick suffered a massive heart attack. Rick loved handball and worked hard over the years to introduce young players to the game at Acadia University in his home town.  He was a runner-up in C singles play in Canadian National events in Halifax and teamed with Dave Coulie from New Mexico to win a C Doubles in Halifax and a B Doubles runner-up in Winnipeg. 

He will be missed by his many handball friends.

-Dave Coulie (Albuquerque)


July 2020

Charles W. Girkin, Houston, Texas

Charles W. Girkin was born on March 14, 1944, in Jackson, Michigan to Emery and Betty Girkin. He passed away on Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Houston, Texas.

He is survived by his son, David Girkin, and his two grandsons, Charles and Walker Girkin. Charles moved to Houston in 1974 and never looked back. He started working in 1977 in the oil and gas manufacturing field and eventually started his own company, Charles W Girkin, Inc., in the early ’80s. He was well known and successful in his field and loved what he was doing.

In his personal time, he enjoyed many hobbies which included riding bicycles and motorcycles, playing handball, windsurfing, swimming, and bird watching. He especially loved spending time with his grandsons, going to museums and parks along with other fun activities. He adored them, and they will greatly miss him.

A virtual memorial service was held on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at 6:30 pm.

Donations may be made to the Houston Audubon Society, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the YMCA.


February 2020

Robert W. Schoning, Corvallis, Ore. 

Sept. 29, 1923 – Feb. 14, 2020

Longtime Corvallis resident, noted fisheries expert and family patriarch, Robert (“Bob”) Schoning, Colonel, USMC (Ret) passed away on February 14, 2020, at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice in Albany at the age of 96.

He was born September 29, 1923, in Seattle, Washington to Nils Wilhelm and Olive Jeanette (Anderson) Schoning. He grew up in Seattle, attended Stevens Grade School, graduated from Garfield High School and entered the University of Washington, where he began playing handball.

After the United States entered WWII during his second year of college and knowing he would be drafted, he chose instead to enlist in the U. S. Marine Corps in 1942, mainly because his father had been a Marine during WWI. While in college, he attended boot camp and officer training school. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Fisheries in 1944. In May 1945, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and sent overseas to China.

He returned from China in 1946 and chose to stay in the active reserves. He went back to the University of Washington for graduate work in fisheries, but did not finish his master’s studies. Instead, in 1947, he began working for the Oregon Fish Commission (OFC) as a field biologist stationed on the Columbia River. At this time, he was offered an athletic membership at the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC). For the next 23 years, Bob Schoning became the dominant handball player in the Northwest, winning 59 titles in 90 tournament events.

In August 1950, Bob was recalled to active military duty, and a month later his unit was sent to Korea where he remained for the next year. He was involved in the Chosen Reservoir Campaign and was later awarded the Bronze Star for his courage in action on 14 February 1951. He remained in the active reserves until the mid-1970s when he transferred to the inactive reserves due to his civilian responsibilities in Washington, D.C. He officially retired from the U.S. Marine Corps on 29 Sept 1983 with the rank of colonel.

After returning from Korea in 1952, Bob married Barbara and resumed his work with the OFC. Over the next eighteen years, he worked as a fisheries biologist, Director of Research, and ultimately, Oregon State Fisheries Director. He continued playing handball and received third place in the 1968 national U.S. Handball Association Open Doubles tournament.

In 1971, after twenty-four years with the OFC, Bob moved to Washington, DC, and worked as the Deputy Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In 1973, he became the Director of the NMFS, where he helped formulate the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which established a 200-mile fishery conservation zone buffering the United States’ shorelines. This legislation made a massive impact on commercial fishing operations around the world and almost every other fishing country later created a similar law. It was one of his proudest accomplishments.

In 1978, Bob returned to Oregon, joining Oregon State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife as a visiting professor. He and Barbara had divorced after raising four sons. Bob remained at OSU until June 1982 when he switched to being a private consultant. That same month, he married Sandra. He was named the Fishery Worker of the Year by the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society in 1985 and returned to Oregon State in Jan 1986 as courtesy faculty with Fisheries and Wildlife. The next year, he received the OSU Distinguished Service Award. He joined the advisory board of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and continued to serve there until finally retiring in 2011 at the age of eight-eight. In 2002, OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences named him a Diamond Pioneer and in 2007, he was inducted into OSU’s Hall of Fame. Bob had also been inducted into Garfield High School’s “Golden Grads” Hall of Fame in 1994. Bob and Sandra were married for 25 years until their divorce.

Overall, Bob worked for the government at various levels for fifty-three years. He also served for a combined total of fifteen years as a presidentially-appointed commissioner on the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission. He was a lifetime member of the Military Officers Association of America (formerly called The Retired Officers’ Association or TROAA), a dedicated member of various golf country clubs and an active member of Grace Lutheran Church in Corvallis for many years.

Some of Bob’s happiest memories were the many summer vacations his family spent out at Camp on Vashon Island with extended family at what was originally Grandma Anderson’s cabin and where he and Bill had spent time in their youth. Throughout his life, Bob participated in various sports and outside activities. He played several sports in high school and college and in addition to becoming a noted handball champion, he was also a lifelong golfer and avid salmon fisherman well into his retirement and beyond. After retirement, he continued to travel frequently to visit his brother in Seabeck, Washington, and one year, Bob and Bill (along with two others) motored Bill’s boat up to Alaska on a salmon-fishing trip. The two brothers also enjoyed various golfing trips together. In 2004, two of Bob’s sons (Randy and Kerry) took Bob on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Norway for his 80th birthday to visit his dad’s birthplace and cousins Randi and Ingrid. The cousins had also visited with Bob in Corvallis and at Seabeck on several occasions. Bob very actively supported OSU’s various sports teams and thoroughly enjoyed being able to attend local games and interact with the coaches and team players. If game night included a trip to the local KFC or some homemade tacos and a rousing game of Mexican Train, that was even better! All were his favorites and he enjoyed having company.

Like many of the “Greatest Generation”, Bob remained modest about his many accomplishments and awards and preferred to let the light shine on others. He was always willing to lend a helping hand and firmly believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well. If someone said it couldn’t be done, he asked “How could we do it” or “How can I help?” He always credited his parents and Grandma Anderson for his work ethic and willingness to go that extra step without being asked.

His passing leaves an irreplaceable hole in our family tapestry, but his spirit, values, and example, his love for family, God, and country, his charisma and wonderful stories will live on in our hearts and in our memories. He made a difference in the lives of so many and he will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him. Rest in peace, Bob!

He is survived by his four sons Randy, Kerry, Jim and Kip; three grandchildren Tiffany, Zane and Chimay; two nieces Cathy and Judy; two nephews Mark and Craig; four maternal cousins Paul, Rolf, Steven and Maren; and paternal cousins in Norway. He was preceded in death by his parents; the mother of his boys, Barbara; a nephew, Gary; his beloved brother, Bill and his sister-in-law, Gayjoy and his cousin Ingrid in Norway. He is also survived by Lynn Edwards and Sandra Schoning.

A celebration of life will be held at Grace Lutheran Church, 435 NW 21st Street in Corvallis at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 29th, 2020. His ashes will be interned later in Seattle next to his brother at his request. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made in Bob’s name to a charity of your choice or to Oregon State U.


William "Bill" Brady, Fargo, N.D.

William “Bill” Brady, 85, Fargo passed away Thursday, February 13, 2020, at Edgewood Vista, Fargo.

Bill was born August 29, 1934, to John and Anne (Anderson) Brady. He graduated from Mayville High School in 1952 where he excelled in both basketball and baseball. He attended NDSU before transferring to Mayville State, where he graduated with a degree in teaching. Bill began his teaching and coaching career in Lakota, ND before moving to Ada, MN, where he taught mathematics and coached basketball. He brought his team to the MN State Tournament in 1962. Bill married Bernadine “Dina” Eid on August 17, 1963. They lived in Cambridge, MN for 2 years before moving to Devils Lake, ND where he taught and coached at the Junior College. They later moved to Athens, GA where he furthered his education at the University of Georgia. Known as a human calculator, Bill earned his Doctorate in Statistics.

After completing his doctorate, Bill took a job at St. Cloud State for a year before moving to Fargo. He then worked for 20 years as an administrator for the Fargo Public Schools System. Retirement allowed Bill and Dina to spend their winters in Mesa, Arizona where Bill enjoyed playing tennis and pickleball.

Bill loved sports. In college, he played baseball and basketball. After college, he added racquetball, handball, and tennis. No one would know by his humble demeanor that he was inducted into the North Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, the North Dakota State Handball Hall of Fame, and the Mayville State University Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife Dina, Fargo, ND; children, Robyn (Karl) Borge, La Crosse, WI, Reid (Sarah) Brady, Fargo, ND, Erin (George) Watson, Wahpeton, ND; 8 grandchildren, Kolter Borge, Joy Watson, Meg Watson, Kaitlyn Borge, Maura Brady, Elsie Brady, Cray John Brady and Juliana Brady.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Anne Brady.

The family would like to give a special thank you to Edgewood Vista for their wonderful care and friendship.

In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the Parkinson’s Foundation (marvbossartfoundation.org).

January 2020

Phil McLaughlin, Alton, Ill.

Phil McLaughlin (1944 - 2020) the Irish Whip.  Born in Tipperary, Ireland, Phil arrived in the USA in his early 20’s and was promptly drafted into the US Army. He completed his service and gained US citizenship. He moved to Alton, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Phil won 12 Missouri State Handball Championships, including a 7-year run in the 40+ singles division from 1984 through 1990 and a 50+ singles division in 1999. He also won doubles championships with 4 different partners - the 1996 40+ division with Steve Campbell, the 1999 50+ division with Phil Bracken, the 2005 60+ division with Jim Ward, and the 2012 65+ division with Gary Brake. He was inducted into the Missouri Handball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Phil won the YMCA 40+ National Championship as well as a number of tournaments in Kansas City and throughout Illinois - Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington, Alton. He didn’t just play, he worked as tournament director of the Alton tournament, and he was a fixture helping out and greeting players at the Missouri State tournaments and the St. Louis Handball League. Phil was a long-time member of the St. Louis Hinder Club where he was elected to the Board of Directors.

Like many of his countrymen, Phil was quiet until you got him started on the subject of handball. He often shared his insights into the strategies and finer points of the game with veterans and novices alike. Phil was a non-discriminatory handball player - any race, creed, color, young, old, good, bad - he beat us all.

Ron Emberg, Houston, Texas

On Jan. 18, 2020, Ronald Edward Emberg, 90 years, while surrounded by family and friends, was lovingly embraced and escorted by angels to the gates of heaven, where his father, George Emberg, and his mother, Evelyn Emberg and sister, Dixie Emberg, were waiting for him.

He passed away at his residence, in Houston, Texas. He was born, May 6, 1929, in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He served in the Armed Forces, as a radio operator, during the Korean War. He studied Petroleum Engineering, at the University of Houston. He was on the Houston Downtown YMCA Board of Directors. He was on the Board of Directors of the United States Handball Association (USHA).  In 1995, he was inducted into the USHA National Handball Hall of Fame. He won the USHA National Masters invitational and National 4 Wall Championship for ages 60, 65, and 70 in Doubles and Singles.

He was the CEO of AVR, Inc., an Ad Valorem tax and utility billing software company in Houston, Texas. In 1959, he started in the business. Over sixty years, his leadership guided multiple employees, during the changing times in the utility billing industry. He changed the lives of generations of families, who were his loyal employees.

He was proud to be an American. Besides loving playing Handball, he loved sports, travel, and woodworking around the house.  He lived his life as an honorable and loving man to his family, friends, and employees. He never wavered from his ethics, trustworthiness, and commitment to those individuals blessed enough to have known him.  He contributed, without hesitation, to anyone in need. He dearly loved his own family and his AVR family.

He is survived by Susan Emberg, his wife and business partner of 32 years, his daughters, Ree Emberg, Kelly Emberg and husband, Mike Padilla, his son, Mike Emberg, his daughter, Tamera Galdamez and husband, Jose Galdamez, and daughter, Theresa Rodriguez and husband, Stephen Rodriguez, his grandchildren, Ren Nelson, Dixie Mattingly, Thomas Gasper, Hannah Gasper, Ruby Stewart, Tyler Jenkel, Cole Brodin, Cheney Emberg, Jade Galdamez, Jacob Galdamez, Chloe Galdamez, Leah Galdamez, Emily Galdamez, Mia Rodriguez, Ava Rodriguez, Christian Rodriguez and 7 great-grandchildren, his sister, Phyllis Aisbet, his sister-in-law, Zell Reeves, his sister-in-law, Jody Rogers, and multiple nieces and nephews.

HANDBALL MAGAZINE's Tribute to Ron Emberg.

Ken Smolack, Manalapan, N.J.
Friends and Family Share Fond memories of "Meatball"

  • Bill Kennedy
         Longtime New York/New Jersey handball player and supporter of the game, Kenny Smolack, 73, passed away Jan. 9 in a New Jersey hospital.
         Kenny was an age-group runner-up to Dennis Hofflander in the 1964 national junior tournament as a player out of the fabled Castle Hill Club in the Bronx. As an adult, he was better known for his doubles play with partner Richie Greenwald, with whom he regularly challenged for the East Area championship.
         Kenny won numerous weekend tournament championships with a variety of partners, including Greenwald, John Marra Jr., Mike Meltzer, Lou Russo, and Bobby Harbatkin. He was perhaps more famous for being the author of a Handball magazine column,  “The Meatball Corner,”  published for more than 30 years.
         He ardently supported youth handball, running many tournaments and raising money for juniors to attend national and regional events.
    At his funeral  Jan. 14,  he was eulogized by Fred Lewis, Meltzer, his cousin Michael Levine and his stepson Fred Munsch Jr. He leaves his wife, Evelyn, stepsons Fred and Ed, stepdaughter Samantha, and three grandsons.
  • Howie Eisenberg
          The world of handball lost a formidable player, an important contributor, and a unique perspective with the passing of Ken Smolack. With his love of the game and lifelong involvement augmented by his benevolent objective commentary and recommendations, he was an outspoken proponent for the betterment of our sport. Even more importantly, Ken was a warm, loving person and a loyal friend. I will miss him greatly.
  • Mike Meltzer
         Kenny and I were friends since we were 6 years old. We met at the famous Castle Hill Beach Club in the Bronx. Handball was the game we loved and played every summer day. Together, we won many tournaments. He also won numerous tournaments with other partners. In addition, we ran many local tournaments where he supplied the hospitality, using his connections in the food industry. Kenny had a gruff exterior but a heart of gold. The Meltzer family will certainly miss their  “Uncle Kenny.”
  • Fred Lewis
    As I have said many times, one of the great benefits of playing handball over a lifetime is the friendships you acquire along the way.
         Kenny and I became acquainted over 65 years ago as members of the Castle Hill Beach Club in New York. Kenny was affectionately known as “Meatball” because he would walk around the club eating his grandmother’s meatballs from a plastic container. We were competitors in junior tournaments and then teamed up as partners in doubles tournaments.
         Kenny developed into a right-side doubles specialist, teaming with the likes of Lou Russo, Richie Greenwald, Jay Garsman, and others to win many championships. One of Kenny’s major accomplishments was coming in runner-up to Dennis Hofflander in the 1964 USHA junior national championships. Kenny scored in double figures against Hofflander, who crushed everyone else. (Dennis left me at 0 and 1 in the semifinals.)
    After I left New York for Miami and eventually Tucson, Kenny and I continued to keep in close contact. We would see each other at tournaments and often vacationed together in Las Vegas. I felt very proud when Kenny spoke on my behalf at my Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1993.
         Perhaps we were never closer than the last six months of his life, when he became very ill and bedridden. I tried to call him every day and offer words of encouragement. We talked about our families, handball, politics, and our favorite foods. Now that he is gone there is a huge void in my life. However, the great memories will be here forever.
  • Fred Munsch Jr.
    An old friend, a best friend, a confidant, a husband, a father-in-law, a Pop-Pop and a stepdad. These were some of the “titles” that Kenny Smolack took on as he became closer and a more integral part of my family.  
    The last title I mentioned was  “stepdad.”  While technically that is what he was to me, he was so much more than that. I was blessed to have known Kenny my entire life, but he took on a different role in the mid-1990s when he and my mom got married.  
         Over the 25 years that Mom and Kenny were married, Kenny became one of my closest friends and confidants. He was there for me as I entered the wonderful world of  “adulting.”  He helped me navigate those early years, and then as the years progressed, we seemed to be there for each other, always there to bounce an idea off one another.  
         As I got to know Kenny better, I realized what a kind and generous person he was. He was always there for someone whenever they needed it. Over the years, I came to appreciate Kenny’s love for food, cooking, and Frank Sinatra! He would always have us over for Passover and Rosh Hashanah, where I learned how to make a mean brisket and his trick to making a great matzo ball soup.  
    In the late ’90s and early 2000s, Kenny became “Pop-Pop” to my boys. Kenny epitomized the idea of a “doting grandfather.” He was there for countless ballgames and was their biggest fan, both on and off the field. For anyone who was willing to lend an ear, he would love to tell stories about what the boys were doing, what they accomplished, or just about the last conversation he had with them. Each one held a special place in his heart, and he holds a special place in all of our hearts.
         These past few months have been tough, but we are moving along. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t think of him, reminisce about him and miss him. Until we meet again, my friend and Pop-Pop, we love you!