By Rob Todor
In late October, I asked Chuck Housteau to cover a volleyball match for The Vindicator, and he quickly responded to an email with a “Sure”.
A few minutes later, he replied again, with a note that it was his wife’s birthday on the day in question, but if I was stuck he could still go to the assignment.
We quickly agreed, for the sake of Chuck’s wedded happiness, I could easily find another reporter.
In the 20 years that Chuck and I were friends, family and sports were his two great passions.
Chuck suddenly, sadly, passed away last Friday, of a heart attack. He was just 51.
You got to know Chuck through his many stories in this newspaper.
He loved high school sports — so much so that he and his brothers started a publication, The Valley Playbook, in the late ’80s. It allowed Chuck to write about his favorite sports — high school and all things YSU.
It was a passion that led the former sports editor, Chuck Perazich, to offer him a job on The Vindicator’s staff.
He turned it down, and the job eventually went to a young sportswriter from The Alliance Review — yours truly.
Chuck proved to be not only a terrific reporter, but a loyal one who was always willing to go any where, any time, to cover an event.
The only times that he turned down my requests were the aforementioned family responsibilities, and when The Vindicator’s reporters were on strike in 2004-05.
That conflicted him, because of his loyalty to and friendship with me, but also his strong beliefs.
Because of my respect for Chuck, it was easy to honor his wishes, and after the strike was resolved, our personal and professional relationships were even stronger.
Chuck had that impact on everyone he knew. Fellow Vindicator correspondent Greg Gulas knew Chuck for many years.
“Chuck was a great family man whose love for sports was exceeded only by his passion for covering, and then writing about that game or event,” Gulas said. “His one, now unfulfilled goal was to write a book and he came close on several occasions to kick-starting that dream. Now we’ll never know what an excellent read that book would have been.”
Vindicator sportswriter Tom Williams was impressed with how Chuck, a Covelli Enterprises regional executive and a diehard Cleveland sports fan, dealt with the good-natured teasing that went on in the Panera restaurant he worked out of in Cranberry, Pa.
“Chuck said Black-and-Gold Fridays, where his crew members were permitted to wear clothing supporting the Steelers and Penguins, were the toughest,” Williams said. “But he said that with a smile.
“We will miss Chuck so much,” Williams said. “His stories were well-written and balanced. He treated his subjects fairly and with respect.”
Vindicator sports reporter John Bassetti enjoyed Chuck’s series of Q&A’s with area football coaches for the Blitz sections on Friday’s.
“On just about all of his subjects, Chuck, I thought, hit the nail on the head with his choices: Campbell’s Mickey Sikora, Southern’s Mark Skrinjar and East Liverpool’s Mark Asher.
“Sikora, for his blue-collar personality, Skrinjar for his energetic and exuberant personality, and Asher for being a former YSU coach who was out of the limelight for years when he became a car salesman.
“Those seemed to be individuals who had interesting stories,” Bassetti said.
“The one that struck me as most telling, not only about the subject but about the writer himself, was Housteau’s article on Champion coach Terry Howell.
“Having watched Housteau play in high school helped because, when I read his introduction of Howell, it could have passed for Chuck himself,” added Bassetti.
“It read: ‘Terry Howell was a terrific noseman when he played high school football and in college. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the successful coach. Successful nosemen are notoriously tenacious players and Howell was certainly that in his playing days.’
Housteau was also a noseman who plugged the middle, yet managed to shed blocks to get into the backfield.
“After playing, his tenacity translated into a terrific work ethic. That could be good and bad, but, how else would a former noseman go about his day-to-day business?”
Calling hours are today from 5 to 8 p.m. at Kinnick Funeral Home on Meridian Road. Funeral services begin on Wednesday at 9:15 a.m. at the funeral home and continue at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Church. Memorial contributions may be made in Chuck’s name to Austintown Community Baseball or to the YSU Alumni Association.