SARASOTA, Fla. – To friends and colleagues at his beloved Riverview High School, he was “The Ripper.”
But to the only child of Ed Repulski, he was, simply, “Ace.” Walking the hallways of Riverview, Ram student Jill Strafaci often would see her father. “But I couldn’t yell, ‘hey, dad’ down the hallway every time,” she said. “So, I called him Ace.”
When it came to the school of which Ed Repulski was the first athletic director, first basketball coach, one of its first teachers, and founder of the Ram golf program, Ace was all heart.
“His blood is the color of Riverview,” Joyce, his wife, said in a 2018 story on Repulski. “He just adored the school, and nowadays, the kind of loyalty that he had for it is, I think, non-existent.”
And the school that adored Ed Repulski today is in mourning. The man who coached the Ram boys team for nearly 40 years and won more than 600 matches, died peacefully Saturday at his assisted living facility at age 93.
The news of Repulski’s passing came as a shock to John Sprague, who replaced him as Riverview boys golf coach in 2011. Sprague visited Repulski two months ago and said his mind was clear, recalling people and places. “I was shocked,” Sprague said. “He was pretty sharp. I spent thousands of hours with that guy at Riverview. Tell you what, it felt good to talk to him.
“Mr. Ram. He was there the day they opened the doors at Riverview.”
Hired by school principal Ed Brown to coach football and serve as athletic director, Repulski arrived in Sarasota in 1958. And while his Ram football and, later, basketball teams didn’t flourish, the golf program he founded grew and succeeded under his leadership.
Under Repulski, the Ram boys won two state titles, two runners-up and 12 district crowns. He got Jill started in the sport and it paid off with a golf scholarship to Florida, where Strafaci was a four-year letter-winner on the Lady Gator golf team. Her son, Tyler, is a pro golfer who in 2020 won the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Golf was Repulski’s passion and it showed in his commitment to the sport. He was a three-time Florida Golf Coach of the Year, and three times won the District Golf Coach of the Year award, as chosen by the National High School Athletics Coaches Association.
He served 16 years as the state golf chairman for the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA), and in 1990, was inducted into the FACA Hall of Fame.
Sprague said that whenever the Florida High School Activities Association had a question about golf, they didn’t consult a rule book. They consulted with Repulski. The state golf tournament regularly was held at Bent Tree Golf Course. Why? “Because he did a great job,” Sprague said. “He had them organized.”
Away from the golf course, Repulski served as an FHSAA official in basketball for 22 years, football for six and baseball for one. Strafaci said it was common for her to do homework in the stands while her dad officiated a basketball game. He left teaching and coaching for a year to work in the Riverview administration. And only for a year.
“He just didn’t like it because he was away from his kids,” Strafaci said, “and he wanted to get back to teaching.” Her dad’s legacy, she said, is easy. “The kids,” she said. “The kids were really important to him.”
As Ed Repulski was to them.