Frank Sofia spent more than half of his life as a fixture in the Liverpool community, school district and athletic department.
The long-time sports enthusiast and educator, who was fondly called “Mr Liverpool”, died on Thursday. his good friend George Mangicarro said Friday morning. He was 81 years old.
“Frank was known as Mr Liverpool. Period,” said Mangicarro, who spent more than three decades in Liverpool as a teacher, football coach and eventual athletic director. “He’s a symbol of the Liverpool School District. He represents everything a school district should represent. Talk to any student who went to Liverpool from 1965 to 2020 and ask them who would you rate as the one person who represents Liverpool? They would say Frank Sofia.
Sofia, a Syracuse native who attended North High before going to Le Moyne College, began teaching social studies in the Liverpool School District in 1965. She never coached a sports team at Liverpool, but she was an integral part of the entire athletic department.
Sofia was often in the press room at football games or at the scorer’s table during basketball games. He would love to volunteer for any job that needed doing, no matter how big or small.
When Sofia retired from teaching in 2013, she took on the role of Stadium Coordinator working with Mangicarro. Liverpool’s stadium was built in 2010 and due to the new synthetic turf, the demand to use the pitch grew.
“We were one of the first schools in Central New York to have so many people wanting to rent our facilities in the fall and spring,” Mangicarro said. “Frank took over the duties as stadium supervisor and was responsible for scheduling the hires and overseeing all non-Liverpool athletics events, and he did a tremendous job.”
Sofia was also responsible for overseeing the Liverpool University Club, which would organize rallies, senior banquets and the hall of fame committee.
He helped start a pep club in Liverpool and was the advisor to the student council. He orchestrated a number of new traditions, including the first grand hall, bonfire and homecoming floats. He worked closely with the Liverpool Alumni Association.
“I don’t know if we will ever see another person in the Liverpool community as dedicated and professional as Frank Sofia was,” Mangicarro said.
Liverpool’s current sporting director Ari Liberman took over the athletics department when Mangicarro retired in 2014. He worked closely with Sofia, who was forced to stay at home in 2020 due to health problems during the peak of the Covid pandemic in central New York.
“He was an ambassador for the Liverpool School District throughout his career,” Liberman said. “Everyone knew Frank. He loved nothing more than being in the press box and watching all the Liverpool alumni come back as parents.”
Even more than being known for the things he did for the athletic department, Sofia was best known as a kind man, Liberman said.
“His kindness was just … it was almost unreal,” she said. “Someone can’t be that nice to everyone. We’d often joke about it, because sometimes I can be the opposite, so we balanced each other out really well. It was kind of funny. No matter what I was thinking, he’d always soften that situation with his kindness. He knew me very well. He knew how to calm it down.”
Children’s basketball coach Ryan Blackwell, who took on many of Sofia’s responsibilities after she left in 2020, said the two met many years before she started coaching at Liverpool. He said they met in the 1990s when they both worked at Hooligans, a Liverpool bar and grill now known as Sharkey’s, when Blackwell came home from college for the summers.
“He worked there a lot, but I worked in the summers and I met him then,” Blackwell said. “He was a very kind, very nice, humble man who loved everybody. He went out of his way to try to help people, no matter who they were or where they were from.”
Blackwell said he would always remember sitting in the press box during games and joking with Sofia, who would then respond with one of his catchphrases: “Oh, dear God” or “God bless him.”
“He was always happy,” she said. “Sometimes we’d be in the stands during football or soccer or field hockey games, and he’d make jokes, and he’d always have that little laugh and smile. That was one of my favorite things about being around her when she started laughing. Something crazy, off the wall and always had the same answer. I will always remember that about him.”
Sofia was inducted into the Liverpool Hall of Fame in 1995 as a “Special Contributor”. He also received the 2017 Liverpool School District Board of Education Distinguished Service Award.
“People like Frank don’t come around very often,” Mangicarro said. “I think the Liverpool community was lucky to have him involved in the community for the last 50 years. You don’t replace a person like that. You just try to fill some of the vacancies he left. Just grateful he was in the life of so many students”.
Sofia fell ill in 2021 and had been unable to return to her perch at Liverpool’s athletics department even after Covid cases had begun to decline in central New York. He has been ill for the past two years, Mangicarro said.
Blackwell said she will never forget the last day she saw Sofia at Liverpool High School.
“It was one of those days and it never came back,” he said. “Then he was home a lot and he didn’t really leave the house and then he ended up going into an assisted living facility. I remember seeing him and then he never came back.”
Sofia would have turned 82 on March 5.
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