Ralph L. Law
Ralph L. Law
  • April 23, 1934 - November 9, 2017
  • Charlottesville, Virginia

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Ralph Lee “Sonny” Law Jr., age 83, died peacefully at his home in Charlottesville, Va. on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 after battling several illnesses. He was best known as father-figure “Coach Law.”

He had a knack for making students and athletes feel special, by remembering their name or giving them a one-of-kind nickname. Law literally touched thousands of people’s lives with unique relationships.

He is survived by his wife Michelle “Misty” Law and five children; Joy Law Call of Northern Virginia, Denise Law (Craig) Rogers of Chatham, Va., Daryl Lee (Wanda) Law of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Tiffany (Mark) Overton of Australia and Chad Leininger (Kristen Milosevich) of Vero Beach, Fla. The couple has six grandchildren; Mia Overton, Mitchell Overton, Caleb Lee Rogers, Connor Paxton Rogers, Lauren Harris Law and Austin Lee Law.

Ralph and Misty, as they were called by friends and family, were married Sept. 26, 1987. She took care of him daily when his health started failing six years ago. Along with Misty, visits from his family, friends, former swimmers and co-workers kept him going until the end.

Born April 23, 1934 in Norfolk, he was the only child of Ralph Lee “Papa” Law Sr. and Jean Evelyn Hodges Law whose last residence was near Ward’s Corner. A football receiver at Granby High School, Law graduated from William and Mary in Norfolk, the last year before it transitioned to Old Dominion University.

Perhaps his biggest day in sports was when Law caught the winning pass in the City Series to defeat Maury on Foreman Field Thanksgiving Day his senior year 1951-52. He kept his varsity letter jacket, football and other items forever.

One of Law’s first paid coaching jobs eventually brought him to Charlottesville in 1962. He took his Alma Matter Granby to the unofficial state championship in swimming and won it. He was hired as the University of Virginia Cavaliers’ varsity swim coach just days later and he and his first wife, Louise Disosway Law, moved to Charlottesville where they raised Denise and Daryl.

At age 35, Coach Law received his master’s degree in public administration from UVA, which led to an assistant principal position at Buford Junior High School in 1969. Before it was over, he had served as principal of three Charlottesville public schools, Buford, Walker and Greenbrier.

On the side, Law coached a variety of sports and began his lifelong love of officiating Friday night football. His legacy includes the Piedmont [Jefferson] Swim League which he launched and developed while coaching at Fairview, Keswick, Four Seasons, Fry Springs and Forest Lakes summer swim clubs. With his bright red hair and fair complexion, Coach Law often wore a tan, hard-shelled “Bwana” hat to protect himself from sunburn.

Success followed Coach Law. His swimmers remember how he used a loud, natural whistle to give swimmers rhythm during heated races. Coach was proud of simple strategies he used to maximize scores. Again, he enjoyed meaningful relationships with everyone. To this day, Coach Law is loved and adored by thousands of former students and athletes.

The second sports accomplishment entailed entering the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 2008 when he was recognized for excellence in officiating high school football for 44 years straight. Again, as league commissioner, Law again spread his love of the game and enthusiasm about sports to dozens of officials, coaches and players. In this pursuit, he usually wore the white, referee’s ball cap.

His carpool rides to ballgames and back with his fellow officials were truly the highlight clips of his life. His organizational and administrative skills served him well as he reigned as league commissioner for 35 years.

A funeral service will be conducted 1:00pm Thursday, November 16, 2017 at Trinity Presbyterian Church 3101 Fontaine Avenue Extended, Charlottesville, VA. Interment will follow at Holly Memorial Gardens 3251 Seminole Trail, Charlottesville, VA.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at Teague Funeral Home.

Law sends special thanks to Dr. Brian Uthlaut and volunteer care-giver Lin Arnette. He suffered from heart disease since age 38 and neuromuscular disease Myasthenia Gravis for the past six years. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name can be made to the American Heart Association, heart.org and Hospice of the Piedmont, hopva.org.