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He was a man who did it all, with poise, class, discipline and perseverance. He had a local gymnasium named after him for his excellence in the sport of basketball, his love for the game, and above all, his love for his players, teammates and fans. And after a life of dedication to his community, he is now gone.
John Cabas, 94, a resident of Salem, Ohio, died this past week at the Salem Community Hospital. Cabas, who was also a U.S. Navy War Veteran in World War II, has held one state basketball championship and two runner-up finishes during his career. Highly respected not only in the small town of Salem, Ohio, but across the state, he was inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.
According to Salem News Reporter Larry Shields, “When he coached in Salem, Cabas made owning season tickets a status symbol. His fans found his teams exciting and wanted to see them play.”
Mayor John Berlin said, “He was a basketball legend in Salem. I went to West Branch but he was quite a legend with his teams.” Berlin recalls Cabas also playing semi-pro football for the Minerva Merchants back in the 1930’s and 1940’s. He adds, “That’s my recollection,” he said. “I know he’s been a legend in Salem and justifiably so. It’s a great loss for Salem … I’m sorry to hear that.”
Cabas coached in Salem for 33 years, with an overall record of 432 wins and 192 losses.
Additionally, Cabas was the last coach that has coached a Salem team that has been ranked top ten in the state, which was back in 1966.
Salem High School Principal Dr. Joe Shivers who played for Cabas for three years stated, “I’ve never watch a game – in the 46 years since I left high school – without looking at them through the lens that he gave me … every game, high school, college, pro. What he taught was about how basketball should be played.”
According to the Salem Historical Society, Cabas made drastic changes while he was a coach, and changed the Salem Mascot from the Quaker Lady to Quaker Sam. Cabas also came up with the popular Salem sports slogan, “Love Those Quakers.”
While Cabas has passed on, his legacy lives on through the thousands of lives that he touched throughout his lifetime and the community that loved him so dearly.
Funeral arrangements are still pending but will be held at Stark Memorial Funeral Home in Salem.