Robert “Apache” Paschall was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a son, a brother, a father, a friend, a coach and a leader. Mostly, though, Paschall was in trouble.
“My son did not follow the rules,” Paschall’s mother, Elaine Bartlett, said, “because he knows that the rules were not put into place to help the ones that needed help the most.”
At his funeral on Saturday at the United House of Prayer in Harlem in front of about 250 people, those were the two biggest messages relayed by the nearly dozen speakers -- the trouble Paschall caused and his will to help others. Paschall, 38, died on Jan. 3 of heart failure while battling an aggressive form of skin cancer.
Conflict seemed to follow Paschall around. Even after his death there was controversy over when his Nazareth team should be allowed to return to the court. But more than anything, his life was about helping others.
“That’s how you knew you loved Apache,” said Carlos Semple, an original Exodus member. “He pissed you off, but then the next day you couldn’t wait to see him.”
The funeral itself was light-hearted, as many said Paschall would have liked. Among the speakers were Apache’s mother and his daughter, Nytaea Satara Paschall.
Perhaps the most touching speech came from the mother of his longtime friend and assistant, Lauren Best. Wanda Via spoke about meeting Paschall for the first time and why he never left their lives.
“Apache had four passions in life,” Via said. “Basketball, helping others, his daughter and my cooking.”
Afterwards, everyone talked about how beautiful the funeral was and also how little some of them actually knew about Paschall.
“We call Apache the mystery man,” Ron Kelley, his assistant coach at Nazareth said. “Apache put everybody in a certain circle, but they were separated and only connected by him. So one circle would know a set of stories and another circle would know another. So to hear the stuff that I heard was fun to hear. It was insightful and it was like, ‘Wow, who would have thought.’ ”
Ultimately, though, the biggest thing that mourners, especially the players he coached, took away from the funeral was to carry on Paschall’s legacy. Love him or hate him, his intentions were to help others.
Now that he’s gone, that burden falls upon those left behind.
“All he ever wanted out of me was for me to make it in life,” said Tiffany Jones, who played for Paschall at Nazareth last year. “Now you have no choice but to make it, that's what he wanted. If he was here, he'd be pushing us all to it.
“Now he's not here. He never let us down. We can't let him down.”