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Roy Lester, one of Maryland’s winningest high school football coaches, remembered everybody

Roy Lester, pictured while coaching Maryland football, was best known for his success coaching Montgomery County high school teams. (Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

After Bobby Khuen graduated from Richard Montgomery High in 1961, he figured he would part ways with Coach Roy Lester and the Rockville school’s program. But as Khuen began working in defense mapping, Lester continued to reach out.

Years later, Lester would remember Khuen’s best high school games, his parents’ names and occupations, and the girls he dated in high school. He even attended Khuen’s wedding.

Lester, whose children said he died Sunday of complications related to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was one of the most successful high school football coaches in the Washington area. He was 96.

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His players will remember him for how he went out of his way to maintain ties with them throughout their lives.

“I always kind of looked up to him as a father figure,” Khuen said. “You just can’t say enough good things about him.”

Lester, who grew up in Spencer, W.Va., began coaching in this area in 1959 at Richard Montgomery. Lester’s teams went undefeated in six of his 10 seasons there. At the time, Maryland didn’t hold high school football playoffs.

When Lester left Richard Montgomery in 1968 to take over the University of Maryland’s football program, the Rockets had won 25 consecutive games, and his final team was ranked among the best in the nation.

Lester went 7-25 over three seasons at Maryland before the school fired him. Despite his underwhelming record, his children believe Lester helped build the program through his recruiting, bringing in talents such as Randy White, a two-time all-American who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Lester became the head coach at Paint Branch High in 1972 and led the Panthers to their lone state title three years later. Those were some of Lester’s favorite coaching memories, said his son, Tom, because he revivified the program after years of inconsistency. He then became Magruder’s coach in 1979 and claimed state titles in 1984 and 1986.

When he retired in 1993, Lester had won 260 games in Montgomery County. He also taught physical education and driver’s education.

“It’s just a sense of pride when you walk down the street and they hear you’re Roy Lester’s son,” Tom Lester said. “A lot of people ­haven’t heard of him, but the people who have, they say, ‘Oh, my God, he’s the greatest.’ ”

Lester’s former players said he could take a player of any caliber and turn him into a star by placing him at the right position and in the best scheme. And they were in awe of how he could predict ­opponents’ plays.

While Lester was stern as a coach, he was also caring. In the mid-1960s, when Tom was 5, his father had left their Aspen Hill home before Tom ran out of the house crying, wanting to go with him to Richard Montgomery football practice. After driving about a block, Lester noticed his son, backed up and picked him up in his black Volkswagen.

Khuen’s parents went through a divorce when he was in high school, and Lester was there to comfort him.

“He loved people with a childlike quality,” said Lester’s daughter, Amy.

Lester broke his left femur and dislocated his left hip in October, his children said. He underwent rehabilitation but was still battling those injuries when he tested positive for the coronavirus April 23. Before then, he spent much of his time grabbing lunch with former players, learning and memorizing everything he needed to catch up on.

After Lester’s death, former students at his schools shared memories online of how Lester recalled their names even after seeing them just once in the hallway. David Whelan, who played junior varsity football at Richard Montgomery in the early 1960s, visited Lester often at his condo in ­Gaithersburg over his final six months.

“He got to know you,” Whelan said, “and he never forgot it.”

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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