Westfield – The Other Town
August 14th Rita and I will embark on a new chapter in our lives and move from our Westfield home to the Sarasota area in Florida. We will be leaving after 35 years of living in two great homes.
My first experience with Westfield was as a sophomore QB living in Clark and our first big, opening football game of the season was against Westfield and legendary coach Gary Kehler. During preseason our coach Red Kelin and the assistant coaches would refer to Westfield as “the other town”. The opening contest was postponed because many of our players came down with a staff infection and the game #1 became game #8. By that time I was the starting QB and that day there were close to 5000 people at the game in Westfield……..it seemed like there were 20,000 spectators. Well, Westfield won the game 33-13 and I found out what the “other town” was all about.
Fast forward six years later and I’m graduated from UConn and looking for a teaching job. I get a call in the early days of July from Westfield’s Athletic Director John Lay. He asks me if I’m interested in a physical education position at Westfield HS. He remembered me from my HS days at Clark playing against Westfield. I jumped at the chance to teach and coach in the “other town”.
I volunteered as a football coach – with the QBs. Working with Gary Kehler, Dick Zimmer, Dave Cilo and Pete Lima was an amazing learning experience. Westfield was in the middle of the 43 game win streak and I soon learned why Westfield won so many games. The scouting, coaching preparation and attention to detail in teaching the players what to expect on game day was key to Westfield’s success.
I also was fortunate to be an assistant throws coach under legendary Westfield Head Coach Walt Clarkson. I found like in football, Walt’s approach was knowing the opponent and train and prepare the athletes to perform at their maximum ability. I’ve always had tremendous respect for the teaching staff and coaches in the district. Through the years I’m worked with some outstanding coaches like Jack Martin, Ed Tranchina, Jim Benedict, Ken Miller, Bill Tracey, Joe Avena, Bill Mellott, Don MacDonald, Thom Hornish and Bob Brewster. The athletic coaching staff is exceptional and I feel is sometimes taken for granted. Westfield is one of a few school districts that have had an athletic trainer to work with the athletes. John D’ Andrea was ahead of his time for getting our athletes healthy – always with a smile. Sandy Mamary performed the same magic on thousands of athletes and Chris Flores is continuing the tradition.
Our three children, Alison, Greg and Mike went through the K-12 schools and graduated with an outstanding education that helped prepare for college and their adult lives. They all were athletes and their coaches were always respectful, trained them to compete at a high level and treated them fairly as they would their own children.
I had the honor to have taught and coached a number of outstanding young men and women. I coached them and I also learned a lot from each of them. Each athlete was and are unique people and a “one size” didn’t fit any or all of those special people. It was my challenge to find a way to come up with ques that clicked for each of them. The common thread was a burning desire to learn how to be the best, to be successful and be a winner. Their athletic experience prepared them for life’s successes and failures. The list is long and impressive to include National, State, County and Conference champions. Kevin McGorty, Drew Cary, Mike Holliday, Eldy Halsey, Brandon Heroux, Eileen Jackson, Karin Morgan, Glen Kehler, Butch Woolfolk, Owen Brand and Jan Cocoziello to name a few set the standard for those before and after them. There are so many more to name here but they are all special men and women.
The most special moments as a teacher and coach were with my children. I was fortunate to coach all three in a variety of sports. There were challenges being a teacher, coach and then a dad at the end of the day, but I wouldn’t change one second of it for anything. It was certainly a big learning curve for me as each of them worked with coach dad and they had to practice and play longer, harder and better so the “favoritism” label wasn’t thrown back at them.
Finally, my association with the districts teaching staff was awesome. In the 39 years, I’ve marveled at the high quality and unselfishness of all of the teachers, administrators and support staff in the district. I trusted all of my children with any and all of them. And I knew my children would be respected for their efforts, school work and their opinions.
So now we will depart and a young couple with a baby boy will grace and grow in our house that we did for so many years. The cycle of a growing and thriving community lives on and we will be back to visit in the coming years.
Thank you Westfield for a great run and what was “the other town” became OUR TOWN.
God Bless you all.