In the 1960s and ’70s, Long Lots was a tight-knit junior high community.
The faculty and administrators were some of the finest Westport has ever seen.
Camaraderie and spirit — among staff, students and parents — was sky-high.
Over the past few years, some of the people most instrumental in making the school what it was have died.
Joe Koeller. Art Bleemer. Joe Ziegahn. Rich Rollins. Lee Hawes.
Add John Day to the list. He passed away last week in Arizona.
John was a wood shop teacher, back in the day when all boys took that course. But although his room was down a long flight of stairs, he was as important an instructor as anyone.
Like any good teacher, he taught the whole student. Like any good educator, he cared about the entire school environment. Like any good role model, he was firm, fair, and fun.
John was also Long Lots’ 1st soccer coach, back in the day when Westport’s 3 junior highs battled each other — and Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich — in interscholastic sports.
He’d learned the game in England, during World War II. He kept 40 or so 8th and 9th graders on his teams. He didn’t have a field — football took the upper area, and the lower part had not yet been carved out of the woods — so his teams practiced on a tiny patch of grass where the playground is now. They played their home matches at the very small Green’s Farms Elementary field.
How he did it — handled so many kids, in such a limited space — I’ll never know.
But one of those soccer players was me.
I wasn’t a very good wood shop student. Nor was I a soccer star.
But John Day gave me a chance. I loved the game.
Decades later, I still do.
And — with considerably more resources than he had — I too am coaching. In fact, before I coached at Staples, I succeeded him at Long Lots.
Thanks, Mr. Day. You influenced thousands of kids.
I’m proud to say I’m one of them.