Remembering Gene Pelletier

I did not know Gene Pelletier well. He was highly regarded as a youth baseball and football coach, but ours was a nodding, so-how-are-your-teams-doing? type of acquaintance.

Kathie Motes Bennewitz send me his obituary today. It’s worth sharing with all “06880” readers — whether you knew him or not. I wish I’d known earlier about the adversity he overcame, and more about the life he led. 

Gene Pelletier died Monday, January 26, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He was 74, and lived in Byfield, Massachusetts.

Gene Pelletier

Gene Pelletier

Growing up in Minneapolis, Gene was stricken at age 10 with osteomyelitis in his left leg. It was feared he might never be able to walk, let alone run. After many operations to save his leg and several years wearing a brace, he became one of the top sprinters in Minnesota. He set many records in the 100 and 220 yard dashes, and anchored his high school state championship 880 relay team. At the University of Minnesota he was an M Club Letterman in track, and studied in the College of Education.

His 30-plus year career in college textbook publishing and sales brought him to Westport. He also worked for 2 years as a Paine Webber broker.

For many years Gene was a mainstay of Westport youth baseball. Active first in Little League, he went on to develop powerhouse Babe Ruth League teams. As commissioner, he was a founder of the Senior Babe Ruth team expansion and Fairfield County play.

He then became manager for an American Legion squad. He soon turned it into a perennial contender.

Bob Jones, who coached for many years with Gene, says his laid-back coaching style had a profound effect on his players – and his coaches. Bob calls Gene “as competitive as they come – but he didn’t believe that yelling would get you anywhere. He believed you play as you practice. So he kept his cool even in high-pressure situations. Over time his players adopted that approach to competition. It paid off, on the field and off.”

Gene also coached Westport’s Pop Warner midget and junior football teams. At Staples he was head coach of the sophomore football team, and an assistant varsity coach. Former player Ed Utz cited Gene’s “wealth of football knowledge. He coached the game for all the right reasons.”

Gene is survived by wife, Mary Beth; children Michael (Stephanie), Christopher (Louyi) and Elisabeth Jones; 3 grandchildren; his brother Len (Barbara), sister Barbara Edwards, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Gene’s life will be held in Minnesota in June. Donations in his memory will be used to establish a scholarship for a Staples High School athlete, and can be sent to: Gene Pelletier Scholarship Fund, 12 Colby Lane, Byfield, MA 01922.


11 responses to “Remembering Gene Pelletier

  1. Michael Calise

    I met Gene and Mary Beth when they firdt moved to Westport. They were a great addition to our Weswtport community. My fondest regards to Mary Beth and her family, very sorry for their loss.

  2. Gene was my football coach as a youth playing Pop Warner and then later when he was an assistant coach at Staples High School. He knew the game extremely well and was a great teacher on both sides of the ball. Heck, we were running a pro-style offense with a hundred page playbook and some of us were only 10 or 11 years old! That was pretty advanced back in those days. Additionally, he was ahead of his time in that we often practiced in shorts and did not have full contact practices every day. He was exactly the kind of coach you’d want in terms of sportsmanship, patience, and ability to motivate young people. I loved playing for that guy. My condolences to his family.

    • Thank you for your kind words! My dad is smiling down on you!

    • Yes that play book was heavy!! I have the entire set of his play book still! My dad believed in treating us kids as young adults and expected is to learn advanced things. His coaching style was the only style I knew until I played in high school. Thanks for the kind words! I am proud to have had him as my father!

  3. Doug Gallagher

    Coach Pellietier was my football coach for many years from Pop Warner through High School and also my Junior/Senior Babe Ruth baseball coach. The best of the best when it came to coaching you kids. Jay, I remember that dam playbook, I swear, it was larger than any school text book that I had. Coach P was always pushing the envelope, always pushing us to practice hard, stay focused, and play hard on game day. Always remember him standing in the 3rd base coach box giving those sign’s (the watch was always the indicator that the next signal was the play). Like Jay, loved playing for Coach Pellietier. My condolences to his family

    • Doug, I had to laugh out loud when I read your comment on the signal calling at third base! It was so simple that we never missed it, and no other team ever figured it out!! I always looked for the combo…. Watch then leg! Haha you know how much I
      Loved to steal a base!!!! Doug, my dad loved coaching you! You always were a great player!
      Chris Pelletier

  4. I’m fortunate to have played on 4 winning baseball teams with Coaches Gene Pelletier and Bob Jones – Jaguars (Westport LL) and Greens Farms Volunteer Fireman (Babe Ruth).

    David Pettee
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    SHS ’81

    • Dave, my dad always new good talent when he saw it, and that is why you were with him for 4 years! I enjoyed playing with you to! Thanks again for the kind wards!

  5. I was also fortunate enough to have Gene Pellietier as a coach in both football and baseball…First time playing organized football at 9 and baseball in my teens. It’s amazing how much our life lessons have come from our early years competing, working with teammates, learning how to work for a common goal…growing up in Westport in the 70’s many of us were very blessed to have coaches like Gene, who gave so much of their free time to helping us develop, not just as athletes, but as good people as well. Dan, thanks for posting…Condolences to the whole Pellietier family…

    • Jimmy, thank you so much for the kind wards! My brother and I told my mom how much my dad was loved by the kids in Westport. Know see he understands! Sometimes I would walk downtown with my dad a kid would come up to my dad and say hello, I would not even know the kid! My dad knew more kids in that town than I did!!

  6. The greatest memory of playing for and being coached by Gene were putting on the U of Minn. Boccanfuso Brothers Maroon uniforms in Sr. Babe Ruth! He loved those colors and was a heck of a coach. Gene, Bob Jones and my father made up a great coaching staff for many American Legion teams well after their kids were well gone. Everyone should remember the lessons of sportsmanship and having fun that Gene and others taught us. Lessons that last for a lifetime.