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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

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.


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