Generations of Westporters knew Ron Weir. For decades he was a big, gruff-looking — but gentle, soft-hearted — physical education teacher at Coleytown Junior High and Middle Schools.
Ron died on Monday. Word came in a brief email from a fellow Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club member. For the past couple of years, he lived very quietly in a nursing home.
Ron coached football and other sports when the 3 Westport junior highs had interscholastic teams. He was tough and hard, and his teams were good. He loved his players, and would do anything for them.
But as a teacher, he was the opposite. He took equal interest in the scrawny, shy little boys — and, after gym classes became coed, the girls he had never before known or had to teach. He tried to give every kid confidence, and wanted every child to love phys ed.
Ron may be best known for his wrestling tournament. Every year at Christmas — right around this time — he organized a school-wide event. It was asking a lot of 12- and 13-year-olds to go out on the mat, with all their friends and teachers watching. But for many — win or lose — it was an experience they’ll never forget.
Every year, I refereed that tournament. And every year — right after the final match — Ron and his wife Val thanked me, by taking me out to lunch.
At Le Chambord.
That was an elegant French restaurant in Westport. Other diners might have thought us an incongruous trio: me, gym teacher Ron, and his wife Val — also a PE instructor, but as petite and demure as Ron was big and brash.
That was a side of Ron Weir that few people saw. He was a talented cook, and a wine connoisseur. He grew up in a blue collar New Jersey town, and thought he’d be a bricklayer until the University of Bridgeport opened his eyes to the possibility of teaching.
He also loved animals. Val turned their Redding home into a menagerie, and Ron happily helped out.
He loved his boat too. He was a frequent presence at his club, telling stories and cooking. One summer evening, I met him there. He took me out on the Sound, then up the Saugatuck River. We docked at the Mooring restaurant, and had a memorable meal. (He ordered really, really good wine.)
Ron spent his last years in relative obscurity. A couple of former football players and boat club members were regular visitors, but no one else. Val died a number of years ago.
There has been no obituary. According to the email sent by his boat club, he is survived by one sister. And, it says, “per Ron’s wishes there will be no formal funeral arrangements.”