Westport Celebrates The Legendary Laddie

Dozens of former Staples High School runners — along with friends and fans from the Westport road race series and Pequot Runners — came from as far as California today to honor Laddie Lawrence, and his 50 years of coaching.

It was supposed to be a surprise. But when you’ve touched as many lives as Laddie, the secret was bound to get out.

Still, it was a wonderful and emotional afternoon. In half a century as the town’s running guru — including not only Staples cross country, indoor and outdoor track, and the summer and fall races, but also Thursday evening age group meets — Laddie has created a community of runners of all ages and abilities.

Former Staples teammates from his Class of 1964 were there. So were rival coaches — and Paul Lane, the former Staples coach who first introduced him to track. Parents came too. But most of all, there were runners, present and (recent and distant) past.

Laddie’s Staples classmate, artist Miggs Burroughs, gave him a special gift: this lenticular photo of him, back in high school and today.

He’s won an insane number of championships. His athletes have become All-Americans, and earned college scholarships. But today was a time for everyone, of every speed, to gather together and say “thanks” to a mentor and friend.

Best of all: This was not goodbye. Laddie is not retiring.

Actually, knowing him, he’ll coach another 50 years.

Laddie Lawrence: forever young, and forever loved.

18 responses to “Westport Celebrates The Legendary Laddie

  1. Arline Gertzoff

    I have known Laddie since 5thgrade and theyjust don’tcome Any-better.Even found a place for his class of 64 classmates to enjoy our lobsters Friday night with a roof over our heads I salute your magnificent career

  2. Love that!

  3. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years! Such a marvelous man! He was like a 2nd dad to my son Ev.

  4. Jay Tormey '66

    Congrats Laddie!!

  5. Julie Van Norden

    Laddie is the best! He is everything a coach should be, encouraging, nurturing and inclusive. He knew talent but always pushed everyone, at every level, to do their best. I can say that we, as a family, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Laddie. -The Wynne Family

  6. Peter Gambaccini

    I wish the secret had reached me. I’d have loved to honor Laddie in person. Like so many others from the town can say, Laddie had an incalculable positive impact on my own running and on my love of the sport. Under his watch, a suburb in Connecticut produced national champions in track. And he made the Westport road race series into a welcoming set of events for athletes of all ability levels; it’s a model for programs all over the United States. I can’t think of anyone in any public endeavor, frankly, who’s been as reliable and dependable over the years as Laddie has. Someone should write a book.

    • Peter, you should write that book. Sorry you didn’t hear about it. There was a good cross-section of folks from the ’60s there. And many more were there in spirit!

      • Peter Gambaccini

        I had heard that one class of ’64 person was seeing Laddie today but I did not know that this celebration was what it was about. By the way, kudos to Miggs for his terrific lenticular photo of Laddie.

  7. Albert Beasley

    Congratulations Laddie! I remember you well. You have been a great asset to Westport offering so much to so many. It’s great to hear that you are continuing. All the best.

    Al Beasley, M.D.

  8. Laddie is a wonderful gift to the town…btw Dan…is there a site that gives us notice of events like this? As Peter Gambaccini said…more of would have attended had we known (yeah..I know…it was a “surprise.”…) Few of us read a local paper anymore.

    • I think news was circulated on Facebook (which — no surprise — Laddie does not have time for). I know the organizers tried to reach as many people as they could. They clearly missed some, but rounded up MANY others from many different eras.

  9. Fred Cantor

    Peter and Bill: one of the ways the organizers publicized it was on the private FB page for Staples alumni.

    Also, while I never had Laddie for a coach at Staples–I was just way too slow–I remember that he was so highly thought of even at the beginning of his career. And he unequivocally proved that Leo Durocher was wrong; nice guys can finish first in sports.

  10. The word “great” comes to mind when I think of Laddie Lawerence. I have watched him coach national runners like Henry Wynne and Hannah DeBalsi, as well as kids that were not of that caliber. He treated them all the same. I watched him choke up when he awarded a senior his letter S and said “I love this kid” who showed up to practice every day, and ran every race, even though he finished in the back of the pack.
    Laddie’s legacy is “he changes kids’ lives”. Look how they show up to honor him. He’s a great coach and a great man.

  11. Tom Kashetta

    Laddie is the greatest coach this town has ever seen. He is fantastic person. They should name Staples stadium after him……

  12. What a great guy. I played football for Coach Lane and suggested that I go out for track in the Spring. After some very mediocre try outs ,Coach Lawrence pulls aside and says….”Jonesy, why don’t you just stick with football.” He could always identify great talent. Or the lack there of.

  13. I was fortunate to run under Laddie, he was a fabulous coach, always encouraging yet supportive. So great to hear he’s still having an impact on young athletes!

  14. David Floyd

    Hands down, the BEST coach at Staples! Congrats Laddie!!

  15. Pearl marcus

    Congrats!! 50 years of teaching Westport’s students
    the art of running!!
    I had the privledge of teaching PE with Laddie at Coleytown
    Elementary. He was assigned there for a short time. I, as a teacher, learned a lot about the techniques of running from Laddie.
    Kudos to Laddie!
    Pearl Marcus