Remembering Lou Dorsey

To generations of Westport students, Lou Dorsey was phys. ed.

The Saugatuck native, Staples High School graduate and longtime teacher died November 2, in Florida. He was 93 years old.

Dorsey was a member of Staples’ Class of 1943. He left school after the basketball season, to join the Navy. “It was more important to get in the war before it ended than to get my diploma,” he said in 2004.

Nine classmates (out of a graduation class of 100) also left school early, for the war. Dorsey received his diploma eventually, on leave, in a special ceremony with principal Douglas Young.

Dorsey served in the Pacific Theater, as a radioman third class. After his service he received his undergraduate degree at Arnold College (now the University of Bridgeport), and his master’s at Columbia University.

Lou Dorsey

He taught physical education for 33 years at Saugatuck and Burr Farms Elementary Schools, and Staples High School.

He was inspired to teach by his high school coaches, particularly Roland Wachob at Staples.

“Rollie would put me in charge of his 9th grade class when he’d go off on a baseball trip,” Dorsey said. “If you did that nowadays you’d get sued.”

Dorsey and his wife Pauline spent 60 summers in the western Maine mountains. They moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida 33 years ago, where Dorsey was an avid golfer.

He is survived by 4 children: Judith Dorsey and her husband Kenneth Gomberg; Kimberly Slimak and her husband Michael Slimak; Jiliane Dorsey and Louis Dorsey, Jr. and his youngest sister, Patricia Dorsey Wood, as well as 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Rangeley, Maine next summer. Click here to leave condolences.

35 responses to “Remembering Lou Dorsey

  1. Bonnie Connolly

    I totally remember Coach Dorsey at Saugatuck Elementary. He was great. I loved the field days down on the lower fields. He was probably the first in a long line of great Phys Ed teachers in Westport that inspired me to go to college for Phys Ed. Coach Hall, Joan Flamio, Ginny Parker, Ms Ferris.

    • I have the same memories of Coach Dorsey as Bonnie and loved field day at the end of school year. Believe the woman gym teacher was Miss Farren?

      • Bonnie Connolly

        That’s funny. I don’t remember the female phys ed teacher at Saugatuck. I’ll have to think about that. The Ms Ferris I was referring to was a PE teacher at Staples.

        • Yes I remember Miss Ferris at Staples, Miss Farren was a different person. Anyway Coach Dorsey was a cool guy who kids really liked😀

  2. Janette Kinnally

    He was a great Physical Education teacher. I remember him well. Great person. We were fortunate to have him in Westport along with many other great teachers I had growing up.

  3. At Burr Farms, when we’d play softball, once in a while he’d get up to bat and the outfield would back up as far as they could. Then he’d hit a gigantic homer to the amazement of the students. This is a memory from 61 years ago! We really liked him, and looked forward to his class!

  4. Great kind man… was always in good spirits… class act … rip coach

  5. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    Damn I loved that guy… K-6 at Burr Farms, he was the man who made me do a million things that I had no real interest in doing but I have nothing but incredibly fond memories of Coach. The only lottery winner I ever knew personally and the win was well deserved by Lou.
    Condolences to Kim and the entire family.

  6. Remember Coach Dorsey very well. In the old Saugstuck elementary gym downstairs from the library and cafeteria straight across. The smells of lunch wafting across the hall. I hated rope climbing and laps but he was a good man and was always positive.

  7. I remember Coach Dorsey from Burr Farms as well. He was a great teacher and an all around good man. I remember his favorite expression was “walk it off” regardless of what your injury might have been. He taught us to be tough but fair – words to live. I was very happy for him when he won the lottery. Coach Dorsey was truly one of the good guys.
    RIP Coach

    • Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

      My Coach story is… softball Burr Farms lower field, He shouted Fernie is pitching. I don’t want to pitch Coach, stop whining you are pitching… Mark M. was the first up at bat, I lobbed in a pitch as best I could and Mark swung and line drove it into my face… never bled that bad ever… Coach told me to stop being a baby and wash it off… Mark wrote me recently and he remembers it as well as I do 55+ years later.

    • Won the lottery?

  8. Lou Dorsey was an awesome Phys Ed. teacher. I had him for all 6 years at Saugatuck El. Maybe 7 (I can’t remember if we had Gym in Kindergarten). He had that rare ability to seem stern, but really was kind and worked hard to make whatever we were doing fun. He laughed a lot. These were the days when we would do the “rope climb” all the way to the ceiling in the gym for fun. I can still remember Coach Dorsey very carefully explaining how to wrap your ankles around the rope and that the “trick” was to use your legs and not your arms. Then he (in his 50’s) would hop on the rope and climb to the ceiling to show us how it’s done. Today’s parents would faint at what we (girls and boys) were doing back then. RIP.

  9. Melinda Hemson

    I’m so sad to hear this. I loved Coach Dorsey. My dad had him as a gym teacher at Saugatuck Elementary when he was in 2nd grade. As a sophomore at Staples in the mid 80’s, I ended up in one of his classes. I remember on the first day, he saw my name on the class list and asked if I had a brother named Bill. I told him no, my dad was Bill. By the look on his face, you could tell that made him feel a little old but he still remembered my dad after all those years and had followed my dad’s athletic career through school, even when he went to Wright Tech. I remember that for some reason he could never remember my name so he when he wanted to get my attention, he just yelled “Hey! Billy’s little girl!”

  10. Coach Dorsey also ran for the state senate as the democratic nominee. His dedication to service of others was commendable

  11. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    Back in the 60’s I had no interest in sports and preferred to read a book so was a chubby kid and PE class at Saugatuck was not a fave. I remember Coach Dorsey and Coach Hall having us run laps and being at the back of the pack. They would yell unflattering remarks to us lagging behind that would be labeled ‘fat shaming’ or ‘bullying’ today. But you know what? One day I realized they were right. I started trying harder and at Bedford started playing tennis and skiing and eventually running (which I still do to this day). Coach Dorsey encouraged me to do better and push myself and I’ve never forgotten him. Thanks Coach, because of you I’m never at the back of the pack anymore. RIP.

  12. Sad to hear about Coach Dorsey’s passing. Funny, we Burr Farms El students always thought of Coach Dorsey as ours alone – great gym teacher, always upbeat, encouraging every kid. He had us doing everything – pommel horse, vault, climbing those damn ropes, outdoor games, and let’s not forget the Presidential and Town Physical Fitness Award tests (shuttle run ?) As for Coach Dorsey, does anyone else remember Crackerball? Seemed to be among his favorite games to have us play whenever the weather kept us indoors.

  13. A real gentleman with a great sense of humor. I remember he retired while I was at Staples, was sorry to see him go. Condolences to all the family. 93 is pretty good innings! It makes me sad to see the passing of the ‘greatest generation’.

  14. RIP, Coach.

  15. Lou Dorsey had a unique hands-on approach to Dodgeball at Burr Farms:
    1. No midline separating two teams — it was everyone against everyone else, in a continuous frenzy on the entire gym floor.
    2. His favorite variation was “Headhunter” — a hit only counted when the ball hit another player on the head! [Your read that correctly — we were told to aim at each other’s heads!]
    3. Coach plays! He would hold two or three balls in one arm, and descend on some hapless student yelling “Cowabunga!” as he slammed a ball into their head with the other arm.

    This was not my favorite activity, but I am here to tell about it 55+ years later.

    • Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

      Scott, I think we were on the same team many times and were both victims of his Cowabungas…

  16. He also worked at Kid Gloves/Anthony’s Health Center, a private gym along the Saugatuck River on Kings Highway. Coach Dorsey would drive a few of us from Burr Farms to there after school. The highlight was when Kirk Douglas, father of my classmate Joel Douglas, came to visit. The Town Crier sent a photographer there and we got our pictures with him published in the paper.

    • John, what year was that? Do you have the clipping? If so, you should email it to Dan.

      • The year was 1959-60. Unfortunately I don’t have the clipping. When my mother came to pick us up he gave her an autograph which was filed away and forgotten as well.

    • I wonder what happened to Joel. I was friends with him around 1957 or 1958. I remember him and a student named Candy Thrush. Does anyone remember Candy?

      • After 8th grade, he was planning on going to prep school. We moved from Westport then so I don’t know if he did that.According to the internet, Joel is currently working “behind the camera” in Hollywood.

  17. Wow he just died!? Loved him, a legend at Saugatuck. I remember he won the lottery. Love to know if Bartleme, Bayus, et al. are with us. Just met Mrs. Skolnick!

  18. Coach Dorsey was so great!! He used to call me “fiddler on the roof”.

  19. Michael Pettee

    Oh I am so sad to hear Coach Dorsey has died. Coach Dorsey was a very big part of my growing up and that includes all K-6 years at Burr Farms. He had been a good friend to my mother and I was a student at Burr Farms when she died. I think they worked together on Fresh Air projects. Coach was a huge support to me and my brothers and sisters (the five, later six, of us went K-6 in either Burr Farms or Saugatuck).
    I was a shy kid. Coach Dorsey was something of a lifeline for me in those years. I was in a boxing class he taught after school at Burr Farms and I actually know something about boxing because of that. Two of my brothers, twins, were toddlers at the time and he was always checking-in with me on “Louie, Huey and Dewie,” his names for the toddler twins, always asking if there was a third, and trying to get a rise out of this shy kid. The other way he tried to get me worked up was by calling me “Pretty-Patty-Pettee.” I remember it clear as a bell today and it brings tears to my eyes. I see now that he had fun names for lots of kids. I would consider myself lucky to as an important fixture in child’s life as Coach Dorsey was in mine. RIP.

  20. Coach Dorsey was always giant in my world, from first grade on; and I didn’t care a hoot about sports or athletics till I was well on my way out of Burr Farms. Oddly he has been coming up in my thoughts quite a bit recently. He was a loving, thoughtful teacher and mentor to every child he worked with, and treated us all as his own. He would give a little pat on the cheek, rough up my hair and say, “You handsome little devil…” when I was down, to make a point to keep going. I remember a talk he gave one day about when he discovered self-motivation- I never forgot and used many times myself. In the early 70’s there was a lot of turbulence at school when the bussing began and he gave us kids talk about it to help process perspective and context of the issue to us kids that was so sensitive, thoughtful and brilliant. My deep appreciation for having him as a coach, (no other coach I ever had came close) and my condolences to Lou, Kimberly and all your relations. RIP Coach. -p

  21. Patricia Wood née Dorsey

    I’m not sure I want to admit this after reading a couple of these comments, but this kind man, Lou Dorsey, was my brother. Nearly 15 years older than I, his first P.E. job was at Saugatuck Elementary when I was in the 5th grade. I was a wreck when I found out, although I loved him deeply, The first time he saw me, he said, “Don’t think you’re going to be treated special because you’re my sister, you know, You’ll be treated like everyone else.” One other memory from my childhood with Big Lou in charge was at a Field Day. I was doing the broad jump and fell backwards after a great jump. I could not stop sobbing, and Lou kept asking me why I was crying. “Are you hurt? he asked in a very concerned way. No, I wasn’t hurt. I wanted him to be proud of me as an athlete and thought I had disappointed him. When I finally told him, he got all soft and said “You could never disappoint me.”

  22. My Lou Dorsey nickname was Doris Day …. he was so jovial about those monikers …. I laughed whenever he said it …. glad to hear he lived a very full and loving life including Maine and Florida as well as Westport … rest easy Coach D.

  23. My condolences to Kim and the entire Dorsey family. 93, a good long life lived. Cheers, Coach Dorsey!