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Nashua Athletics Hall of Fame set to induct 2021 class next week

EDITOR’S NOTE: Telegraph Staff Writer Tom King is a member of the Nashua Hall of Fame Committee.

By TOM KING

Staff Writer

NASHUA – It took a mention in passing, a telephone conversation or two, and meeting between Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras and former Nashua High School athlete George Tebbetts and local community leader Ed Lecius.

With the switch turned on, the wheels were set in motion for the revival of the Nashua Athletics Hall of Fame.

And in a short week it officially returns.

Next Saturday, a year after an induction ceremony was originally to be held – and two-and-half years after a committee begin working on the project – a video will be released on line for a virtual induction. It will contain interviews done with nine of the inductees and family members of the two being inducted posthumously.

But finally, the journey begun by Gingras to revive the Hall will be complete.

The first formal committee meeting took place in November of 2018, and they continued through not just one but two postponements of the induction ceremony due to the COVID pandemic.

And then there was the ultimate decision by the committee a couple of monts ago, rather than postpone again with all the pandemic variables or chance an outdoor induction due to weather, to hold a virtual induction. It will be complete with interviews with the inductees, etc., an example of technology’s way of getting over the pandemic hurdle to make the third attempt the charm.

In April of 2020, the committee voted to postpone the event until last October.

But in the fall, it had to be postponed a second time with the official statement from Gingras saying “Given the continued situation in our community, the state, and the world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic there was no other decision to be made.”

But rather than making that difficult decision again, two options were considered: Some type of outdoor ceremony, or a virtual one. With weather, one, and two, travel and precautions/safety during the pandemic a very big question mark, the virtual induction choice was made.

HISTORY

The first formal committee meeting took place in November of 2018, and they continued through not just one but two postponements of the induction ceremony due to the COVID pandemic and the ultimate decision this past winter, rather than postpone again with all the pandemic variables or chance an outdoor induction due to weather, to hold a virtual induction.

The television broadcast department led by educator Jeff Leone at Nashua High School South handled the production in its studios of video zoom interviews conducted by committee members Nate Mazerolle and Jason Robie. Both raved about the history and the anecdotes that were discussed in the interviews, which is why an effort to have them available in their entirety was in the works.

And a video of the induction will be released next Saturday with interview clips – but, as mentioned, there are plans for the entire interviews, which are about 30 minutes per inductee, to be able to be seen as well via the web, perhaps on YouTube, and also there are plans to air the program on Nashua ETV. Plans had not been finalized or announced as of this writing, but an announcement with links, etc. were in the works.

It’s been one long road thanks to the pandemic, but even longer was the gap when the Hall of Fame was discontinued some 21 years ago.

It’s something that Gingras said she had in her plans since taking the AD job nearly eight years ago; now that plan has come to fruition as she made the Hall of Fame revival official at the Board of Education meeting just over two years ago.

“It’s been something I’ve had on the back burner since I got this position,” Gingras said back in 2019 when the plans to revive the Hall were made public.. “Recognition of our student-athletes is top most. That’s why we’re all here, to recognize all the great things our kids do, on or off the field, pool, etc. So it’s always been in my long-range plans. So after fourish, four-and-a-half years, it was time.

“When I first came into this position, that was one thing people said, ‘Are you going to bring the Hall of Fame back?’ Or it was, ‘Are you ever going to start one’, because some people didn’t know it ever existed.”

Gingras put together a volunteer committee of current administrators,current and past coaches and community leaders, plus media.

Tebbetts, the key figure and organizer in the original Hall, was more than receptive to Gingras’ ideas.

“There’s been an incredible gap after 2000 when we honored a lot of the greatest athletes back in the day, the great coaching,” Tebbetts said when meetings began over two years ago. “There was this gap, and I felt, really, we need to put this back together.

“Now we have two schools, a lot of people in town, great athletes and coaches, and I thought it (would be great). I talked to Lisa, mentioned to her, I’d like to do something about this.”

After first talking with Tebbetts, about six months later, Gingras called him with her ideas, and the idea of putting a committee together to develop nomination criteria and procedure, a nomination form, a Hall of Fame constitution, and when the time comes late next fall, vote on nominees for selection. She met with Tebbetts and Lecius last July to get their input, formulate a solid plan,“and the train’s been moving ever since.”

Until COVID nearly derailed it.

The plan was to have the first resumption of inductions at a ceremony in May of 2020, and likely have an induction ceremony every two years thereafter, if appropriate. Now the next induction will be in the spring of 2023.

Gingras researched other high school and college halls of fame to come up with ideas.

“There was never any written document about the Hall of Fame in Nashua,” she said. “So to me it was important for longevity sake – there’s going to be a day someday when I may retire – so the next person coming in doesn’t have to come in and start from scratch.

“Other than the knowledge that George and Ed have, and their colleagues that I did not meet with, there was nothing on how is it decided, etc. So I felt it was important to put a constitution together. This is who we are, this is what we’re doing, and this is why we’re doing it.”

Gingras blamed the frequent turnover in the Nashua athletic director position since Al Harrington’s last year in 2000 – the year of the last induction ceremony – for the shelving of the inductions, as well as the North-South split from the one Nashua High School in 2004.

“It was never something that got off the ground,” Gingras said. “There were three years that were no inductions prior to The Split. So I think the Split and the turnover of athletic directors. It took four-and-a-half years before I was really able to tackle this.”

When the Nashua Hall of Fame was created, inductions were every year from 1991-2000. “They knew then they had all that history,” Gingras said. “There’s a couple of reasons for us (now) to do it every other year, because one, we never want to run out of people to induct; and the amount of work that goes into it,doing it every year, is big.

“A lot of the research I did with other high schools and colleges, there aren’t a lot of schools that do it every single year.”

Gingras said that in the constitution, it says “not fewer than every two years”, so there’s the possibility down the road “We may find at some point, every two years is even too much, let’s go every three. We have that liberty to do that.”

“We need to tie the community together with the gap and the two schools,” Tebbetts said back when the committee began its meetings. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Tebbetts said the current list of Hall of Fame inductees has a a broad scope. The Hall of Fame had induction ceremonies beginning in 1991 until 2000. Tebbetts was the master of ceremonies for all of them.

“Some great athletes,” he said. “And with the Nashua High School girls basketball team, No. 1 in the nation (in 1987), they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. We had John Kissell, we had Buzz (legendary AD/Coach Harvey). … 10 ceremonies.”

And now there will be an 11th in just one more week, in the safest way possible, virtually. And that same broad scope has been used: Athletes, coaches, and contributors to Nashua Athletics, for the unified Nashua, and also for both North and South.

“And here we are, and I’m very happy about that,” Tebbetts said. “I think it’s a great effort (by Gingras). I’m looking forward to it. … I’d have to tip my hat to Lisa, she’s done a great job putting the structure together.”

“This is a very big undertaking,” Gingras said when things began a couple of years ago. “At one hand it’s kind of sad, on the other it’s kind of cool that the next induction is going to be 20 years after the last one.”

Of course, the nominating process was certainly different this time than 20 years ago, thanks to technology. Nomination forms were set up on line at both the North and South athletic web sites, and by late fall of 2019, this year’s nominees – with the idea the induction would be in May of 2020 – were voted on.

The categories for nominees for this induction and in the future include student-athletes (including team managers), coaches or athletic trainers, teams, or special contributors.

Set to be inducted this year are Farley Gates, Al Savage, the late Bob DeMello, the late Mark Russell, Kole Ayi, Amy Ruston, Laura Gerraughty, John Schroeder, Kendall Reyes, Brad Zapenas and Trevor Knight.

Here’s a brief look at the accomplishments of each inductee:

FARLEY GATES: The 1981 Nashua grad earned several accolates in helping to guide the 1980 Panthers to the Class L boys basketball title and went on to a collegiate career/scholarship at the University of San Francisco. Gates has also in the past served as the Chick-fil-A hoop tourney director.

AL SAVAGE: One of the most recognizeable names in local youth sports with the Nashua Elks, Savage helped found the New Hampshire state Decathlon in 1957 and the girls Heptathlon in 1977. Also, Savage is set to be inducted into the Holman Stadium Sports Legends Hall of Fame this Sunday.

BOB DEMELLO (posthumously): DeMello, who passed away in May of 2002, won 10 state championships coaching Nashua track from 1983-1997, and was an assistant coach for Nashua from 1975-1985 and Bishop Guertin from 1999-2001.

MARK RUSSELL (posthumously): The 1966 Nashua grad excelled in football, baseball, winter track and basketball, and after graduating from NHS played football and ran track at Bordentown Military Academy and then football at the University of Massachusetts.

KOLE AYI: Ayi was one of the more dominant football players in the state, graduating from Nashua in 1997 and went on to a Hall of Fame career as a linebacker at Umass-Amherst and then played in the NFL with mainly the St.Louis Rams and the New England Patriots, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Pats in 2002.

AMY RUSTON: The 1999 Nashua grad holds several school and state records in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and went on to compete at Lehman University.

LAURA GERRAUGHTY: One of the most recognizable names in Nashua track as a shot put thrower who was a nine-time state champion and two-time national champion in high school and at the University of North Carolina. Not surprisingly, she went on to compete in the 2004 Olympics.

JOHN SCHROEDER: The 2006 Nashua North graduate was a standout athlete in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, as well as a Class L and state champion.

KENDALL REYES: The second former NFL player in this group. Reyes, the 2007 Nashua North grad, went on to a standout career as a defensive lineman at the University of Connecticut and then as a second round draft choice played with the Chargers, Redskins and Chiefs in the NFL. He is currently an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire.

BRAD ZAPENAS: Zapenas was a standout baseball player at Nashua North (2008 grad), Boston College and went on to a professional minor league career in the Chicago Cubs organization. He was the 2008 New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year.

TREVOR KNIGHT: Knight was a standout quarterback at Nashua South and the Univerity of New Hampshire, and most recently was a member of the Canadian Football League champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers. While at South he was the 2012-13 Gatorade Player of the Year.

They join those already inducted into the Hall of Fame inductees by the year they were inducted:

1991: Paul Bellavance, Ed Davis, Ed Dobrowolski,Don Grandmaison,Sally Guerrette, John Kissell, Greg Landry,Sally Madeira,Tony Marandos,Fran Tate, George “Birdie”Tebbetts,Frank Ulcickas.

1992: Marty Badoian, Richard Belanger Maurice “Butch” Bouchard, Al Briggs, Pete Chesnulevich, Adam Gureckis, TJ Leonard, Bill Lochhead, Wilfred Michaud, Kurt Rowlette, Carl Tamulevich, Sheri Warren (Gagnon)

1993: Pauline Albert, Ray Brooks, Bob Gordon, Bob Jauron, Brad Kreick, Mike Krueger, Nick Mandravelis, Earle McKeown, Cohen “Laddie”Renfroe, Mike Shalhoup, Rich Shrigley, Cindy Steer.

1994: Frank Anderson, Barney Borromeo, Dick Dyer, Bill Foucher, George Gamache, John Gureckis, Louis Lemay, Charles Mellen, Paul Moriarty, Ron Salvail, Bolic Tamulevich, Kerry Welch.

1995: Joe Andruskevich, Stephanie Byrd, Paul Duquette, Bob Gabriel, Bruce Gilbert, Kristin Janosky, Gary Kopka, Ed Lecius Sr., Nick Rodis.

1996: Missy Ayotte, John Fagula, Gary Gilbert, Dave Hogan, Mike MacLeod, Dave Mellon, Ray Oban, Ken Parady, Terry Roy, Bill Stumpf, Ted Trudel,Jr.

1997: Joy Barry, Mel Briggs, Richard Diggins, Sergio Hebra, Albert Lemay, Chris Madigan, Albert Neville, Ed Styrna, George Tebbetts, Don Tyle.

1998: Benjamin Finley, Ron Cote, Lou Daukas, John Demers, Greg Derderian, Steve Frigard, Debra Haggett (Rodier), Ken Marquis, Bill Neville, Max Silber.

1999: Celeste Blankenship (Lavoie), Marcie Byrd, Paul “Toli” Daukas, John Davis, Bruce Gabriel, Peter Gray, Joe Hardwick, Bob Labrecque, Peter Prince.

2000: John Choate, Richard Coutoumas Jr., Veto Kissell, Kara Leary, Philip McLaughlin, Charles Newman, Roger Simpson, Alphonse Swekla, Stacey Sweklo-Bradley.

And, after next Saturday, the list grows, and will continue to do so over the years.

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