The community came out in force Friday night for the rededication of the Thomas F. Lonergan Field at Pine Bush High School.
Included in the crowd, were some of Coach Lonergan’s family members – grandchildren Jimmy Boxberger and his wife Vicki, and Wendy DeJong. Many other family members watched the event on livestream, including Coach Lonergan’s two remaining daughters, Gloria Jean from Virginia and Marlene from Florida, and grandchildren Coreen Beck from Ohio and Robert Milling from Liberty.
On the field was the color guard from the American Legion Post 1308, presenting the colors for the ceremony.
Coach Lonergan dedicated 32 years to educating students in Pine Bush. But he was much more than a teacher. He was a mentor and a coach, and he put his students and their needs at the forefront of his life.
Board of Education President Gretchen Meier said that although she didn’t know Coach Lonergan, she set out to find out about him. She couldn’t find much on social media, nor with her contacts at the library, who was away. One of his students, a 1961 graduate of Pine Bush, stopped by her driveway clear out of the blue. He remembered Coach Lonergan fondly as the gym teacher and driver’s education teacher. She spoke to him about the man for whom the field has been dedicated since 1988 and will continue to be dedicated long into the future.
“I challenge everyone in this crowd to talk to someone older than you, to hear the stories and history of where we live,” said Ms. Meier. “These stories are part of the tenacity and spirit that makes Pine Bush what it is today.
“I am proud to have voted yes with my fellow board members unanimously to rededicate this modern turf field, she continued, “blending the generations and our future.”
Former Superintendent Dr. William Bassett took to the podium and talked about the original dedication back in September 1988 which, he said, he was fortunate to have attended. He said this rededication ceremony is certainly for Thomas Lonergan, to rekindle the memories of one of Pine Bush’s outstanding teachers. But it also serves to keep alive the interesting history of our school district.
When the reconstruction of the field was coming to a conclusion in 1987, there was talk about naming the field after someone.
“Generally there was a feeling in the community to name it for Tom Lonergan,” said Dr. Bassett. Board member Corky Jeronimo brought the idea to the board, which agreed unanimously to the field Thomas F. Lonergan Field.
“Tonight, we rededicate the field for a truly great man who had such a positive impact on so many students and was an outstanding example of what a teacher should be,” said Dr. Bassett.
Superintendent Brian Dunn followed, noting that he hopes the field dedication lasts another 100 years! He gave a shout out to the fall athletic teams that are still in the hunt for Section IX championships and those who have competed their seasons.
He saluted the juniors and seniors – noting they had lost a lot in the way of rites of passage because of the pandemic. “It’s our sincere hope you have a really awesome homecoming experience tonight. You deserve it!” he said.
Mr. Dunn thanked the board of education for their unanimous support with this project, and gave special recognition to Joe Lenz, the district’s assistant superintendent for business. Mr. Lenz saw there was a deadline looming for certain funds to be used. With supply chain issues limiting what could be done in time, he pulled out the plans that were drawn back in 2018 for these turf fields, ready to go. The board approved, the work began, and was completed on time.
“This would not have happened without you,” he said to Mr. Lenz, who he called “an amazing professional.” He then got the crowd to give three cheers for Mr. Lenz!
Mr. Dunn also thanked former Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Donna Geidel, former Assistant Superintendent for Business Mike Pacella and the late Tim Mains, former district superintendent, “for envisioning ‘right now’ three or four years ago.”
It was time to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the new Thomas F. Lonergan Field. Students were selected to do the honors, along with Coach Lonergan’s grandchildren, Wendy and Jimmy.
The football team and cheerleaders celebrated senior night on this homecoming. All seniors were announced with their families, and then the choir sang the Star Spangled Banner.
An amazing fireworks display capped off the rededication ceremony.