Remembering a Legend: Ed Mariano
For what seemed like the 73rd school day in a row, I was in trouble.
But on this occasion, the second-grader I was really felt the wrath of my punishment. It was the first time we had outdoor recess after the winter and I was forced to stand against the wall while the rest of my classmates enjoyed the beautiful weather.
While moping around depressed, the Principal of Andrew Avenue School in Naugatuck, Ed Mariano, came over to talk to me. He asked what I did (probably talking when not supposed to) and then told me to join my friends in the schoolyard. I told him my teacher said I had to stay there, but he reassured me everything was fine and to go have fun.
That afternoon in 1989 was probably my most memorable and meaningful moment as a student. No, it wasn't a passionate lecture or a reading assignment of classic literature. It was a simple act of kindness. A trait Ed Mariano carried until his passing at the age of 88 last week.
When I was at Andrew Avenue, I was not into sports and unbeknownst to me, my principal was a local sports legend. Mariano may own the world record for the amount of Hall of Fames he's in, being a member of the Connecticut Football Officials Hall of Fame, the Connecticut High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Waterbury Sportsmen's Club Hall of Fame and the Naugatuck Hall of Fame.
Mariano, a World War II Navy veteran, was the head basketball coach at Naugatuck High School for 13 years and umpired in the Cape Cod League for 10 years. He also once worked the College World Series. And for good measure, he was the captain of the baseball, basketball and football teams during his playing days at Naugatuck High School.
When you attend an event at the Naugatuck gym, you are doing it at the Edward R. Mariano Gymnasium.
His love for sports and life was as evident in his later years than ever. Whether running into him at St. Francis Church, a Naugatuck High sporting event or at a Gilbert football game where he was the timekeeper, he always had a smile and an encouraging word.
The last time I saw him, around one year ago, it was the perfect culmination of that. He was with his family at Giuseppe's Italian Pizzeria in Naugatuck and when I went over to say hello, he was very happy and having a great time. As always, he asked how my family and I were and what I was writing about. And just before saying goodbye, the sports competitor inside him kicked in. Mariano shook his head in disbelief and asked me why Mark Teixeira continued to pull the ball when a defensive shift was put on against him.
It would be understood, or even expected, for a person of his stature to have a large ego, especially in a small town like Naugatuck. But Ed Mariano from beginning to end carried himself with the ultimate combination of class and kindness.
He will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.