To Jackie, Papa Bear, and all the great people

  • I grew up in Olyphant and sports meant everything to me. In 7th grade, a man named Stanley Kucab, a football coach at Olyphant, went to see my father and suggested that he send me to school at Blakely, an event that would shape the course of my life significantly. For that, I am forever thankful to Mr. Kucab, to Coach Henzes Sr., and especially to Jackie, Coach Henzes Jr.

    I came in 8th grade and knew no one. People like Bill Brennan, (love ya Bill), and Vince Cicchi, guys I had known from baseball, greeted me warmly and helped through a very difficult transition. Bill’s family became a second family to me, something I really needed. Summer practices were an introduction to hell. Well, no, they were worse. For reasons unknown to me, Jackie was unhappy with the varsity and spent the entire summer practice with us, (meaning JV). Lucky us! In my life, I have never come close to being pushed to my limits as I was then, and throughout, by Jackie. He had the ability to get more out of someone than any coach I have ever encountered, and I mean it isn’t even close. I want to stress that because it is a talent that worthy of almost limitless praise. I remember one afternoon practice. Hot, I mean HOT, and dusty. We took a break and he gave us water,(it was like candy at Easter). I remember looking over at the field and seeing players from Jessup and Archibald standing there, watching us practice, and I thought, “How can they compete with us when we are here practicing and they are just watching”? And Jackie said “If you guys work hard you can go undefeated throughout high school”. I laughed to myself. Yeah, right. But as the years unfolded, I started to believe, and in terms of the regular season, he was right. I mean, give it some thought. You allow yourselves to be pushed to the limit and just look at what you can achieve. Is that a life lesson or what? And I am sure that although it came to me from Jackie, I know it originated in Papa Bear.

    I was very successful at Blakely but only because Blakely embodied and lived out the term “team”. I was blessed to be a single piece in a wonderfully woven fabric, an incredible combination of talent and effort.

    To the following: Bill Brennan, Vince Cicchi, Rich Sanderson, John Sanderson, Jim Wascura, Gino Merli, Bill Stracka, Nello Rogers, Lou Pilch, Wayne Evans, Ernie Weston, Mike Tomasetti, Mike Magnot, Gary Ruby, Ricky Ruby, Ted Sebastianelli, Bennie Sebastianelli, Tom Capezio, Jimmy Burns, Bob Newton, Bobby Fioretti, Ron Dushney, Dave Paolucci, Lou Parri, Chuckie Fenwick, Jimmy Capezio, I think of you, of us, often. And for those I have not mentioned, please know that it is from a failure of memory and nothing else. You all are such an important part in my life and will be with me forever. So, I guess that is like what it is to be a Blakely Bear. To Jackie, Papa Bear, and all the great people I had the opportunity to be with, to grow with—May God be with you!

    Joe Dziedzic , Class of 1966

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