Sunday, October 12, 2008

EVENT SETS PLAINVILLE APART

Byron J. Treado III had a vision.

The “Forever Plainville” sportsman/banker anticipated a yearly evening of fellowship, revelry, nostalgia and fine dining where the people of his sports-loving community could honor those who left a legacy on the fields, in the gymnasiums and the pool at the high school.

Treado’s brainchild – the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner – celebrated its 10th anniversary in grand style Saturday night with a packed house at Nuchie’s Restaurant in Forestville a stirring testament to its popularity.

The Class of 2008 befits the milestone.

James Tufts (’59) played on the state championship basketball team in 1958-59 and continued to nourish the community as a teacher and coach. Kevin Beaudin (’81) was an All-State baseball player under coach Ron Jones and went on to play for Jones at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Peter Van Zandt (’85) and his sister Amy Van Zandt (’89) set multiple swimming records that remain posted on the wall at the pool. Gregory Henry (’76) starred for the Blue Devils in football, basketball and track before heading to Dartmouth.

Lou Mandeville Jr. (’85) spent 18 years as baseball coach Bob Freimuth’s assistant and 10 seasons assisting his wife Lisa, who retired as girls basketball coach after last season. Matt Buckler (’70) received the John E. Toffolon Memorial Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to PHS sports through a prominent career in local media.

Many towns and cities have Halls of Fame. New Britain’s has to rank as one of the best anywhere. Wethersfield and Rocky Hill started theirs in recent years. To the best of my knowledge, the other local towns have yet to turn the key to their own rich heritage because they need somebody to take them by the hand.

Inevitably, some will take the efforts put forth by community-minded folks like Treado for granted. The domains of local sports and history will wed only in certain hearts and Plainville has benefited greatly from Treado’s devotion and meticulous administration.

Peter Van Zandt captured the essence of Treado’s passion in one sentence when he said about the honor bestowed upon him, “The more I read about it, the more I understood what it all meant.”

Peter discovered the importance of strengthening the bonds that link the generations of a community; that they can revive the spirit and enhance the lives of the folks who have lived there. Such factors have great motivation for Treado as he goes through the painstaking preparation for the event year in and year out.

For example, when the honorees arrived Saturday, Treado took their photos, had them processed promptly and returned to the hall, slipped them into custom-made plaques for presentation after dinner. Since the actual plaques go on display in a wing near Ivan Wood Gymnasium, these photo-plaques allow the honorees to go home with a palpable memory of the evening.

Then there’s the dinner itself. Treado could barely savor his baked stuffed shrimp because of the brush fires that kept popping up. Ten people who hadn’t made plans to attend walked through the door during cocktail hour and Treado somehow had to expand the capacity of a room that was already pretty full.

Of course he got it done.

But Treado would be uneasy for any attention placed on him. One last item on Plainville’s Great Organizer is that next year will be his last as chairman of the committee. He seems relatively sure that others will pick up the ball and run with it.

First on the docket for enshrinement was Mandeville. He requested the first slot so his yawning boy Tyler could watch Dad receive the honor before heading off to slumber.

Lisa, enshrined herself in 2006, presented Lou with the award after Jones read a robust four-page greeting from Freimuth, also a 2006 inductee who was out of town for the event.
Said Lisa, her voice cracking with the same emotion that we will always remember as she slapped those patent leathers on the gym floor to get her players’ attention: “Whether it was I or Freem receiving the accolades, Lou never said a word. Lou is my Hall of Famer.”

Buckler, a longtime sports writer at the Manchester Journal Inquirer and the public address voice at several state auto racing venues, brought the house down with self-deprecating humor that had the assemblage roaring with laughter.

“Who was the best athlete in the history of this school? Was it John Gacek or Steve Vargo? Was it Earle Jackson or Bill Lasher? Was it Tim Graney or Niko Koutouvides? The arguments go on and on,” Buckler began.

“But there is no argument who the worst athlete in the history of the school is. Right here.”
He went on to poke fun at himself as the tackling dummy holder in football, foul ball chaser in baseball and charged with making sure his brother got to practice on time in basketball.

“The records I hold,” he continued. “Least amount of chin-ups done in four years. Zero. It’s a record that will never be broken. … In gym class we had to run the mile. I hold the record with a 4:17 – four days and 17 hours. I was gone so long they thought I dropped out of high school.”

Buckler then received citations from the State Legislature and Governor M. Jody Rell, courtesy of Plainville State Representative Betty Boukus. Buckler, primarily an entertainment page editor at the J-I but still active covering local sports, was genuinely touched.

But it all goes back to Treado. From nostalgic tears shed to wonderful memories relived and the guffaws during Buckler’s performance, none would have filled the room at Nuchie’s and so many hearts had it not been for his effort.

Every town should have such a person who gives of himself so its sports legacy can flourish for future generations to cherish. It helps make Plainville anything but plain.

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