RTM pushes for track to be named after coach
WESTPORT — It’s not often hometown heroes are able to see the fruits of their labor, but residents and elected officials are working to ensure one Westporter is around to smell the roses.
Don Bergmann, a Westport resident, said he has exercised on the Staples High School track for more than 20 years, and the one thing that’s remained consistent is the work of track coach Laddie Lawrence.
“I’ve seen him in action as a coach and how he interacts with his athletes and students,” Bergmann said. “He just impressed me as a terrific person and a terrific coach.”
A decorated coach who has spent over 50 years coaching at Staples, Lawrence was inducted into the National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015, the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame and the Connecticut High School Coaches Association hall of Fame.
When the Representative Town Meeting approved a $4.7 million appropriation for four turf field replacements at Staples in April, that gave Bergmann an idea.
“It occurred to me it would be a terrific idea to name this new track after a terrific person,” Bergmann said.
From there, the baton passed to RTM member Andrew Colabella, who shared Bergmann’s sentiments.
“He’s one of a kind,” Colabella said of Lawrence. “He not only does his job, he goes beyond the job.”
Colabella said he has received positive feedback from elected officials about the proposal and also reached out to interim Superintendent David Abbey. Due to the track being a Board of Education facility, the name change would require the BOE’s approval.
From 2004 to 2006, Colabella was coached by Lawrence as a member of the track team.
“He was always happy and friendly even on tough days,” Colabella recalled, adding Lawrence’s enthusiasm and energy as a coach translated to his work as a teacher.
“There are thousands of students who have gone through Westport public schools who even if they didn’t have him as a coach they all loved him and interacted with him,” Colabella said.
Other residents in town have expressed support for naming the new track after Lawrence, including RTM member Arline Gertzoff, who has known Lawrence since the fifth grade.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this naming than Laddie Lawrence,” Gertzoff said. “A great sportsman, but a really nice genuine person.”
Member Karen Kramer described Lawrence as a “Westport legend.”
“He was one of those guys who shines a light on what it means to be ‘true to your school,’ ” Kramer said. “Laddie made a difference in the lives of so many Staples students over the last 50 years.”
She added that Lawrence’s love and devotion to sportsmanship and competition has lifted many students through the good and bad times that come with adolescence.
“Naming the new track and field after such an exemplary Westport native is truly a remarkable way to celebrate our hometown hero,” she said.
Member Louis Mall also favored naming the track after Lawrence.
“He is the epitome of what a teacher and coach should be,” Mall said. “You name things after people who deserve to be honored and Laddie is that type of person.”
The proposal has not yet been placed on a BOE agenda.