When a high school basketball game from Millinocket is reported to the BDN, I get a bit nostalgic because the game was played at Stearns High School’s Wentworth Gym.
Some of the memories are sparked because Stearns is my alma mater, but more so because of who the high school coach the gym is named for, the legendary George Wentworth.
It also has caused me to wonder how many high school gyms are named after former high school coaching greats or others who have made outstanding contributions to their local communities. Two I recall are from the same approximate era (1950s to early 1970s) as Wentworth: Bangor High’s Frederick “Red” Barry and Mount Desert Island’s Bernard “Bunny” Paradis. They are two more coaches who qualify for the legendary tag and two whose names grace the hardwood in Bangor and MDI.
Another great coach who followed the style of those earlier peers, the late Ed Guiski, had the Dexter High gym named in his honor in 1996.
Two other outstanding coaches from the 1940s and 1950s, Waterville’s Wally Donovan and Old Town’s Bernard “Mac” MacKenzie, have also been remembered in their communities where the high school gyms bear their names.
Certainly there are other high schools in our state where a coaching or community icon have been remembered with a gym named in their honor. That’s where you come in. If you know of other gyms, then send me the info and I’ll try to make a comprehensive list of those gyms, with bio info of the honorees, to publish in a future blog or story.
It may also be a time to suggest new names of gyms for those men and women coaches or impactful community members who have retired and should be remembered for their contributions.
Old friend and former BDN colleague Dave Barber used to joke that I could never write anything about Wentworth without first putting “legendary,” in front of his name and he has always been correct. Wentworth was never my coach as he retired in 1971, several years before I started high school. My main contact with him would be seeing him at Mass at St. Martin of Tours or receiving a few words of wisdom when he would pull his Ford pickup in for gas at O.S. Gonyar and Sons, where I worked.
Even though he had retired, Wentworth remained “Coach,” to those in the Millinocket community as did many of the past greats in other Maine towns such as Barry, Parady, Guiski, Donovan and MacKenzie. Their contributions resonated then and will never be forgotten, thanks in part to the gyms that now bear their names.