When Gordon Rossi Sr. began his teaching career at Naugatuck’s Salem Elementary School decades ago it was the late, former Superintendent of Schools Raymond K. Foley who hired him.
Now, after a 38-year teaching career, Rossi is being honored for his devotion to Naugatuck’s youth with the award that bears the name of the man who gave Rossi his start.
Rossi, a borough resident born and bred, is this year’s recipient of the Raymond K. Foley Award.
“I just want to thank all the people who nominated me for the award. The past students and players for allowing me to coach them and giving me years of happiness and fulfillment,” said a humbled Rossi.
The Raymond K. Foley Award is given to an individual or group who has demonstrated outstanding service and unselfish dedication, which contributes to the betterment of Naugatuck children.
Rossi’s resume more than fits the bill.
Aside from a nearly 40-year teaching career, Rossi has influenced many borough children through an illustrious coaching career. Although Rossi began teaching at Salem Elementary, he spent the bulk of his teaching career at the former Hillside Middle School. It was at Hillside where Rossi and Mark Diver started and built up the school’s softball program from scratch. Rossi would go on to coach the team for over 30 years.
Rossi didn’t limit himself to softball though. He coached for more than 21 years in the YMCA’s Little Pal basketball league and coached in the borough’s two Little League programs as well.
Rossi also spent time coaching in the Naugatuck Junior Football league and the Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth baseball leagues. He also donned the referee whistle to officiate basketball games for the Hillside School’s girls and boys basketball teams.
Along with his teaching and coaching endeavors, Rossi also found time for civic ventures. He served on the Naugatuck Parks and Recreation Committee for over 20 years. He’s also a member of the Kollege Kapers and the Naugatuck Sports Hall of Fame.
Rossi found it difficult to pinpoint exactly why he devoted much of life to working with children. He said he simply likes seeing people achieve their goals.
“It’s a tough question. … I always felt I just wanted to work with kids and help people,” Rossi said.
Rossi said the award came as a shock to him and he offered his gratitude again for those who nominated him and helped him over the years. Rossi said he’d especially like to thank Ray Rossi Sr. and Ed Rossi, who both coached with him.
Rossi will be honored during a dinner on May 10 at the Crystal Room, 98 School St., Naugatuck. A social hour is scheduled for 6 p.m. with dinner beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets for the dinner are $30 for adults and $25 for children. Tickets can be bought at Naugatuck public schools and the Naugatuck Board of Education office, 380 Church St. Advanced tickets must be bought by May 3.