The faces in high school sports change all the time. New players replace old graduates. Rookie coaches step in for worn-out mentors. Parents come and go once their last name leaves the field.
But one of the few faces that was a welcome fixture on the sidelines at Woodland High for almost the school’s entire existence, regardless of those every-four-years changes, was Steve Montambault.
Montambault, the father of two Woodland grads — Danielle, the class of 2006’s salutatorian, and Sean, a soccer standout in the class of 2008 — and longtime volunteer at the high school, died May 1 at age 60.
“He was a good man” is a commonly overused platitude when someone dies, but Steve was a truly good human being who for so many years sacrificed his most meaningful resource — time — for others.
As a parent volunteer in the high school’s early years, he constantly volunteered to help run some of the events that made the Woodland community special. Graduates of my age (class of 2009 here) remember Steve lending his skills as a DJ to our post-prom party at the high school for years.
Years after I graduated, when the Woodland PTO asked if I’d be interested in chaperoning, I walked into the gym at 11 p.m., and who did I see? There was Steve, at yet another post-prom party, this time with the camera that endeared him so much to an entire generation of Woodland alumni.
Steve the photographer is the one remembered by countless Hawks and their families. A scroll through his Facebook page shows Woodland sports albums all the way back to the fall of 2009, and new ones went up weekly until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
Among those albums were thousands of photos featuring hundreds of athletes — yes, including junior varsity games, too — over more than a decade. I couldn’t begin to estimate how many of those pictures became social media profile photos and family keepsakes for those athletes.
He rearranged work schedules to show up at 2 p.m. state tournament soccer games, and he ventured out on Friday nights for regular-season basketball games. He spent even more time preparing senior night graphics and brochures, and he never turned down a photo-op when a group of players spotted his lens.
Steve never accepted a dime of compensation for his efforts — and boy, were they good efforts. The man could freeze a moment in time as well as the best photographers in our area, and he kept doing it even as his own children were long gone from Back Rimmon Road.
All of us at Citizen’s News spent plenty of time on the sidelines with Steve, and I know I speak for Elio and Ken when I say that we always enjoyed catching up and bantering about the game with Steve.
As a member of the Woodland Hall of Fame committee, it was our pleasure in 2016 to induct Steve into the hall for his contributions. His plaque reads, in part: “A longtime volunteer at Woodland, Montambault was an important member of the Parent-Teacher Organization from the school’s early years and made an indelible mark as a supporter of the school’s athletics program. His photographs of athletes in every sport helped booster clubs honor their athletes on senior nights and captured memorable moments for years to come.”
When news of Steve’s passing spread on social media, Woodland alumni, parents of graduates, and others flooded Facebook with appreciation for his volunteerism over the years.
“Steve was the ultimate Woodland fan, and I am sure I speak for many other Woodland parents when I say thank you for the countless photos of our kids as they competed for Woodland,” wrote Lisa Dumond, the mother of two former girls soccer players. “I know when I look at those photos from now on, I will think of this selfless person gone much too soon.”
“What a true Woodland sports supporter,” Dumond’s daughter, Steph, wrote. “Always showed up with a big smile and positivity.”
“It was a pleasure watching so many events with Steve,” former athletic director Brian Fell wrote. “A true fan of [high school] athletes everywhere and a great supporter of Woodland athletics.”
“Always there for any team,” girls basketball coach Jess Moffo wrote. “Cannot thank you enough. Will always be in my heart Steve. I have so many memories because of you. Never got paid [and] never took anything. Just came cause of his love for Woodland.”
“I will always be grateful for the photos I have with my friends because of Steve,” wrote Alexa Casimiro, a standout soccer player who later played at UConn.
“Some of the greatest photos of my children were taken by Steven Montambault,” wrote Kara Casimiro, the mother of Alexa and Julia. “I could never pull off using a camera or video while watching soccer or track meets because I was way too into the action. Because of Steve, I have hundreds and hundreds of action shots of my two daughters and dozens of quirky photos of sideline antics between friends to cherish forever. Long after his children graduated, he came to every Woodland event to capture the accomplishments of our children. I am forever grateful. The world has lost a wonderful and generous man.”
Many high schools are never lucky enough to have a man like Steve, and an entire generation of Hawks owes a debt of gratitude to the mark he left in the Woods. Rest in peace, Steve.
Reach Kyle Brennan at firstname.lastname@example.org.