I spent the first two years learning my trade as a sports writer covering the Naugatuck Junior Football League and Little Pal basketball, along with the Peter J. Foley and Union City little leagues for the former Naugatuck Daily News.
In September of 1998, my then-editor Joe Palladino figured it was time for me to get my feet wet, and I plunged head first into the world of high school sports — ready or not. My first assignment was covering the Naugatuck High girls volleyball team.
I was feeling a bit bold when I predicted the Greyhounds would contend for the Naugatuck Valley League title, especially since I didn’t know anything about the team prior to that season. I also didn’t let on at the time that I knew absolutely nothing about volleyball.
That was the first time I met coach Fred Scheithe. I was very fortunate that he was patient and kind enough to help me along on my journey.
That was Fred, all heart, always looking to help someone, and always giving of himself. I would have never made it through that first season without his friendship and tutelage.
Funny thing is Naugatuck did go out and win the NVL championship that year. Much to my surprise, I might add. But along the way a friendship was forged. I got to witness firsthand what the borough of Naugatuck got to see for close to four decades, Fred’s love affair for sports and the kids who play the game.
Those who know Fred are blessed to have had him in their lives. A man who not only gave of himself, especially to the kids he coached and taught, but helped mold the people that his “kids” have become. Fred was blessed with an engaging personality and a loving soulmate, his wife Jeanne, and the couple changed the lives of so many.
We don’t really stop and think about the footprint we’ve left on this life. But, on April 10, we all got a glimpse of Fred’s legacy. A car caravan led by the Naugatuck police and fire departments drove by Fred’s house in Naugatuck to honor the longtime educator and coach. The procession lasted for close to ten minutes. The honking of the car horns, the call outs of “we love you,” the signs and the heartfelt waves were more than a gesture to the man who sat on his front porch acknowledging a borough that came out to pour its heart out to him.
Special thanks to Tina Dambowsky and Lisa Pellegrini for coordinating this effort that came together in less than 24 hours.
“Our town has lost a really great man,” Dambowsky said. “I am beyond grateful that he was able to see everyone come out in that car convoy. As a community let’s do what we can to help Mrs. Scheithe through this difficult time in the weeks and months ahead. They have been there for us for close to four decades we need to be there for them.”
Seldom do we take the time to look around, and see the footprint that we have left on this life. We don’t really consider how we have affected those around us. We all share a similar journey — growing up in close-knit neighborhoods, striving to forge a career, get married and raise a family. And, if we are lucky enough, spend time doing something we absolutely love to do.
Along the way we learn values and principles to live by, character traits that form the opinion of others about who we are as a person. Every once in a while, we come across someone who has not only made a difference, but has become ingrained in the lives of so many and changed the very outcome of their lives.
Those qualities in a person that can have that kind of effect on the people around them are rare and to be treasured. The footprint these people have made is unmistakable, profound and will forever be a testament on who they were.
I’ve had the absolute pleasure and honor to know such a person, and his name was Fred Scheithe.