Naugatuck Hall of Fame inducts 46th class

The Naugatuck Hall of Fame inducted, from left, Art Nunes, Gordon Rossi, Shannon Mesaros Russell, Gary Diaz Jr., Christine Walsh Aldinger and Frank Meaney during a ceremony Oct. 21 at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — Sports helped to mold the lives of the six newest members of the Naugatuck Hall of Fame.

“I was truly blessed to have grown up in this community called Naugatuck,” said Frank Meaney, a four-time All-NVL and All-State baseball and football player during his days wearing the Garnet and Grey for Naugatuck High School.

Meaney pointed to former NHS coaches Joe Bojko, a 1997 inductee, and Craig Peters, a 2002 inductee, for having a profound effect on his life.

Meaney, Art Nunes, Gordon Rossi, Christine Walsh Aldinger, Shannon Mesaros Russell and Gary Diaz Jr. comprise the Hall of Fame’s 46th class. They were inducted Oct. 21 during a ceremony at the Naugatuck Portuguese Club.

Nunes, who coached the NHS boys soccer team for 21 years before retiring after the 2015 season, drew a rousing ovation when introduced to the capacity crowd. Nunes recalled the 2001 state champion boys soccer team that was ranked seventh in the nation and 2002 state champions that was ranked fifth in the nation.

“I spent a wonderful 21 years doing what I loved to do, coach soccer,” Nunes said. “I can’t thank my wife Leonor enough for always being there for our family allowing me to coach all those years.”

It takes special people on the sidelines to mold athletes. Rossi has done that having coached for 25 years at Hillside Middle School. Rossi also volunteered as an official for youth basketball and football in Naugatuck and served for 29 years on the Park and Recreation Commission.

The accomplishments of these athletes have stood the test of time.

Aldinger once held eight individual school records in swimming and held an NVL record that stood for ten years. Sports have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, Aldinger said.

Diaz and Russell are 2002 Naugatuck High graduates and found success as three-sport athletes.

Diaz thanked his parents for taking him to all the games, practices and being their every step of the way in his athletic career that spanned from Little Pal basketball to All-NVL and All-State status in baseball and football.

Russell achieved success in volleyball, basketball and softball. But it was on the volleyball court where she drew the most attention and played in Hawaii after her junior season in a tournament sponsored by Sports USA.

“As magical as playing in Hawaii was,” said Russell, who married her college sweetheart, Regan. “My legacy is my kids: Bailey, Braden and Rylan.”