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Nasser's plan has turned into a hall of an idea for Fitch athletes

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 27. 2014 4:00AM

Groton

It began as an innocent conversation. Patron Bernie Nasser and owner Peter Gianacoplos at Par Four in Groton, the eatery at Shennecossett Golf Course, the town's nerve center for quality conversation. Two old friends, needling each other about this and that, until the subject of Nasser's latest idea arose.

And soon, they began tossing names around like horseshoes at the family picnic. This is why halls of fame are generally good ideas. They are about community and remembrance, two underrated concepts.

And so it went: Remember this guy? That guy? How about her? Was he good enough? It was an unwitting history lesson for anyone with a reverence for Fitch High School.

Nasser, a former teacher and coach at Fitch, dabbled with the idea of a Fitch Hall Of Fame in the past. No more dabbling. It's happening. The first class will be inducted in the fall.

And better yet, nomination forms are available at the Groton schools web site (groton.k12.ct.us), available to anyone so inclined.

"It's long overdue," Nasser was saying. "Everyone I mentioned it to has loved the idea. It's always been a dream of mine. I coached umpteen awesome athletes in six different sports. I've seen these things at other schools. Fitch athletes deserve something, too."

Nasser, who said all inductees must be out of high school for seven years, handpicked his committee that will induct 16 members into the first class along with the eight existing members of Fitch's current "Wall of Fame," including Amby Burfoot, Paul Menhart, Kathy Gailor, Mike Ellis, John Carney, John Kelley, Glen Miller and Dave Campo.

Nasser's committee, which is not eligible for induction, spans many sports and generations: Nasser, Marc Romano, Glen Graham, Dave Russell, Peter Hoops, Rich Kosta, Ellis, Ted Hespeler, Myles Halliwell, Tom Doyle, Al Restivo, Josie Finlayson, Walt Blanker, Diane Kodama, Larry Croxton and Sue Thomson.

"It seemed like it was always put on the back burner," Nasser said. "When Marc (Romano, the athletic director) got in, I brought it up again. He loved it. We finally sat down. I told the committee, 'I picked you guys and I don't want politics involved.' And they won't be as long as I'm alive."

Fitch graduates who have heard the idea have already engaged in spirited debates about who's in and who's out. Quite the sense of pride for the school and its history.

Example: Former Fitch great Brian Hopkins, who played football at Holy Cross, texted his preliminary list: Theodis Dixon, Scott Santoro, Menhart, Jazz Freitas, Megan Taylor, Denise Dallaire, Mike Jones, Anthony Wilson, Jarion Childs, Shaun Farris, A.J. Massengale, Kevin Kirsch, Raheem Carter, Rashad Carter, George Hall, Mike Hall, Mark Hall, John McCoy, Matt Maddox and Mike Evans.

Hopkins, who has a big time job in New York City, later texted, "Jeff Joyce" and "Oh, and Todd Doyle is first ballot."

Then he texted later, "Stephanie Spader."

This is significant, especially for Fitch, whose perch in Groton must incorporate a number of different constituencies in town. Think about it: Groton Town, Groton City, Noank, Groton Long Point, Mystic, the submarine base, Poquonnock Bridge. All they really have in common is Fitch High School.

"I hope this brings the community together," Nasser said. "We'll get businesses to sponsor each athlete inducted. I'll walk all over Groton and hit everyone in town up if I have to."

(And if you know Nasser, you know he's not kidding).

Nasser said the committee is still working on a date and site. But this much he knows: The entire production will stay in Groton.

Exactly where is belongs.

If you have a suggestion for an inductee, Nasser and his committee would like to hear it. Should be a great night.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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