Scholarship legacy: Italian-American club hosting dinner to honor Graf, Gaffney awardees | Education


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WATERTOWN — The once-a-year Sports Evening at the Italian-American Civic Association has hosted some significant hitters as guest speakers over the yrs, such as Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim Bobby Valentine and Tommy John of Important League Baseball fame and Hall of Fame boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

But for this year’s Sporting activities Night time on Wednesday, June 22, consideration will transform to the lingering influence on the neighborhood a neighborhood legend made, with the daughter of that legend visitor speaker.

On Thursday, the once-a-year William I. Graf Award will be offered to the leading graduating athletes, a boy and a lady, at Watertown Superior College. The Graf Award, sponsored by the Northern New York Neighborhood Foundation, honors seniors who have participated in two or much more varsity sports activities in their senior yr and shown not only remarkable sportsmanship, but also character.

The Graf household honors just about every award recipient with $1,000.

The Graf Award was established in 1954 by the Italian-American Civic Association to honor the management and civic engagement in the community of William I. Graf, a multi-activity coach and athletic director at Watertown High College. Mr. Graf died at the age of 53 in 1954.

The Civic Association also invitations past Graf Award recipients to attend the June 22 supper.

“I’m just surprised at the results of the men and women selected for the award,” explained Phyllis N. Johnson, daughter of Mr. Graf, and the featured speaker for the dinner. “They’ve long gone on to be outstanding citizens.”

The initially William I. Graf Memorial Award, for 1953-54, was presented to Edward H. Barry, a 1954 graduate of WHS. He was a fullback on mentor Lew Newton’s WHS workforce. According to Times’ data files, he also played with the Johnnie’s Fruit baseball staff that won the New York State Kiwanis baseball championship. He went on to participate in for the football and basketball squads at St. Lawrence College, Canton.

Mr. Barry died Aug. 12, 2021 at the age of 85 at Tarpon Springs, Fla. He experienced a 37-12 months job at Niagara Mohawk from 1956 to 1993.

“This year, we’re making up the Graf event to get some more past recipients,” mentioned James P. Scordo, president of the Italian-American Civic Affiliation. “We’ve got names, but no addresses or cellular phone numbers. It is kind of term of mouth.”

Mr. Scordo explained it’s important that the Association maintains relationships with Graf award winners.

“Many of them have been hugely productive,” Mr. Scordo stated. “It was a huge offer to receive this award. We want to inspire past recipients to occur and show up at and to support this year’s university student athletes who are getting the award. It’d be sort of neat if there are some other people present that received the award 10 decades in the past, or 30 many years ago, that are listed here just to say, ‘Hey, welcome to the club.’”

“Talking to some college students, it amazes me how important it was,” Mrs. Johnson mentioned of the award.

“There’s one thing to be explained for children right now who even now talk about the relevance of the award,” explained Max M. DelSignore, assistant director at the Northern New York Neighborhood Foundation. “Those who are in athletics, specially at Watertown, say this is sort of the ultimate accomplishment, the pinnacle of substantial university athletic achievements in obtaining this accolade. I think it’s a credit score to the club to have built the basis of what the recognition signifies for so lots of many years. There is the character piece that is included, also.”

University, group engagement

Mr. Graf, a native of Stamford, Conn., graduated from Connecticut Agricultural Higher education, now University of Connecticut. He then researched actual physical education and learning at Springfield College or university in Massachusetts. He graduated from there in 1924, and was employed at Gouverneur schools as football coach and director of physical education and learning. He also served to type a baseball league in the neighborhood, demonstrating a enthusiasm for community engagement that would be expressed in Watertown commencing in 1926 when he grew to become director of actual physical instruction at town schools and mentor of groups.

When he departed Gouverneur in 1926, the Times wrote, “Although rigid in disciplinary practices with his proteges, Mentor Graf has won an abnormal amount of respect equally in university circles and outside the house. profitable games has been an goal of the Graf-coached teams, but the ethics of thoroughly clean sportsmanship has not been disregarded.”

In 1926, his very first calendar year as WHS soccer mentor, his staff went undefeated, a history recurring in 1940. He was the first NNY mentor to use the “T” formation in soccer. His basketball teams were being also constant winners. He also coached baseball and monitor.

Mr. Graf was also Watertown’s first municipal recreation director and his group support incorporated remaining marketing campaign director of Jefferson County’s March of Dimes fund for its polio generate and an officer in the Red Cross blood financial institution application.

Mrs. Johnson, who was 20 when her dad died, will share tales about him. Past week, she shared a single with the Moments.

“Mom (Mrs. Helen G. Dygert Graf) told me a tale about when somebody questioned her what it was like to be married to Invoice Graf,” she said. “She stated, ‘Well, I arrived property from the clinic with a new little one, and in those people days, they stayed for two weeks. Then, I was moved into a new dwelling and Invoice brought the Philadelphia Athletics for lunch. And I sat and manufactured ham sandwiches for them.”

She included, “He was chaotic all the time. It is awesome possessing an idol aside from any individual on TikTok.”

a ‘great example’

Lee “Gus” Murray, whose mom was a sister to Mrs. Johnson’s mother, has presented the Graf award in individual to college students with Mrs. Johnson. Mr. Murray reported a current “great example” of characteristics associated with the Graf award is Jillian Girardi, who acquired the Graf award in 2017. She gained the award alongside with WHS classmate Peter Victoria.

Ms. Girardi performed 5 several years on the women varsity lacrosse workforce, supporting the Cyclones to two Part 3 championships and a pair of condition remaining 4 appearances. She was a significant university All-American and three-time Frontier League all-star. She also made league all-star position twice on the Cyclones soccer crew. Ms. Girardi received a scholarship from Northwestern University and performed Division 1 lacrosse for the Wildcats, closing out her field time there in May well when North Carolina rallied in the third quarter for a victory above the Wildcats throughout a semifinals match. Throughout the sport, Ms. Girardi established the Northwestern one-period record for draw controls, at 182.

“If you followed her job at Northwestern, she bought recreated as a lacrosse participant at the very least two times,” Mr. Murray mentioned. “And in her previous calendar year, she became the facial area-off leader in the country. Which is not one thing she did in her very first 4 years. People are the types of proportions that I assume a ton of persons chat about.”

“Looking back again on who has gained it, it is prestigious and showcases the wonderful talent that Watertown has athletically and academically,” Ms. Girardi reported. “It displays all the tough get the job done that all these athletes have put in in the course of the years in substantial college. Knowing much more about the heritage of the award and knowing Mr. Graf, and his passion for athletics and all that, confirmed that it was a great deal extra than an award.”

Ms. Girardi, who graduated in May, is now wanting into perhaps coaching, or sports advertising and marketing or the business aspect of sports.

“I’ll even now be involved in sports as substantially as achievable,” she stated. “That’s been my full daily life, and with any luck , remaining with lacrosse as effectively.”

a heritage award

It was not until eventually about a half-dozen yrs in the past that the Graf award arrived with a $1,000 scholarship. Its overseers say the award has usually been about considerably much more than any monetary increase.

“That just surprised me — that there wasn’t cash involved with it for all those decades, until finally the final 4 or 5,” Mrs. Johnson said.

She explained the funds for the scholarship application sophisticated subsequent the death of William A. Graf, 85, her brother, in 2013. “His spouse and children contributed important cash to it, and then we included to it,” she stated.

The NNY Local community Basis functions as steward of the Graf scholarship, these as it does with other charitable money it oversees, Mr. DelSignore explained.

“Having a chance to perpetuate the title and do this partnership with the club, which is what we’re below to do,” he mentioned. “For the financial piece, it’s definitely the relatives the types that acquired it started and entrusting us to be the stewards of that revenue, and with any luck , it can mature and perpetuate to do a very little bit a lot more for individuals learners as they go together, 12 months to year.”

For a lot more than 20 years, the Graf Award was only given to males. The to start with feminine to receive the honor was in 1977, when it went to Sue Ann Kibling. In 2015, as Sue Gallagher, she was inducted into the Upstate New York chapter of U.S. Lacrosse’s Hall of Fame in East Syracuse. She started the Carthage women lacrosse system and recorded a lot more than 200 career wins. Ms. Gallagher retired in 2014, immediately after 32 many years as a bodily training trainer at Beaver River and Carthage. She was the initially girls varsity lacrosse mentor in Jefferson County and in a great deal of the north country.

“At the time, I by no means definitely believed too significantly about remaining the first female to receive the Graf award,” Mrs. Gallagher mentioned. “ I did not understand the importance of females last but not least remaining acknowledged together with their male counterparts. But as I look again, it was these tiny measures that aided to give our young ladies recognition in athletics they are so deserving of. The Graf loved ones realized this way again in 1977, and I deeply regard them for their insight.”

Graf and Gaffney

Mr. Scordo mentioned that the Italian-American Civic Affiliation grew to become associated with the Graf award simply because the previous coach experienced a lot of athletes of Italian heritage on his groups. The Civic Affiliation is also related with the Clarence “Boots” Gaffney Award, which is offered annually by the Italian club to the most outstanding male and woman athletes of the senior course at Immaculate Coronary heart Central in Watertown. The late Mr. Gaffney was athletic director at IHA/IHC for 40 many years.

“The Italian American Civic Affiliation is also hunting to set up a scholarship for the recipients of the Gaffney Award as very well,” Mr. Scordo explained.

The affiliation was formed 83 yrs in the past.

The June 22 recognition dinner will have plaques to figure out the prime woman/male student athletes from WHS with the Graf Award and the Gaffney Award for prime woman/male student athletes from IHC with the “Boots” Gaffney Award.

once-a-year pageant

The association’s largest function of the year, the Italian-American Festival, is scheduled for Aug. 26 and 27 at the Alex T. Duffy Watertown Fairgrounds ice arena. Occasions and hours have not been finalized, but the festival will include things like a Overlook Italiana pageant on Aug. 26, the Run for Pasta on the early morning of Aug. 27 and a Catholic Mass that night.

“There will be excellent, Italian meals in the course of the weekend,” Mr. Scordo stated. “Come on down with mates and spouse and children and help our organization.”

The facts

n WHAT: Awards meal for the William I. Graf and “Boots” Gaffney recipients.

n WHEN: Following Wednesday, June 22 at the Italian American Civic Affiliation, 192 Bellew Ave., Watertown. Social hour at 6 p.m., evening meal at 7.

n Featuring: Guest speaker is Phyllis N. Johnson, daughter of Mr. Graf.

n Price: Tickets are $13. The association, which has typically been affiliated with the awards, urges earlier recipients to go to.

n OF Be aware: To get an estimate on the variety of dinners, ticket buyers must make reservations by contacting the affiliation at 315-782-1080.

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By diana