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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Remembering Raymond Waldron: A Mentor and a Friend

How do you thank someone who has passed away; someone who was a person of convictions and could communicate to people the truth about themselves, a supporter and friend who could keep a fine line between leadership and friendship? It's a very difficult divide for many in administrative positions to be able to have such camaraderie with the people who work for them and still demonstrate the professionalism as a figurehead. The man who set the bar with practicing this philosophy in the Saratoga Springs City School District was the former Athletic Director, the late Raymond Waldron who passed away on Friday, August 17, after a 17-year battle with prostate cancer.


Ray was the mentor for many of us who had the good fortune to work under him as coaches. There were times he would be upset with us and times we would be upset with him, but never did he ever hold it over any of our heads. Usually the results became a lesson for all involved, and most of the time situations were worked out. Mr. Waldron had a way to make his point understood and he had developed an art form in his method of communication. When walking away from a meeting with Ray, there was a good chance that there were no questions of remaining discontent.

I could call many former coaching colleagues of mine at Saratoga Springs High School to get their perspectives and different experiences that they had with our former boss, but I'd rather give you my personal experience with "The Bear,” as he was fondly called. I started teaching at Saratoga in the fall of 1972. I was hired as an art teacher, and there was a common thread between Mr. Waldron and me because we are from the same town, Mechanicville. He not only knew my family, but my history as a basketball player and coach. During my first day, at the teachers’ orientation, Coach Waldron came up to me and told me that I was the new cross-country running coach. Of course, I was caught off guard, but my only response was “When can I start?” It was only about three weeks later when Coach Waldron called me into his office to inform me that the boys' JV basketball job was open and he wanted me to take the position. So, of course I did! During my first three years in the district, I eventually became the varsity boys’ basketball coach, as well as cross-country coach in the fall and track and field during the spring. There was an obvious feeling of confidence that "Ramey" (a Mechanicville nickname for Ray) had in my ability as a coach and especially basketball.

Everybody knew Ray Waldron; he was a pillar in the Saratoga community. He was instrumental in the creation of the local Pop Warner Football program, a 53-year member of the Elks Club and a past Exalted Ruler of the club (1975). He directed and helped with the Punt, Pass and Kick program as well as the Elks’ Hoop Shoot. He was a member of the Biddy Basketball committee for the city. During his time as a physical education teacher, Ray was the head football coach, the track and field coach as well as baseball, wrestling and even bowling coach; all before his assignment as Director of Athletics. Before going to Ithaca College to earn his degree in physical education, he was in the U.S. Army as an infantryman with the 25th Infantry and during the Korean War; he fought in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. There were also many more programs and organizations that Coach Waldron was connected to. His wife of more than 50 years, Carol, is a retired school nurse from Saratoga Schools and was always by his side during their battle with prostate cancer. They have six children: Kathy, Joe, Brian, Raymond, William and Meghan and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ray came from a family of 10 children from Mechanicville, though three of them died before their brother. What a history for the former Exalted Ruler of the Elks Club to leave a legacy that is second-to-none in the Saratoga Springs community. He will always be remembered and respected for his service and positive influence on others.

I say it's time to name the football field on West Avenue and there is no one better to name it after than Mr. Waldron. Raymond A. Waldron Memorial Field has a nice ring to it, and it's a label of honor for the service to the Saratoga Springs City School District. After all he did and for being the longest reigning Athletic Director in the district's history!

Under Mr. Waldron's tutelage, there are many locally known coaches who have no one to thank but Ray. He seemed to always hit home with his advice and in retrospect, one could feel that he was supportive in any critique with the naturalness of sincerity of a father figure. There isn't a coach or former coach who doesn't have a story that could be shared about the former AD. I can remember in 1979 when I was coaching the boys, we played the number-one seed Albany High, in the Class AA Sectional quarterfinals. With seven seconds left on the clock, we had the ball and were only down by one point. During our timeout we set up a play and I told everyone that when the shot goes up that I expected all five to crash the boards. Well, we missed from the outside and the littlest player on the floor; point guard Nate Lewis (5-foot-8inch) got the rebound between two six-foot-six-inch Albany players and banked it in with only one second left. As I turned and looked at the referee's call, to see if it counted, Ray was the first one to grab me and hug me. In 1983, we played Shenendehowa who was 19-0 coming into the last game of the regular season. We went into overtime against them and I told the six-foot-three-inch Joey Ruggles, who could really jump, to get the jump ball against the six-foot-sevcn-inch center from Shen. He did. Our plan was to stall for the whole overtime (there was no shot clock back then) and with the aid of point guard Tommy Murphy and shooting guard Ty Stacey, we held the ball for 2:49. With 11 seconds remaining, we called a timeout - we scored off of a set offense with four seconds left to upset the only unbeaten team in the Albany area. The crowd went nuts, but more importantly I can remember that there was Ray who was so excited as he ran up to me and ajust hugged my breath away. He loved his Blue Streaks. You could say the color of his blood was blue. He was a true leader, and one who would always backup his coaches; one who would give it to you straight during tougher times. I really appreciate what his legacy has done for the Saratoga Springs School District, and, more than anything, how he mentored me and my fellow coaches. It was never about him; we were all in this together. Rest in peace, my friend.

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