September 15, 2013

SPORTS: Dick McGee built youth leagues from ground up

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

If you’ve been to a basketball game in Lawrence High School’s Folsom Gym, you’ve seen him. The place is loud and crowded on the slowest of nights, so maybe it was just out of the corner of your eye, but you’ve seen him.

click image to enlarge

WELL DONE: Dick McGee, of Fairfield, former Colby College and Lawrence High School football coach, is largely credited with helping start up the Fairfield PAL leagues.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Dick McGee sat in the corner of the gym, just beyond the Lawrence bench, near the visiting team’s entrance to the gym. For years, this is where McGee watched the Bulldogs, coached by his son Mike.

This is where Dick McGee chatted with how many well-wishers and old friends over the years? Hundreds? This is one of the places Dick McGee held court.

McGee could be found at Lawrence football games, or the living room of his Maine Street home, where he’d answer questions or solve problems for whomever stopped by. If there’s a municipal office higher than mayor, McGee was its honorary holder in Fairfield.

“In my eyes, Dick McGee has always been a giant. We were fortunate to stand on his shoulders,”Bruce Rodrigue, a lifelong resident of Fairfield, said.

For almost 55 years, McGee made sure the children of Fairfield, Benton, Albion and Clinton had games to play, and a place to play them. For more than half a century, McGee worked to build the PAL program, the youth sports organization for the four towns in SAD 49, into one of the best youth sports programs in the state.

A stroke in 2009 slowed McGee down, but it didn’t stop him. This fall, though, for the first time since 1959, McGee is not actively involved in PAL. His health simply won’t allow it. According to his daughter, Sue McGee Perkins, he has Alzheimer’s disease. McGee, who celebrated his 83rd birthday with family on Aug. 27, is living in an assisted living home, where like us all, he has good days and bad days.

Building something special

If you played youth sports in Farifeld, or any of the neighboring towns of Clinton, Benton and Albion, at any time over the last 55 years and did not at some point thank Dick McGee, then you did yourself a disservice.

McGee would quickly point out he did nothing alone. He’d name names like Fred Gould, Bill Donahue, Jim Pellerin, Lois Cooper, George Taylor, Harold Joseph, Doug Cutchin, and he’d feel horrible that he might leave somebody out.

But you do not stay active in anything for more than 50 years if you are messing things up. With all the contributions from so many people over the years, McGee’s steady hand was on the rudder.

“Not that we did everything right. We made a few mistakes,” said Harold Joseph, whose sporting goods store was a Fairfield landmark for decades, before Joseph retired and sold the name. Joseph’s Sporting Goods is now on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville, and its spot in Fairfield is a vacant lot.

Joseph was involved with PAL at the beginning, giving McGee a place to stock up on equipment, giving the young athletes deals on sneakers and cleats.

“But with Dick, we got it right,” Joseph said.

McGee came to Fairfield via the University of Maine, where he played football and graduated in 1954, via Providence, R.I., where he grew up. After coaching high school football at Winslow and Lawrence, McGee moved on to Colby College, where he coached football and worked as athletic director. Under McGee, Colby added women’s sports.

A problem solver

Dick McGee is respected. There was the time a man, visibly drunk and on the verge of causing trouble, walked into the gym at Lawrence Junior High during a PAL basketball game. He was a big guy, big enough that if things became ugly, McGee and Joseph would have trouble restoring order.

(Continued on page 2)

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