By Kathy Brown.
Students, friends, alumni and family came together on Sunday, October 7, 2018 to dedicate the Haddam Killingworth High School field house to Patsy Kamercia. A beautiful new sign bears the coach’s name and reflects Patsy’s contribution to the school community.
Patsy Kamercia passed away in November 2017 after a grueling battle with cancer. She led the HKHS Field Hockey team to a state championship in the Fall of 2016, her fortieth year of coaching. Patsy started as a physical education teacher in the H-K schools, and became the first woman to be named an athletic director in a public school system in Connecticut. Among her accomplishments: inducted into the Connecticut Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame, Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame, Connecticut State Coaches’ Hall of Fame, and the HK Hall of Fame. Her teams won 461 games, including 16 Shoreline Conference championships. She was a role model as well as a coach, and several of her former students became coaches as well.
Donna Hayward, HKHS Principal, spoke at the event, “[Patsy] was a teacher, our first athletic director — and the first female athletic director in the state. A pioneer, Patsy is as legendary as any school figure can be as she started the athletic program here, tenaciously built a program that has served the kids of HK for decades, and continues to prosper today. . . It is only fitting that our field house, which is at the heart of our athletic facilities, bear Patsy’s name. She built it, she built what goes in it, and she built thousands of happy memories, life lessons, and meaningful moments that student athletes, coaches and fans have enjoyed in this house for decades. Thank you, Patsy, for building a foundation so solid, for mentoring and raising our kids, especially our young women, to be strong and honorable, driven and successful. It is a source of pride today that our field house will bear your name and continue to be filled with the activities you intended.”
The current HKHS Athletic Director, Lynne Flint, also spoke at the dedication (excerpts): “When I started here, I found myself very lucky to have an amazing coaching staff. The core of that staff is a group I affectionately refer to as my “starting five”: Dennis O’Rourke, Richard Langer, Dick Dupuis, Mark Brookes, and Patsy Kamercia. As a new young athletic director, I was blessed to get to work alongside these pillars of the HK and CT Coaching community. These individuals are not only excellent coaches but exceptional people and Patsy was their captain. To those that never met Patsy she can be hard to describe. She is a force. Rarely wrong, and fiercely competitive, Patsy is someone opponents feared . . . She set high standards and demanded the best out of people, however, beyond her tough exterior was one of the most genuine, thoughtful people I have had the pleasure of meeting . . . I heard a quote recently that reminded me very much of Patsy: “You want someone to run a four-minute mile, you don’t chase them. You don’t give them something to run from. You give them something to run to.” Patsy gave her staff and her players someone to run to. I will think of her every time I enter this field house and will work hard to keep all that she built strong.”
“If Patsy were here with us today, she would say, ‘Why are you naming this Field House after me? All I did was spend 41 years doing something I loved,'” said her husband Mike, when he spoke at the dedication. He spoke of his supervisor at work, who has a locker next to his. Even though his supervisor had never met Patsy, she had attended Patsy’s memorial service last year. Recently Mike noticed that Patsy’s picture and program from the memorial service were taped inside his supervisor’s locker. He asked why, and she responded, “Patsy was so inspirational.” Mike commented, “Here is a woman that Patsy had never met, but who had been inspired by her.” He went on to say that the annual Field Hockey Alumni Game was Patsy’s favorite day of the season. “She loved seeing her players and students when they returned to school. She took great pride in how they had grown, in their families, and in their careers. Although Patsy inspired them as students, their successes later in life were Patsy’s inspiration.” He concluded by thanking the school for giving Patsy the opportunity to continue inspiring people. “Years from now,” he said, “people will see her name on this building and they won’t know who she was. They will ask about her, and the story of her life and accomplishments will inspire them.”
Below are some of the people inspired by Patsy’s coaching:
“Deciding to play field hockey in middle school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life. Having Patsy Kamercia (Coach Lemley back then) was the icing on the cake,” said Joan Bragoni, HKHS ’79. “Coach Kamercia shaped her players to believe in teamwork, kindness, togetherness, being positive thinkers and to believe in themselves. She created strong women. My daughter Stella played for Coach Kamercia and graduated in 2018. I couldn’t be more thankful for her role in shaping my daughter to be a strong, kind, positive young women. Both Stella and I looked up to Patsy in awe. I am thrilled to have the HKHS gymnasium dedicated to this wonderful woman. It is well deserved.”
“Patsy was an amazing coach and role model,” said Marci Marciniac (HKHS ’93). “She supported her students and players on and off the field. When I came back to the high school with my son it was not uncommon to see her at his lacrosse games supporting the HK team and my son! She would always check in to see what number he was and was there to cheer him on! Patsy was an amazing women!” Marci played Field Hockey for Coach Kamercia 1989-1993.
“Coach Kamerica will forever hold a place in my heart,” said Amy Struzinski, HK Field Hockey Alumni, HKHS ’02. “I learned so much more from her than how to play field hockey. She taught me and many other woman to value the importance of supporting each other. Coach had a strength-with-grace kind of attitude I will aspire to duplicate.”