Alumni Feature – Richard “Chic” Cecconi, Class of 1970

IMG_2298There are three constants evolving through the Where Are We Now? feature:  The first is the importance of the memories of growing up in a small community where everyone watches out for each other.  Second is the impact our educators had upon our lives.  And the third is how friendships have remained solid throughout the years despite geographical differences and varied career paths.  Rich Cecconi (Class of 1970) has a similar story, and one that confirms Little Falls is a village worth remembering.

Keeping with the familiar first question, “What’s it like growing up in Little Falls!” question, Rich responded as follows:  “Growing up in Little Falls was a great experience. I attended Benton Hall from Kindergarten through my senior year (with the exception of 6th grade when our classes were held at the YMCA due to a population spurt).  The best memories are of coming home after school, changing my clothes and going back outside to play baseball, whiffleball and touch football followed by hide and seek or kick the can.  My father’s whistle was distinct and when I heard it, I high-tailed it home for dinner or for whatever reason my dad wanted me home.   During the summers, I remember going to the tennis courts on Lansing Street or going to the baseball fields on Burwell St. where we played ball for hours.  In the winter, we would either go sledding or ice skating at Monroe Street.  The other special memory was building forts in the woods behind our house.  We spent days and days building forts and swinging on the vines that grew from the trees.

As I got older, I remember going to basketball games and then walking down to the pool hall in Shoppers Square to play pool and hang out with friends.  On weekend nights, hundreds of LF students would go to the pool hall to meet up with our friends.  Next door was DanDee donuts where we would go for a bite to eat until we had to be home.  We always felt safe in Little Falls.  It was community that was tight-knit and the phrase “it takes a village” definitely applied.  People always looked out one another and if you messed up, you would hear about it from all the adults who kept us in line.

My favorite teacher was Mr. Charles Kotary.  Not sure why I liked him so much, but probably it was the subject matter and the way he let us “explore things” in science class.  The quote I like is, “Knowledge is Power!”  It was a quote I always used during my 33-year science teaching career.  The other teacher who really sticks in my mind was Stan “the Man” Tucker.  I think he and Mr. Kotary were the ones who inspired me to become a science teacher.  Other teachers who made an impression were Mr. Allen, Mr. Crowley, Mrs. Guzewich, Mr. Lalonde and Ms. Grabinsky.  All our teachers were great and I think that is one thing that made Little Falls Central School so special.

I attended SUNY Cortland from 1970-74 where I eventually majored in science education.   After four years of some of the best times of my life, I received a Bachelor’s degree in early secondary and secondary science education.  Homer had an opening and I was hired in the summer of 1974 and stayed there for my entire 33-year career teaching science.  I also coached lacrosse which became, and still is, a huge part of my life to this day.  I also coached soccer and established the first science club and environmental studies club in Homer history.

Currently, my wife, Chris, and I live 7-8 months of the year in Cortland NY where we built a house in 1981.  The house was built by three of my fellow teachers and me.  I credit my Industrial arts teachers in Little Falls, Mr. Lyons and Mr. Jones, along with my passion for building forts for my construction skills.  My dad also allowed me to help him at our camp on Canadarago Lake when we remodeled it.  As we are now retired, our winter home is in Delray Beach Florida.

Aside from my 33-year teaching career, I have 40+ years of coaching lacrosse at every level possible.  I was the defensive coordinator for the lacrosse team at Cortland State from 1985-87 and also coached our regional club lacrosse team which traveled up and down the eastern seaboard to play in the United States Club Lacrosse Association (USCLA).  I also had an opportunity to be a selector for the United States World lacrosse team in 1998 and was an assistant for the Italian National Lacrosse team for the World Games in 2006.  Currently I am assisting two high school teams in Florida where lacrosse has become a fast growing sport.   As you can see, lacrosse is a huge part of my life.

Other than lacrosse, I do have other professional interests.  I am on the Alumni board of directors at SUNY Cortland and I am the vice chairman of our Alumni House committee.  SUNY Cortland has an alumni house located in a mansion which we are now using as a full time bed and breakfast.  It takes a great deal of volunteer time to keep the place going which helps to keep me out of trouble.”

When asked about how growing up in Little Falls helped to shape him and his career, Rich considers his childhood “a unique experience” and elaborated:  “In my opinion, my education was second to none.  Because we were in a small town, relationships were close with family and friends.  Everyone knew everyone else and you knew the police, firemen, shop owners and all the adults who would help shape your life.  My first jobs included paperboy for the Evening Times, groundskeeper for a private home on the corner of Garden and Salisbury Streets, a summer worker on the Little Falls maintenance crew, a job at Papaleo’s, a night cleaner at Monroe Street school, a paper wrapper at Burrow’s Paper Mill and bagboy and shelf stocker at the P&C.  I grew up with a work ethic passed down from my parents and the people who employed me. Having a job from the age 12 helped me to understand that in order to support yourself, you had to work and have some sort of experience to be successful.”

In speaking of fond memories, Rich recalled one rather special remembrance:   helping to establish the first senior lounge in the basement of the high school.  “It was an idea that we had at one of our first senior class meetings.  We were required to write a proposal and present it to the high school principal, Mr. LaPone, and then to the Board of Education.  After gaining their permission, we cleared out space in what was a community bomb shelter located under the Benton Hall portion the school.  We were able to go there during our lunch period or study hall period and after school.  I believe it was the first and, quite possibly the inspiration for future senior lounges at the new high school.

The other memory that was unique to the Class of 1970 was we were the last to graduate from the old high school on Petrie Street and the first to have their graduation ceremony at the new high school on Top Notch road.  The new school was supposed to be finished for our class to attend, but since it was not, we were still determined to be the first class to graduate in the new building!”

Rich’s advice to current students is “to dream big and work hard.  Find a passion of interest and pursue it with all that you possess.  The world is changing at a rapid pace.  In order to be relevant, you must change with it.  Information and communication of that information is being generated at speeds unheard of even in our short past.  You need to understand what jobs and careers are out there and/or businesses that are necessary to stay competitive with others.  Get the best education you can afford or find a trade that interests you and work hard to achieve your goals.  One thing I always told my students and lacrosse players was if you work hard and are dedicated to what you are doing, you can do anything you want with only the sky as your limit.”

“I still maintain friendships with classmates and friends from Little Falls even though I have been gone since 1974.  Those friends will be with me until the day I die.  I believe growing up in Little Falls allows one to make and maintain lifelong friendships perhaps because of the fact it is a close knit community.  I will always cherish my younger years in Little Falls!!”

The Little Falls High School Alumni Network’s Where are They Now series was initiated in January of 2015.  This feature highlights individuals who have enhanced their lives and/or the lives of others using the foundation of the education they received at LFHS or St. Mary’s and the family values they developed while growing up in Little Falls.  Success isn’t always defined by financial achievements.  Many people find personal satisfaction by giving back to their communities, organizations or to others in general.  Those on the receiving end of these heartfelt contributions may consider this person in the highest regard as well.  With this being said, we are looking for individual nominations of Little Falls alumni who have made a difference in the lives of others as well their own.  Before submitting your nominations (to AlumniLFHS@gmail.com), please confirm your nominee is currently registered on the Little Falls Alumni Website as this is also a requirement.

Thank you and we look forward to reacquainting with our fellow classmates.

About AlumniLFHS@gmail.com

Chiropractor, Santiago Chiropractic Associates, Lake Hiawatha, NJ. Director of Alumni Communications, LFHS Alumni Network.

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