Thursday January 10, 2013

PITTSFIELD

It’s a basketball story like few you have ever heard. Rose Marie Ladley was a cheerleader at her all-girls high school while growing up in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and she’s been leading the cheers for her own family ever since.

The former Rose Marie Dunagan attended St. Mary’s High School and was raised very much a good Irish lass. She hoped to marry a good Irish fellow and she found her four-leaf clover while a student at Niagara University. A member of the men’s basketball team, Ed Ladley had been raised in Staten Island, N.Y.

They were married in 1963 and will celebrate their 50th anniversary this July.

Former Pittsfield Red Sox general manager Pat McKernan was the best man at the wedding and in 1970 lured the couple to the Berkshires. Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton needed a physical education instructor and Pat pitched the idea to Ed, who applied for the job.

The couple purchased a home here on upper Brown Street, and the rest as they say, is history. Suffice to say that things have worked out. The couple remain on Brown Street, although the Dalton community would from time to time let the Ladleys know about a "good deal" on a Dalton property.

"We never did talk about moving to Dalton," Rose Marie said. "It never came up."

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So, Ed stayed at Wahconah where the gymnasium now shares his name. And the kids all went to Pittsfield High.

Rose Marie? She was the glue. A stay-at-home mom who put together the daily game plan. The X’s and O’s you might say.

Ed, retired now as a teacher, remains at his post as the boys’ basketball coach at Wahconah. Rose Marie, meanwhile, gave birth eight times and has ascended into the role of first lady of Berkshire County basketball.

All eight of the Ladley children scored varsity basketball points for Pittsfield High, and three will be inducted a week from Friday as part of the initial class of the Berkshire County Girls’ Basketball Hall of Fame.

Team Ladley started with Eddie, who captained the PHS team and graduated in the mid-1980s. The run ended with Megan, a 2001 PHS graduate. In between, and in order of appearance into the world, were Jennifer, Becky, Sean, Stephanie, Tim and Erin.

Hall-of-famers Stephanie, Erin and Megan were all 1,000-point scorers for Pittsfield, while Tim, Sean and Eddie combined for almost 2,000 points. Toss in Becky’s and Jen’s points and you just might have America’s most prolific basketball scoring family.

Tim and Sean are in the Pittsfield boys’ basketball Hall of Fame sponsored by The Hoop Club. That’s five of the eight with Hall of Fame honors. Could that be a record for one family? Anywhere? The quintet all played at the college level.

And who kept life sort of normal in the home that featured just one full bath, one half-bath and a lot of pasta meals?

Well, Rose Marie, who added that the shower schedule was "very tight." She will be overseeing the girls’ summer league at Morningside Elementary school for the 19th straight year.

First lady of Berkshire County basketball? I would think so.

"I always wanted a big family and I think Ed did, too," said Rose Marie (don’t say Rosemary!). "And we’ve been blessed to have eight good children and eight healthy children."

Megan, she added with a laugh, got in under the wire. "We had our seventh and that seemed like a lot. But you know what? I don’t like uneven numbers so we had one more. But after that Š"

Yeah, we get it. Eight was enough. A starting five and a nice three-player rotation off the bench. Perfect.

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You would think that among the eight there might have been a gymnast, a ballet dancer, a woodworker or a painter. The idea of rolling the dice eight times and coming up with a basketball player on each toss is amazing. Some young grandchildren, by the way, are also bouncing their way toward futures in basketball. Eddie, though, lives in Arizona and his three boys have chosen baseball.

But, what if Eddie had also passed on the hardwood? Would history have changed?

"We signed him up for basketball at the Catholic Youth Center when he was young and he really didn’t want to go," Rose Marie said. "We told him he could give it up when the season was over, but it turned out he loved it."

Subsequent Ladley children never wavered. They loved it, too.

So has Rose Marie. But, you know, every once in a while Š

"Sean and the PHS boys were playing Wahconah in Dalton," she recalled. "It was tied with just a few seconds to go. Pittsfield called a play for Sean, but Ed had the right defense ready. They were all over Sean, but he found Matt Mickle out of the corner of his eye. He passed to Matt who won the game with a basket at the buzzer.

"That night at home I got caught between congratulating Sean on a great win and a great play and consoling Ed on a tough loss."

Just another night in the Ladley house. But nothing the first lady couldn’t handle.

Five Hall of Famers is a lot for one family, don’t you think? Well, would you believe it’s six? That’s right. Ed was voted into the Niagara University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971. You have to believe that down the road the county girls’ basketball Hall of Fame will make room for Rose Marie Dunagan Ladley. It would seem the right thing to do.

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The Hall of Fame banquet will be held Jan. 17 at the ITAM Lodge at about 6 p.m., and is sure to be packed with nostalgia and emotion. The Hall was the brainchild of the late Bob O’Neil, the former Taconic and PHS girls’ coach, with the Taconic gymnasium being the site of the actual plaque that will carry the Hall of Fame names.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, Taconic will host a full day of high school girls’ basketball in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer showcase and fundraiser.

The 14 players in the initial Hall of Fame class is a stellar group. The Ladley trio will be joined by Anna Kinne and Ann Whalen of Monument Mountain, Samantha Herrick and Lisa Boenitz of Lenox, Kelly McManmon of Lee, Paula Hayden of Hoosac Valley, Mary Gaudreau of Drury, Mary Langendorf and Meghan Vaughn of Wahconah, and Taconic’s Mickie Turner and Hollie Steinman.

Also inducted will be O’Neil and Wahconah’s Bob "Boog" Powell from the coaches category, longtime official Wray Gunn and women’s basketball pioneer and semipro player Nina Kozura.

For ticket information, call (413) 499-9522 or (413) 499-4656.

Brian Sullivan can be reached at mariavicsullivan@yahoo.com.