LENOX — When Lenox Memorial Middle and High School opened its new campus in 1966, outdoor space for athletics was severely limited.
Through the years, an effort to purchase adjacent land failed, while a sprawling, rock-strewn field on a hilltop above the building resembled a Martian landscape, unusable for student activities.
The history of failed efforts to fund a project to clear the upper field for school sports was recalled during a ceremony this past week honoring prominent local residents who led the drive to grade and clear the space despite the lack of money.
Former Superintendent William Coan, speaking at Tuesday's event, credited contractor Jim Maxymillian and his son, Neal, for stepping up to the plate, bringing in the necessary equipment to clear the enormous, heavy boulders from the field. It was a volunteer effort, Coan noted. The work involved would have cost $30,000 to $40,000, Jim Maxymillian told The Eagle.
But Coan reserved the highest praise for Thomas Romeo, a third-generation native who served a quarter-century on the School Committee until 2005 — 19 of them as chairman. Romeo organized and led the rescue mission that turned the space into a coveted soccer and softball field for Lenox athletes in 2003. Coan retired as superintendent in June 2007, after seven years at the helm of the school district; he had previously served as Pittsfield High School principal for 15 years.
To honor his vision and leadership, the School Committee voted recently to name it the Thomas J. Romeo Upper Recreational Field, current School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan told the gathering of about 75 friends, family members and longtime town residents.
The field now bears a plaque, unveiled by Romeo's daughter, Karen Romeo-Leger, "in recognition of his visionary leadership, his unselfish contributions and his many years of service to the children of Lenox."
Describing her father as a humble man, Romeo-Leger, an art teacher at the school, — told the gathering how he persevered to coordinate the construction of the field by enlisting the Maxymillian Cos. to restore a project left incomplete by a previous contractor.
Romeo, retired from a top administrative career at Berkshire Health Systems, traced the history of the town's efforts to fund completion of the Upper Field, and saluted the spirit of volunteerism displayed by the Maxymillians that finally created a badly needed space for the the school's outdoor sports teams.
Clarence Fanto can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.