by Ian Roantree
The friends, family and fans of Tupper Lake athletes came together on Saturday at the Tupper Lake Middle-High School to honor the latest inductees to the TLMS’ Athletic Hall of Fame.
After the Ladyjacks regretfully lost against St. Regis in a close game of basketball, players cleared the court in preparation of the ceremony.
Saturday was a mark for several significant moments. The ceremony marked the 30th anniversary of the Hall of Fame itself, having finding its inception in the 1987/1988 school year. For 30 years, the Hall of Fame Committee would induct 71 individuals including coaches, players and two teams—some of whom were in attendance at the ceremony.
But unlike previous inductees, one of the new Hall of Famers wouldn’t have been seen on the field or court, nor would they have been seen standing amongst the players on the bench. Instead, this newly inducted member of the Hall of Fame would have be seen all over the sidelines, finding the right angles for the perfect shots. The 2018 Hall of Fame ceremony saw the first media coverage member to be inducted.
“As we celebrate tonight, we are here to pay tribute and respect to more than just the contributions of the three we have here. We are here to celebrate the past and the present of Tupper Lake,” said Athletic Director Dan Brown, who initiated the event from a podium that stood beneath the southern basketball net. He continued, “the past is comprised of Hall of Fame athletes and coaches who paved the road for our current student athletes.
“The present is based around coaches and athletes who work hard to carry on what those before them have created—keeping tradition alive and creating new traditions for the future. The past would not live on without the present, and the present would not be here without the past. Celebrating the Tupper Lake Athletic Hall of Fame is a strong reminder of this.”
Mr. Brown went on to give a nod to those responsible for the night.
“The Hall of Fame committee has done an excellent job selecting tonight’s inductees and the level of intensity they utilize in determining their selections is impressive.”
Mr. Brown also made a shout out to past hall of fame inductees who had been sitting together in the bleachers to Brown’s right. “Without you, our athletics would not be what they are today.”
And lastly, Brown thanked the custodial staff for their support, and the athletic department secretary, Shannon Kelly, who was responsible for organizing the event and spent several hours doing so.
After finishing his opening remarks, Mr. Brown went on to introduce the first athlete to be inducted into the Hall of Fame that evening—Faith Bedore McClelland.
From the start her high school athletic career, Faith quickly made a name for herself both on the basketball court and on the soccer field, where she would be a fierce competitor, gaining a notoriety from her opponents, and a reputation from her team and classmates. Despite their love for their teammate and leader, some of Faith’s teammates hated practicing against her “because she was just so good.”
Faith was coached for five years by Jim Merrihew, beginning when Faith was named to the junior varsity team in eighth grade and then moved up to varsity when she was a high school freshman.
This week Jim shared some of his comments about her impressive high school career.
“Faith was ready to play varsity as a freshman and that was rare at the time. She seemed comfortable with the older players and her teammates soon recognized she was a pretty good player!” he said.
The long time girls basketball coach remembered when he was coaching her JV team in a game against Northeast Clinton.
“There were four over-times and Faith got us into each over-time with her three-pointers. Although we lost, it turned out to be a tremendous back and forth game; lots of fun for both sides!”
As a freshman on the varsity team she was often a starter and she saw a lot of court time, he also remembered.
He said that year Faith had a remarkable goal. She was bound she would make 500 three-point goals in practices. So every time there was a break in practice, during or before and after, she shot three-pointers.
The coach remembers her reaching her goal of 500 three-pointers.
Coach Merrihew called her a hard worker on the court and very driven. In three-point goals alone, she was one of the top two or three players in the entire section, he noted.
He said Faith “pushed herself,” and was “very coachable,” in his words.
“She turned out to be one of a handful of girls I coached over the years who became assistant coaches on the floor. They knew what everyone was supposed to be doing!”
“Faith didn't just score a lot of points, she was the complete game- good at rebounding, shooting, stealing, ball handling, foul shooting.”
As a top player she also made everyone around her better, he said. His daughter who played with Faith told him that many times.
He also said she also inspired others around her to do their best.
Mr. Merrihew said Faith became a team leader as a junior and senior on the varsity team and she did it, in his estimation, “by performing on the court at a top level.”
Faith was also a remarkable defensive player. “She somehow knew what her opponents were doing...she'd step back for a moment and then explode, usually intercepting a pass and driving down the court to score. She seemed to always know where the ball was going to be!”
“Faith was a player, a real competitor. No matter what, if it was practice, a game or simply seeing who could fill up their water bottle first, Faith wanted to do it the quickest and she wanted to be the best,” said Fred Short, who coached Faith but who unfortunately couldn’t attend the ceremony and send off his former star into the hall of fame.
While playing soccer, Faith and her teammates won several CVAC (Champlain Valley Athletic Conference) championships and became a critical figure in establishing the girl’s soccer legacy in Tupper Lake.
On the court, Faith continued to exercise her athletic abilities. By the end of her junior year, Faith raked in a total of 792 career points. Little did she know, she would come out even hotter in her senior year, scoring 402 points in a single season, bringing her total to 1,194 points, a “high score” that few Tupper Lake athletes could match or surpass. There are only four athletes that are in the “1000 point club” and Faith is the only woman to make the ranks.
A high point count isn’t the only significant feat that Faith earned as a Tupper athlete. Her other career milestones include being a three-time Division 2 all star, a three-time CVAC all star, she was a Press Republican all star in her senior year, and finished in second for points scored in the CVAC one year.
Even after leaving her high school glory behind, Faith returned to the high school to coach, passing down her athletic insights and abilities to the younger generation of Tupper athletes. Today, Faith is a caring, contributing member of the community, a business owner and mother.
After Dan Brown introduced Faith, he then introduced the next speaker, Gordie Duval, a retired track and field coach, who would then introduce the next athlete.
Like the athlete inducted before him, Josh Dupuis was known as a great athlete in more than one sport.
“Josh was a three-time first place all-conference defensive end and earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and just as important, the respect of everyone who played against him...especially quarterbacks,” said Duval.
Josh started playing football and baseball at a young age, both of which he excelled at. To stay busy during the colder months, he got involved with indoor track which “turned out to be a really good thing,” according to Duval, as that’s where Josh made a lot of his athletic accomplishments.
“His dedication in the weight room combined with help from his shot put coach, Charlie Hoffer, resulted in Josh improving his throws to establish school and section records along with a state championship title.”
During the indoor track season his senior year, Josh broke both the school and section record in shot put. The record was previously held by state champion and Tupper Laker, David Bedore, but when Josh threw the shot 60 feet and eight inches, he overcame Bedore’s record of 59 feet and three and a quarter inches. Unbeknown to Josh, his senior year would continue to be a fruitful one.
Later that year, during the outdoor track season, Josh became the first thrower in New York State to surpass the 60 foot mark, breaking the record that had previously been shared by Gene Thompson of Mineville and of course, David Bedore.
His outdoor track career would reach its peak when he made a 61 feet and 7 and a half inch throw later that season.
With that track record, Josh naturally went off to compete in the state championships where he placed fourth in the discus and became the overall New York State champion in shot put.
Josh’s sports career didn’t end after receiving his high school diploma. He attended SUNY Brockport in his post-secondary studies where he played football and track where once he again, he broke the indoor shot put record. Between indoor and outdoor, he was a five time All-American in shot put.
“I know I speak for the entire coaching staff and anyone who knows Josh in saying that he is a class act and role model for other,” said Mr. Duval, who invited Ted Merrihew and Charlie Hoffer to assist him in handing over the award to Mr. Dupuis.
The last inductee, as mentioned above, is the first media coverage personnel to be inducted into the hall of fame.
“She was something,” recalled Jim Ellis, who took to the podium to honor the last inductee of the night, Kathleen Bigrow.
“The tool of her trade was the camera. Kathleen would go to game after game after game. Football, basketball, baseball, track; what a great contest she had a chance to witness and document here in Tupper. Sports in the 1950’s saw great battles and she began to chronicle them during her time working for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as a reporter, and later with the Tupper Lake Free Press. She reported on all sports. She was specially happy when women began to claim their place in the sports world.
“I remember, she was here at one football game, and she got nailed on the sidelines and broke her leg while she was trying to take pictures!
“She was a tough competitor in her own right. She loved not only the fact that we had kids that were participating in sports, but the thrill of the games was the thing that really made her happy.”
Kathleen passed away in 2014 and left behind a legacy of the sports and stories she documented and the lives she touched through dedication to the community.
To accept the award, Kathleen’s great nephew and fellow hall of famer, Ray Planty approached the podium in her place.
Publisher Dan McClelland was also asked by Mr. Brown to say a few words about Kathleen. Although he abbreviated his comments that evening, after Mr. Ellis' praise, the text is published below:
“It's my privilege to be here this evening when the Tupper Lake High School Hall of Fame Committee honors my daughter in law, Faith, and my old friend Kathleen Bigrow.
“Kathleen was very generous, giving away more of her photographs perhaps than she ever sold. In that same generous spirit and another impressive photographer, Jim Lanthier found a rare shot of Kathleen with retired teacher Ed LeBlanc when they were out on Raquette Pond searching for what Ed used to like to call his pike-burgers. Jimmy, who inherited Kathleen's extensive photographic collection, donated large photos of Kathleen, Josh and Faith for the school wall of fame.
“Kathleen was ahead of a time. She began a photography business here at a time when most women were stay at home moms. She worked in a world of men- men who ran our governments, men who ran our schools and men, who for the most part coached our teams.
“A hard-charging, confident woman, we saw her stand toe to toe with her male counterparts in public discussions over the years, never giving an inch. Kathleen loved to argue about taxes and politics. A life long Democrat, she never swayed from her belief in her party. If the Dems nominated a jackass for office, she'd tell you how well he or she “hee hawed.” If the Republicans did, that was an jackass.
“In the 1950s Kathleen took a job as the local correspondent for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. At the time Tupper Lake was covered by three or four regional dailies, in addition to the Free Press.
“Kathleen's vivid but not always factual reporting (she believed the truth was wasted on a good story) sold papers for the Enterprise, greatly expanding its circulation here. The police blotter was her thing.
“She eventually had a falling out with Bill Doolittle or some other publisher eventually and moved to the Watertown Daily Times and filed stories and her many photos there. The old timers here nicknamed her “Brenda Star,” after the fictitious female cartoon reporter.
“By that time she had already chronicled in thousands of photos of Tupper Lake events.
“When my former partners and I bought the Free Press from the Quinn family in 1977, one of the first things we did was hire Kathleen as a part-time photographer. It was a very wise move. She was tireless and worked seven days a week.
“Kathleen had two major passions, when it came to covering the news. She loved to chase ambulances, police cars and fire trucks. Many times she beat the emergency vehicles to the scene.
“Her second passion where the kids of the community. She loved to venture into the elementary school here to take photos of pupils working in their classrooms and on special projects. She loved high school sports and she routinely took action and group photos of every Tupper Lake team over the decades. It wasn't about winning or losing, it was about striving for success, doing your best for your team and staying healthy and happy as a result.
“In that regard I believe she is a very fitting candidate for our sports hall of fame. If Kathleen was alive today she wouldn't have been happy with tonight's acclaim and she probably would have made a fuss, as she often did publicly. But in her heart she would have been tickled!”
Saturday night Mr. McClelland closed his brief remarks by joking that if he had known Faith was going to become a McClelland, he would have paid more attention to her exemplary sports career when she was in high school.
This is how organizer Dan Brown summarized the impressive fraternity during Saturday's ceremony: “Our Hall of Famers have set the standard for play, broken gender barriers, and built traditions which everyone has come to love and respect.” Dan Brown said of the group during the ceremony.
by Ian Roantree