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Joe Speechley Joe Speechley
Inducted: 2010 - Graduated:

Joe Speechley

Coach & Educator

Ralph & Mary Smith Distinguished Service Award

It is with a distinct note of sadness that we honor Joe Speechley with the Ralph & Mary Smith Distinguished Service Award. Joe passed away on Oct. 24, 2010, two months after undergoing a heart valve replacement.

But there is much to celebrate in the life of Joe Speechley, especially as it relates to his love of Nanuet athletics.  After 50 years, his ardor for the Golden Knights had barely cooled. Consider this: Joe drove from his winter home in Florida to Syracuse – with a brief pit stop at his Monroe home – over the Thanksgiving weekend last fall to cheer on Nanuet in the 2009 State Class B championship football game at the Carrier Dome. “My wife decided to let me go up there or she wouldn’t be able to live with me,” Joe said facetiously a few months ago.

Joe is certainly a fitting recipient of the Distinguished Service award. His multifaceted involvement requires a deep breath before reciting. He:

  • Spent 25 years as an educator in the Nanuet Schools, primarily as an elementary school teacher at Miller and Highview schools;
  • Coached freshman football in two stints more than 20 years apart;
  • Coached middle school modified football in the 1970s and again throughout the ‘90s;
  • Ran the elementary school boys’ intramural programs for football, basketball and softball for 10 years;
  • Scouted opponents for the football and basketball teams;
  • Videotaped girls’ lacrosse matches for Coach Karen Leitner and girls’ basketball games for Coach Dave Powers;
  • Faithfully attended and helped out at Nanuet’s summer football camps;
  • Served as the “Get Back” coach containing and lining up players for entry from the sidelines during football games;
  • Offered his support for the teams and players in any other way possible.

Joe retired from teaching in 1990 but his involvement with Nanuet’s sports programs had hardly slackened in the intervening two decades, especially for the football team. “There was no more loyal person to Nanuet football than Joe Speechley,” says Rich Conklin, Nanuet’s head football coach since 1976, when Speechley was already well into his first tenure as a modified football coach. “There’s not one kid in the program, from the time Joe retired to now, that didn’t respect him for his loyalty, compassion and passion for Nanuet football.”

Joe was a Nanuet man for all seasons, a constant presence at athletic events in whatever capacity he was needed. “He just wanted to be part of it,” says Jerry Bonomolo, the former head basketball coach and football assistant. “He was always at every football and basketball event, if not coaching or scouting, then controlling the ballplayers on the sidelines, keeping score, coming to the games, doing supervision to support the various teams. Even if he wasn’t doing anything official, he would go anyway. He was a Nanuet guy all the way.”

Ironically, the Nanuet guy started out as a Pearl River guy. Joe was born and raised in Pearl River, the youngest of nine children of the dairy-farming Speechleys of Nauraushaun. Joe played football and basketball and ran track all four years in high school and was football co-captain and an All-County two-way lineman in 1952. After graduating in 1953, he enrolled at Oneonta State College in the fall of ’53. Joe left Oneonta in January 1955 to serve in the U.S. Army, including a one-year-plus stint in post-combat Korea, before returning to finish college in 1960 with a degree in elementary education.

Joe married his college sweetheart, Barbara Hudak, in June 1960 and got a job in the fall of 1960 teaching 5th and 6th grades at Highview School. After five years at Highview, one year at the newly opened Nanuet Middle School and three years at Miller, Joe detoured to Washingtonville for two years but was rehired at Miller and remained for eight years. During this time he completed his M.S. in education and received his certification in secondary social studies from SUNY New Paltz. When layoffs struck Miller in 1979 he latched on at Pine Bush Middle School teaching 8th and 9th graders for three years before being recalled by Nanuet in 1982 to fill a vacancy at Miller, where he stayed till retirement in 1990.

Joe’s coaching career at Nanuet started in 1960 when he coached freshman football with Bill Steffen, who was also the first baseball coach at Nanuet. “It was chaotic then,” Joe said of those early days of the athletic program. “Nothing was organized. It was not like today. We didn’t have the equipment we needed. The pay for assistant coaches was $100,” and even that wasn’t guaranteed. After coordinating the intramural program for 10 years, Joe was asked by then-head coach Dale Abeling to coach the 7th and 8th grade football team. He coached modified football and basketball, “winning more games than we lost.”

In 1982 Joe returned to coach freshman football, spending five enjoyable and winning seasons with Coach Rich Loughlin. “It was a learning experience,” Joe said. “Rich Loughlin’s techniques and knowledge of the game was fantastic.” One of Joe’s favorite players was Vin Sciortino, whom he had taught as a fifth-grader at Miller School and coached in frosh football. Joe reveled in watching some of his former players make important contributions on Nanuet’s historic 1989 undefeated and unscored-upon team.

After retiring from teaching Joe hardly missed a beat, coaching modified football with Pat Mitchell from 1990 to 2001. During the same period he performed videotaping duties for Dave Powers girls’ basketball team, including many playoff games, and also videotaped girls’ lacrosse for Karen Leitner, including the state championship game to which Nanuet advanced in 2003 at Cortland.

Joe’s dedication to Nanuet earned him plaudits from many organizations, such as the Nanuet PTA, Nanuet Black and Gold Club, Rockland County Coaches Association and Section 1 football. His heart valve replacement had slowed him in recent months but he remained an ardent supporter of Nanuet athletics right to the end. “After 50 years, it’s hard to give up,” said Joe, who had lived in Monroe for 47 years. “I have long relationships and a lot of old friends in the Nanuet area, many who I grew up with or worked with. I was heartbroken this year that my physical condition held me back.”

Joe, who would have turned 77 in December, celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with Barbara this year. The Speechleys split their time between their Monroe home and their place in Daytona Beach, Fla. They had two children, Melanie, 44, and Michael, 40, and two active grandsons, Daniel and Nicholas.

Joe was thankful for the abundant support of his family and was “grateful for the last 50 years with Nanuet’s coaches, teachers, parents and students.” His life was “very much enriched” working with coaches Rich Conklin, Dale Abeling, Mike Achille, Jerry Bonomolo, Brenden Rogers, Rich King, Pat Mitchell, Walter Grewe and Ed Denton, among others.