Longtime New Hartford Coach Dies at Age 91
Don Edick was known for a tough, yet kind personality while having success as a longtime New Hartford coach.
One of 11 kids from a Rome family, Edick might have shown a “rough exterior” as a bit of an old-school, lead-by example kind of coach while being renowned for leading the Spartans football program for more than 20 seasons.
However, he also was able to develop a solid rapport with the kids he coached over the years.
Longtime New Hartford coach Tom Wells got to know Edick while sharing an office at the school.
Wells recalls one Friday night many years ago after a New Hartford loss, an unnamed player arrived in the office looking for Edick, who had stepped away. Some time later, Edick and the player returned to the office.
“I think what he was expecting was to be (admonished) for playing a terrible game or whatever,” said Wells, who noted he was unable to leave the office because the exit was blocked at the time. “But, long story short – which I didn’t expect – (Don) says ‘listen, you played a great game. Go home and have a good weekend. Don’t worry about what happened. We’ll see you Monday.’ That kid went out so relieved and so at peace.”
Wells’ point is to illustrate that “a lot of people thought from the outside that there was this totally rough exterior and this gruff old man. That may have been true from time to time.”
However, Wells said Edick was a coach “kids would run through a brick wall for.”
“There are many coaches I’m sure that got the same response out of their kids, but this was a guy you wanted to be around,” Well said.
Edick – still referred to as “Coach” by many – and so well-known at New Hartford that the school’s football field was named in his honor, died Monday. He was 91 years old.
Edick served as an example for Wells, who also played a couple football and baseball seasons under Edick in the 1960s.
“He was probably one of the reasons I chose to go into physical education and coaching,” an emotional Wells said Tuesday.
Jerry Pitarresi, who coached at New Hartford with Edick for more than 20 years simply called Edick “a special guy.”
“He was bigger than life, really,” Pitarresi said. “Don basically took me under his wing, mentored me and helped me get my feet under me.”
Edick was known as an outstanding athlete at Rome Free Academy in 1940s, participating on the football, basketball, baseball and track teams.
He went on to serve for three years in the Marine Corps before playing football on scholarship at the University of Dayton, where his teammates included eventual New York Giants star Jim Katcavage and Gerry Faust, the University of Notre Dame coach.
Later, Edick coached New Hartford’s baseball programs for 18 seasons starting in 1960 and worked as the school’s athletic director from 1976 to 1981.
He was known most as New Hartford’s football coach, though, helping mold athletes from 1971 to 1976 and 1981 to 1994.
“He was the kind of guy that every kid should have as a coach,” Pitarresi said. “He was loyal to his coaches, his teams and his community – both New Hartford and Rome.”
During his career as New Hartford head coach, Edick compiled a 124-49-6 record in 21 seasons. New Hartford went 89-18-3 during a 12-year stretch, including three undefeated seasons. New Hartford also won four consecutive Section III titles and five championships in seven years. New Hartford was ranked second in the state in 1989 and fourth in 1988.
Because of his impact in the area, Edick was inducted into the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Rome Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Edick had four children, Don Jr., Kevin, Laurie and Doug. Edick’s wife, Audrey, passed away in 2019.
Jim Kramer, the former Oneida High School star and assistant at then-Utica College, didn’t play on any of Edick’s teams or coach with him. However, he got to know him through Doug when both were coaching football near the Albany area.
After Kramer took over as New Hartford’s head football coach in 2017, he said the Edicks have “been nothing but outstanding resources.”
Kramer said his friendship with the eldest Edick grew quickly over the last few years.
“I think our friendship grew stronger as the years went on where we would have multiple conversations per week on the phone,” Kramer said. “It went from ‘hey, coach, thanks for your help.’ To where all of a sudden we’re telling each other ‘I love you.’ It grew fast. It was always nice for me to know I had him supporting me through any decision I made.”
Kramer said he’s “blessed to have the opportunity to be a friend” of Edick.
“The love and respect that those show for him now that they’re older, speaks volumes of what they thought of him,” Kramer said.
In recent years, friends and former players and coaches would gather on Edick’s porch at his home in New Hartford. There, they would swap stories and memories while they got to spend time with Edick.
“He was just the heart and soul of what we were,” Wells said. “He needed New Hartford and we needed him.”
(The Rome Sentinel originally published this story)