LYNN — Pat Dutch couldn’t get over the number of people who visited her house Tuesday, and the different generations, and walks of life, they represented.
They all came to the Dutch home to pay tribute to her husband, Bill, who died Tuesday morning of health complications he’d been battling since last winter.
“It has been overwhelming,” she said. She’d worked alongside her husband on behalf of the athletes of Lynn English for nearly more than a decade — and on behalf of Lynn youth sports for much longer than that.
“There were former athletes, guys who played Pop Warner for him whose children now play,” she said. “There were just so many people.”
Dutch, 79, had that effect on people.
“He was a legend. Absolutely,” said Lynn Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton, who gave Dutch his first duties at English upon being hired as the head basketball coach in 2006. “He was another father to those kids. He was always there for them.
“There are times when coaches are coaching and don’t have time to console kids during games. Billy was always that guy who was there. He helped them in so many ways — financially, with school. He even took some kids in if they were having problems. He was always there with a helping hand. He had a heart bigger than English High School.”
When he came to English, at Barton’s behest, he didn’t have a role. But he found himself volunteering with the team and was named an assistant coach on Barton’s staff.
The rest was history.
“I have a long history with Bill,” English Vice Principal and former athletic director Gary Molea said. “Bill coached Pop Warner when I played. We lost touch for a while and he called me when I was 18 years old for a softball league. I ended up playing with him. It’s been a long time since then. He came back around, he ran into Buzzy and he asked Buzzy if he could start helping out. Buzzy said ‘yes’ and the rest was history. The guy did so much for us, it’s unbelievable.”
Dutch took over as an assistant to the athletic director and did what English Athletic Director Dick Newton called the “leg work” of the department.
“He probably cut 2½-3 hours out of my day,” Newton said. “He took care of a lot of things. He collected everything, put it all away. He did all the things that took up a lot of time. I had him here last year for football season and spent a lot of time with him. He kind of knew he wouldn’t do it for another year, so he walked me through everything.”
Molea expressed a similar notion.
“I can’t say enough about what he did for our athletic program,” Molea said. “He did the things nobody wanted to do from washing the uniforms to picking up the kids. He went from basketball and he expanded to baseball with (former coach) Joe Caponigro and football with (former coach) Peter Holey. We always had something to do. He just wanted to be around. He loved the kids.”
When Dutch first starting showing symptoms of the heart problems that slowed him down, Molea had to order him not to come to the school so he could rest and recuperate.
“It didn’t work,” Pat Dutch said with a chuckle.
In addition to maintaining an organized equipment room and aiding Newton with the everyday ins and outs, Dutch “became a mentor to a lot of kids,” Newton said. “He’d sit down and talk to the kids whenever they wanted to quit or something like that. He’d be there to help them along.
“There were a lot of kids that had special relationships with him,” Newton said. “He personalized a lot of things. Kids that didn’t have any cleats, he’d go out and buy them. He’d always be there at all the events, all the fundraisers. He gave kids extra encouragement. Sometimes he’d tell kids the unwanted truths that they didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear, to make them better people.”
A fundraiser was held Sunday to help raise money for Dutch’s medical expenses. Newton, who also played Pop Warner for Dutch, was proud to see a strong wave of support. Many of Dutch’s former players were in attendance along with English graduates.
“I’m glad that we got to show how appreciative we were of him Sunday,” Newton said. “He would’ve been a very happy guy. I’m glad I got to know him in a lot of different roles.
“He always meant a lot to English High. He put his heart and soul into the school and it showed by all the people who were there Sunday. Even kids who played with me, who are in their 50s now, came out to the fundraiser because he made such a huge impact on their lives.”