WATERTOWN - On Monday morning, we gathered our emotions and bid another fond farewell to a community icon when George Palomba was laid to rest at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
It gets harder every time I have to write a remembrance, because I don’t know where the strength comes from to get through it, but here goes.
It wasn’t a sports season at Watertown High School, Swift Middle School, GROWS, Pop Warner, WOLL or assorted other youth leagues unless you saw George either running a practice or running a team from the bench; that’s how omnipresent he was.
Neither was it an official meeting of a local sports organization unless George was sitting in on it and making his views crystal clear; that’s how opinionated he was.
It also wasn’t a Monday morning unless laying on my desk were a few notebook-torn pages with handwritten notes by him about how his team had fared over the course of the previous week, I knew he’d usually leave the occasional loss unmentioned, but I never bothered him about it; that’s how much he cared about his players.
I enjoyed George’s company throughout the years; not that it was always hunky-dory between us; he and I could play the stubborn game just as well as the other, but in the end, I believe we both had a mutual respect for each other and that was important to both of us.
George was Oakville-Watertown through-and-through, and was unapologetic about his passion for all things around here, as well as his beloved Red Sox (which I never held against him).
When you got to his essence, George was all about his community, his country (Marines), and the youth of this community.
When I was asked by Chris Martin to pinch-hit and introduce him as the recipient of the George Palomba Community Service Award at the WHS Gridiron Hall of Fame induction last Sunday, that was the common thread I noticed between them.
“He was like a grandfather to me,” Martin said, and I could hear and feel the loss in his voice.
What I’ve been impressed with about Watertown-Oakville in the years I’ve been here is that when people who’ve made the local clubs and organizations what they are depart from the scene, someone always steps up to replace them.
If you doubt that, look around and see how many Circles of Sports, Halls of Fame, Little Leagues, and summer softball organizations there are still standing in the area.
The answer is not too many, and that’s because people like George Palomba, Don Stepanek, Bernie Pogodzinski, Roger Ouellette, Katie Consalvo and others stepped up.
Now we have people like Chris Martin, Bruce Cianciolo, Monica Nolan, Rob Graziano, Joe Romano, and the great crew at the Parks and Recreation Department and countless others stepping up, serving our youth and making sure they have what they need to be successful on and off the fields of play.
We have been fortunate to have been blessed with George and every single one of the names I’ve mentioned above because people who care about their community make this a better community for all of us.
George would even go the visual route to help out.
In early September, George was interviewed by Channel 3, which was doing a scam alert story about miscreants who were attempting to sell burning permits and assessing fines for improper burning.
He said, “If they don’t have any identification, saying they belong to the fire department or anything I’m not even going to talk to them.
“I mean, we had people come over wanting to check my cellar in case it was leaking and all that. They did that a couple times already, and so, I work construction, so I know.”
One last service to his community.
I’m certainly glad I was able to introduce George when he escorted his grandson Joe Leclerc out onto the field at the Mills Complex for Senior Night on October 29.
To his wife Mona and his family, know that George will be missed in so many ways and in so many places.
Rest assured that next George Palomba will come from among the many young lives he influenced.