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A Tribute To A Dear Friend
When visitors enter Mount Saint Charles Academy, they encounter a hallway that leads to the Main Office. On both sides of the wall hang pictures which tell something about the storied history of the school. Halfway down this corridor on the left is a photo of a classroom of boys taken some time in the mid 1940’s. There - right up front - sits a teenage Bill Belisle. The face peers into the camera - intense, focused, and serious.
Who could have thought that this would be the beginning of something so special for Mount Saint Charles- something that would go on for nearly 70 years and that would extend far beyond the boundaries of this school.
Flash forward to the mid 1970’s and Bill was back at the Mount, employed as the ice rink manager and as an assistant coach to the boys’ hockey team. I had just been hired as the Athletic Director a few years earlier, and now Mount was looking to hire a varsity hockey coach. The administration decided to turn the program over to Bill Belisle, a decision that would put the school on the track that would lead to some of the most amazing of accomplishments and that would lead to the program gaining national attention. A state championship win streak that would extend from the 1970’s and into the 21st century, players being drafted into the National Hockey League, players going on to play in the Olympics, and teams that competed for the National High School Championship.
During that time I often wondered how all of this could be actually happening. I often wondered-that there had to be some secret to this incredible success. And always, as I searched for that key, I would fall back to some of the qualities that this man carried throughout his life - devotion to his God, devotion to his wife and sons and devotion to the young men that came to him to learn the game of hockey. And I do not use that word “devotion” lightly.
Yes. he did remain intense, focused and serious throughout his life, but there was another side of him that perhaps only those close to him witnessed. On the night when he would be honored for achieving the amazing plateau of 1000 high school hockey game victories, I sat with him in his office that was tucked away in the corner of the locker room for about 30 minutes and listened as he spoke of some of the many memories he had experienced as coach. There were times during that talk when he choked on his words and tears welled up in his eyes.
I was at this moment when I discovered something that I had been searching for- for the many decades that I had known him and worked with him. That it was love that drove him. Yes - love for his God, love for his family, love for his school, love for the game, and love for his many players. I feel fortunate to have witnessed the power of this love - a love that could move mountains. I feel fortunate to be able to say that he was a dear friend and that I will miss his presence in my life.
Richard Lawrence Mount Saint Charles Academy
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