The Bridgehampton School Hall of Fame sits just inside the school’s front doors. A number of plaques of those previously inducted adorn the vestibule, along with a number of championship basketballs and trophies from years past. On Friday night, Bridgehampton added to its collection by inducting five new members to its Hall of Fame.
Joining the likes of Billy DePetris, Mary Anne Jules, Sandy McFarland, John Niles, William S. Stavropoulos and Carl Yastrzemski, among others, were Roger Golden, John L. Halsey, Robert “Bobby” Hopson, Albie McCoy and Merle D. Wiggin.
The night was begun by David Elliott and his student-led marimba band, followed by the singing of the national anthem by student Ryeasia Walker. Bridgehampton Athletic Director Michael DeRosa then opened with remarks, prior to a number of people who spoke on behalf of those being inducted.
The late Roger Golden was a physical education teacher, boys basketball coach and athletic director at Bridgehampton from 1968 to 1981. He was the first head coach to bring a New York State Championship title to Bridgehampton and the first to win a state title in three consecutive years. Coach Golden, who won nine league titles throughout his career, is also responsible for winning the school’s first Federation title in 1980. Golden was also voted nine-time league Coach of the Year and was Suffolk County Coach of the Year in 1974.
On his plaque, it reads: “Coach Golden was dedicated to his school and community and demonstrated this by rarely ever missing a day. He always had a calm demeanor, led by example and held his players to high expectations of themselves. Coach Golden cared for his players like they were his own.”
Speaking on behalf of Coach Golden was one of his former players, Carl Johnson, who will one day most likely share wall space with his former coach in the school’s Hall of Fame. He said that Coach Golden was rather intimidating, despite his 5-foot-7-inch stature, and that he was a very organized and neat person. It was also because of Coach Golden that Johnson got into coaching.
“He saw something in me. I was wandering around, I had nothing to do, I didn’t know what direction I was going with my life. He came up to me and asked, ‘Would you like to coach basketball?’ I said, ‘No coach I don’t want to do that. I don’t know how to be a coach. I don’t know what to do.’ He said, ‘Trust me, you’ll be a good coach,’” he explained. “There’s not a better man who deserves to be on that wall.”
John L. Halsey
John L. Halsey, an 11th generation farmer in Bridgehampton, graduated from Bridgehampton in 1961, at which point he attended the Thompson School of Agriculture earning an associate’s degree in applied science. Mr. Halsey broke from his family’s traditional potato farming and instead started a small dairy. Not long after marrying his wife, Evelyn Skou, in 1969, the couple started The Milk Pail farm store, where they sold their dairy products. The business eventually blossomed to include fruits, such as apples, peaches, blueberries and pumpkins, produce that is still sold at the Montauk Highway location in Water Mill today. John and Evelyn’s two daughters, Amy and Jenn, continue the family farm tradition, along with grandkids Will and Kay.
“John is generous in sharing his farming experiences with the community,” it reads on his plaque. “His farm tour for school children gives them a glimpse into what it takes to grow food on a farm.”
“It’s very gratifying to me to see the energy this school has invested in not only agriculture, but agriculturists in this area,” Mr. Halsey said during his speech. “One of my greatest pleasures has been growing food for people to eat.
“Yes, it is my name and my picture that is on the plaque, but there many people who have helped me along the way who are also, in my mind, included on that plaque: my parents and family, teachers and staff here at Bridgehampton, instructors and staff at Thompson School, Sunday School teachers, and most importantly, Evelyn …”
Halsey’s daughter, Amy Halsey-Cohn, and family friends, Mark and Jinny Ewald, helped to present Mr. Halsey with the honor. Ms. Ewald said, “I don’t know if anyone has seen the Mr. Rogers’ movie ‘It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood,’ but when I saw it last week, all I could think about is John Halsey, because they share so many traits: kindness, generosity, curiosity, and a deep love for humanity. And, for sure, John makes our neighborhood beautiful, and we’re grateful for that.”
Robert ‘Bobby’ Hopson
Bobby Hopson graduated from Bridgehampton in 1990 and went on to have a successful career at Wagner College, at which he is already inducted to its athletic hall of fame. Hopson’s 1,720 career points is still the most points scored in school history, but, “in addition to his scoring prowess, Hopson was also regarded as a tremendous defensive player and rebounder,” as it says on his plaque.
Hopson was named All-Long Island and All-State in both his junior and senior years, despite never winning a state title, something he admitted at the podium was tough to swallow, “but the luck of the draw.”
“The hardest thing for me was living up to this person next to me,” he said, referring to his brother, Carl Johnson, who introduced him. “It was very difficult, trust me,” he said with a laugh. “Growing up, I remember going to state championship games and I had three opportunities to go myself, but in those three games we lost by a total of six points, so I always say I was seven points from going to a state championship.
“But it’s not always about state championships,” he added. “I truly had a great time and there were other things besides basketball. I got to experience in life.”
Hopson, as Johnson noted, was one of 11 people to graduate from Bridgehampton in 1990 — Hopson was the only boy.
“He didn’t win a state title personally, but he was my assistant coach during my first title, and I was very grateful to have Bobby with me during those times,” Johnson said. “I could sit him down at the other end of the court and not worry … he also has a master’s degree in special education from Wagner and he played overseas. He’s accomplished a lot, but he’s never beaten me on one-on-one,” he joked.
Albie McCoy was born and raised in Bridgehampton, from which he graduated in 1982. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in economics from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., McCoy returned home to work in the family businesses, McCoy Bus Company, Inc. and W.F. McCoy Petroleum Products, Inc., which he runs today. The McCoy Bus Company has served local school districts, including Bridgehampton, for over 45 years, and Montauk, for the past 35 years. Mr. McCoy has given back to his alma mater over the years including donating numerous turkeys during the annual Thanksgiving feasts and he provided a free bus to the district that ran daily and is always looking to help those in need.
McCoy credits his hard working bus managers, drivers, monitors, and mechanic for making it happen day in and day out.
McCoy couldn’t make the ceremony on Friday night, but was presented his plaque by Vicky Tiska.
Merle D. Wiggin
Merle D. Wiggin was a physical education teacher, coach and athletic director at Bridgehampton from 1940 to 1967. Two years into his tenure, Wiggin was called into active duty for World War II. He served for four years, after which he resumed his duties at Bridgehampton.
Wiggin led the school to numerous championships in baseball, basketball, football and soccer, and won over 70 percent of his games. On several occasions, one of his former players, Ray Charlton, said on Friday night, he won county titles in football, basketball and baseball, all in the same school year. He coached a number of the school’s top athletes, including Billy DePetris, Vernon Mack, William Stavropoulos, Ed Vinski and Carl Yastrzemski.
“It’s tough enough to win a county title in one sport,” Charlton said, “but he did it in three sports in the same year. That says a lot about a coach because anyone that coaches knows it’s difficult, both mentally and physically, on your body.”
As Charlton was graduating, Wiggin left him with something he felt was very profound and stuck with him: “As you go through life, years from now, very few people are going to remember how many wins you had, how many titles you had, or how many championships you had. But what people will remember is your character. From this point on, when you leave school, the most important thing to think about is maintaining good character.”
“The only difference between chance and chump is you,” remembers former player Wayne Rana. “As far as I’m concerned, that did more for me, not only for my four years here, but even ever since, and I’ve never forgotten that.
“I know that Coach Wiggin wasn’t the first to coach in Bridgehampton,” he added, “but I’d like to think that his illustrious career had a great deal to do with its unprecedented and continued success.”