Published in the May 11, 2016 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — Retiring Summer Street School physical education teacher Craig Stone was honored for his 44 years to Lynnfield Public Schools during a retirement party held at the Hillview Country May 7.
One hundred and twenty five guests that included family, friends, school officials, colleagues, former and current wresters, and former girls’ tennis players recognized Stone during the party. Summer Street School fourth grade teacher Darren Damiani served as the master of ceremonies for the party.
In addition to recognizing Stone’s accomplishments over the course of his 44-year career, the event’s speakers roasted the physical education teacher.
Summer Street School Principal Jen DiBiase said Stone has been a “cornerstone” at Summer Street School for the past 44 years, which she joked had nothing to do with the teacher’s last name.
“The dictionary states a cornerstone is a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls,” said DiBiase. “But it also talks about a quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based. And that speaks to who Craig Stone is. He has been a cornerstone in our building and community.”
Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay said the “story of Craig Stone is simply legendary.” While Tremblay was Summer Street School’s principal, she said Stone repeatedly turned in his retirement papers for eight years.
“Eight years ago when Craig first submitted his paperwork, I did my due diligence and started planning to hire a new PE teacher,” said Tremblay. “I even started looking at the job description and tweaking it, only to find out months later that Craig was just kidding. I fell into that trap for the next four to five years. It got to the point where when Craig submitted his papers, I let it go and right before the deadline, I would walk down to his office. I would simply say, ‘Craig, your letter?’ And he would say, ‘nah.’”
In addition to repeatedly asking Stone about his plans to retire for eight years, Tremblay also said she began working on her remarks for his retirement party. She said each speech began with the phrase “with mixed emotions.” But with Stone finally set to retire, she said Boston Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione’s comments after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series is more appropriate.
“Can you believe it,” Tremblay joked. “But it really is with mixed emotions that we celebrate your retirement from Lynnfield Public Schools after 44 years of service to our students.”
Tremblay said Stone made a tremendous impact on students. She estimated Stone served over 15,000 students, which she said is more than the 12,481 residents who call Lynnfield home.
“Craig has taught more people than actually live in our town,” said Tremblay. “It’s simply amazing.
Tremblay also said Stone helped create a positive school culture at Summer Street.
“I know why Craig pulled back those letters for eight years,” said Tremblay. “He didn’t want to leave the place that quickly became his second home. He truly loves coming to work every day and he truly loves the people. It’s hard to leave a place of love. Over the years, he has been a mentor and in many cases, a dear trusted friend. You have truly made a difference and left your mark on Summer Street School.”
Current and former Summer Street School faculty members Lisa Forrest, Debbie Guenard, Judi Lucia, Pam Feingold, Michelle Robert, Lorie Kelley, Stephanie Conrad-Hamer, Kristen Lortenzen, Karen Roberto, Sue Hayden and Cheryl Welsh also honored Stone during the retirement party. The faculty members highlighted the historical events that took place over Stone’s 44-year career, his professional accomplishments and made some jokes at the teacher’s expense.
“We feel truly blessed and fortunate to have worked with Craig,” said Welsh. “We will miss hearing his laughter in the hallway.”
Damiani and retired fourth grade teacher Pete Miele recalled how they used to meet with Stone each morning, which is why the three teachers were nicknamed “the boys club.”
“Craig got along with everybody at Summer Street School,” said Miele. “He is the kind of guy if you talk to him for five minutes, you feel like you have known him your whole life. And you might even buy a used car from him.”
Miele and Damiani also presented Stone with three wooden trophies commemorating Stone’s 300th, 400th and 500th career victories in wrestling and tennis. After learning Stone has no plans to stop coaching either team, they invited his son Michael up on the stage and gave him a bag of wood to construct the 600th career victory trophy, prompting laughter from the crowd.
After Miele and Damiani concluded their remarks, the Summer Street faculty sang a song called “Put Your Letter In, Put Your letter Out” under the direction of music teacher Harry Wagg, which jokingly mocked Stone’s reputation for repeatedly delaying his retirement.
Damiani said Summer Street School students and faculty members will miss Stone immensely.
“Summer Street School will never be the same Craig,” said Damiani. “Congratulations on your retirement and the next chapter of your life. We will miss you.”
Stone was given a standing ovation before he began his remarks. He thanked his friends and colleagues for the kind words.
“This is pretty overwhelming,” said Stone. “I am really touched. The outpouring of love and support over the years has truly been amazing. One of the reasons I continued to stay is I so enjoyed everyone. You have given me much more than I have given you.”
Stone personally thanked his wife of 38 years, Patty; his daughter Jenna; his son Michael; daughter-in-law Liz; his twin sister Sharlene and her husband Jerry; his sister Karen and her husband Mark; Pam and Fred Nelson; and Nancy Chenard.
“We have a very close family,” said Stone. “We share a lot of laughs and a lot of experiences.”
Stone also thanked his granddaughters Jillian and Samantha.
“I like to tell people that two of the reasons I give for retiring both call me Papa,” said Stone.
Stone recalled his early years and how he came to Lynnfield 44 years ago, including how he taught at Center School as well as Summer Street. He also discussed how he lived in town with former teacher Marge Cole.
“Back then, you would listen for the fire horn to sound announcing no school on a snow day,” said Stone. “And then the neighborhood kids would come by, knock on the window and we would play. I even bought myself a dirt bike, and we would ride the back trails together.”
Stone thanked his friends and colleagues for their support over the years.
“They are the heartbeat of Summer Street School,” said Stone. “Teachers and administrators come and go, but the SS Summer Street stays on a guided course because of your involvement. You guys don’t get the credit that you deserve and you deserve a lot of credit.”
Stone thanked his current and former students as well. He noted many of his former students became colleagues at Summer Street.
“If you hang around long enough, some of your former students become your fellow teachers and they become friends as well,” said Stone. “And your former students become parents, and you get to have their kids as students. A few years ago, a wrestler from Wilmington came up to me and said I coached his grandfather. That was definitely enlightening.”
Stone said he will miss the Summer Street School community immensely.
“It’s not about the destination, it about the journey,” said Stone. “And what a journey it has been. It has been more than a job for me. It has become my identity. It’s a lifestyle. I love waking down the hallways greeting the students, and they greeting me. I love the excitement PE generates, and watching the students become successful. But I have mostly enjoyed watching them grow into young adults and responsible members of the community. I have made lots of friends, had lots of laughs and take with me lots of memories.”
In closing, Stone quoted Winnie-the-Pooh creator A.A. Milne.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” said Stone. “Thank you all again for making my stay at Summer Street an experience I will never forget.”
After Stone concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.