BERLIN - Of all the people who gathered at the Berlin High School on Thursday, no one could think of a more deserving name to hang over the renovated tennis courts than the man who for put so much time, effort and energy into the community.
More than 100 friends, family members and former students of longtime Berlin boys tennis head coach Rex Smith gathered to watch the recently renovated courts, where Smith spent so much time before his passing back in November, be renamed in the coach’s honor.
“There was no way this wasn’t getting done,” said Scott Trevethan, longtime friend of Smith and father to Smith’s first state champion in Jon Trevethan.
The decision to dedicate the courts in Smith’s memory was such an obvious one to those who knew him, that the decision was made even before Smith passed away at the age of 71, after 38 years of coaching the Redcoats.
“We started talking about it in the hospital,” Scott Trevethan said. “I was with his two boys and close family friends and we started talking about what we could do to honor him. I had a chance to talk to him before he passed away and he was always humble to the end. I wanted to make sure people would remember him for all he did because he would never tell anyone himself.”
A large crowd gathered to remember Smith on Thursday, and almost every friend or colleague that stepped to the podium in front of the tennis courts remarked that Smith would have likely been aggravated with the attention he was receiving. Still, Berlin athletic director Jeff Mauri, former athletic director Dan Scavone and Scott Trevethan shared how Smith impacted their lives and the Berlin community, before the podium was opened up to whoever wished to share their favorite story about Smith.
Berlin girls basketball head coach Sheila King, girls tennis head coach Andrew Thurston, Berlin math teacher Eileen Thurston and Hall boys tennis coach and CIAC state tournament director Jim Solomon all stepped up to remember their endless memories of Smith, as did some of his former players.
“He gave his heart and soul to scholastic tennis,” Solomon said. “He bleeds Redcoats red. He made wonderful choices on behalf of the kids here. That’s what he was all about.”
Jon Trevethan, who dedicated his recent Class M state championship to Smith, helped Eileen Thurston tear away the cover that concealed the new sign commemorating the new ‘Rex Smith Memorial Tennis Courts,’ with the sign including a head shot of Smith and the Berlin logo. The crowd of loved ones applauded the sign as it was revealed, including Smith’s sons Augie and Toby Smith.
“It’s overwhelming,” Toby said of the turnout. “It’s definitely something that you always knew, that he was doing a lot, but to see all the people here solidifies what he’s done and how hard he worked.”
Those who attended agreed it was the least they could do for a man that gave his all to Berlin and the tennis program.
“I think we all agree that he put his heart and soul into this school and this community,” Toby said. “To see his name put on the fence is a fitting end. He cared a lot about the people here and it’s nice to see the people paying it back to him.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com