As sports resumes go, Bob Veltidi's was extensive, spanning decades and two local school districts.
The Rockland Sports Hall of Fame member, who died Dec. 27 at the age of 73 after battling cancer, continues to be remembered this week more for his devotion to Rockland athletics and its athletes than for his own extensive athletic accomplishments.
Veltidi, who played baseball and football and wrestled for Nanuet High School (class of 1965) and also briefly threw the shot put for the track team, was a good enough athlete to play freshman football and to wrestle for SUNY Cortland before an injury ended his collegiate athletic career.
But that didn't stop Veltidi, who was born in Suffern's Good Samaritan Hospital September 7, 1947, to Lillian and Patsy Veltidi, from coaching and otherwise contributing to athletics.
Veltidi, a two-way football player at Nanuet High who twice earned all-Rockland County honors, also attended Rockland Community College and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and health from Pennsylvania's Slippery Rock University in 1970.
What followed was 33 years in the Suffern School District. His duties there ranged from teaching physical education to serving for many years as head varsity football coach and assistant varsity wrestling coach, and then as assistant athletic director.
Rockland sports' biggest advocate
Even in retirement, his mind didn't wander far from Suffern. He and his wife, Judy, whom he met at SUNY Cortland in 1966, married in 1969 and taught with for a time at Suffern's old Washington Avenue School, moved in 2003 to Greenwood Lake following both their retirements from Suffern.
But they returned to Suffern about a dozen years later, and Veltidi in turn returned to being a huge part of Suffern sports as a fan who could be found watching baseball games from the parking lot, to a volunteer coach of the Mounties' heavyweight wrestlers, to the wrestling program's communications chief.
Chris Matteotti, who served as head Suffern wrestling coach from 2006 through last season, noted Veltidi sent out email updates about the program until only recently, when illness stopped him from doing so.
Suffern Athletic Director Andy Guccione noted those updates reached hundreds of people, even those who hadn't been directly involved with the program for 40 or 50 years. Included among recipients were five or six of Guccione's relatives.
Guccione was an elementary school wrestler almost 40 years ago when he met Veltidi.
"He was always involved in every level and always helping out," he said.
"I view him as an iconic figure in Suffern athletics," Guccione said. "He had always gone above and beyond, asking very little for himself. ... The Suffern athletic program really benefited from his body of knowledge and some of the extra instructional things he brought to the table. He never hesitated to help anyone."
Bob Buono, who was Suffern's AD from 1993 to 2011, made Veltidi his first assistant AD. But he indicated Veldetti always did more than his job description, a trait that never left him.
"Anytime we needed any fundraising done, he was such a great resource and voice. We always included Bobby," Buono said.
The two were part of a group of school retirees who convene Saturday mornings for breakfast to talk sports and more. While ill, Veltidi joined in via Facetime, noted Buono.
Of his friend's devotion to and knowledge of local high school sports, he said, "It wasn't just Suffern. It was Rockland County as a whole."
"He was really like an encyclopedia," who could "go back as far as you want" with information from eons ago, Buono said.
But he knew about and was concerned about kids well before they donned varsity uniforms and amassed stats.
"Bob was always so dedicated to his students," remembered Matteotti, who had Veltidi as his phys ed teacher at what was then Cyprus Road Elementary School (now Richard P. Connor Elementary).
"He'd rope me and all my friends into multiple sports," Matteotti noted, recalling him coming in before school to oversee wrestling sessions, going outside during lunch to help with football games and running after-school softball.
"He always had time for us and was making sure we were doing the right things. ... Even in high school, he made sure to keep everybody involved," Matteotti said.
In fact, Veltidi's concern extended well beyond when his former athletes were adults.
"He always put everyone else first. He was always checking to see how you were doing. He always made you feel like he was your biggest fan. I'll miss that but I'll never forget it," Matteotti said.
While they've been taken over by someone else, he'll also miss those emailed wrestling updates from a guy Matteotti considered a "great wrestler in his own right."
'Ahead of his time'
Clearly, the same could be said about him as a football player, given his all-county honors.
But also great, according to Suffern varsity basketball coach Scott Wright and varsity baseball coach Chris Michie, was Veltidi in his role as varsity football coach.
Wright played for him and Veltidi hired Michie as junior varsity football coach, so both had a bird's eye view of Veltidi's coaching and cite him as being an offensive innovator.
"He was so ahead of his time," Wright recalled, noting in the late 1980s, when he played for him, Veltidi employed a run-and-shoot offense, not seen yet among local high school teams.
"At the time, it was so new; it was very fun to be involved with at the high school level," Wright said, noting opponents had a hard time defending against it.
Michie, whom Veltidi hired in 1989 and who coached under him until Veltidi became assistant athletic director in the mid-'90s and gave up coaching, laughed remembering Veltidi's "polecat" offense, a funny formation with "guys spread all around."
But it was an effective tool and a spark for Suffern, which Michie noted was often undermanned back then, with small rosters.
"It was just one more thing to defend. He made it tough on (opposition) coaches," Michie said.
Even after Veltidi stopped coaching football, Michie would pick his brain.
"He was just a mentor to me," he explained of Veltidi, who, besides being inducted into the Rockland Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 (receiving the Joseph Holland Lifetime Achievement Award), is in both the Nanuet and the Suffern High sports halls of fame and began the Suffern hall.
"He loved football. ... He did so much for his players," added Wright, who, like Guccione, referred to Veltidi as an icon.
Wright noted he'd sometimes asked Veltidi, who was known to many of his longtime friends as Robbie," to give pre-game speeches to his basketball team.
"That was always a special moment for me," he said.
A true Mountie
Velditi, who at different points served as Section 1 Football Coaches Association president and Rockland County Coaches Association president, and was on the hall of fame boards, of course, had many special moments outside sports.
He traveled extensively with his wife and they were parents to a daughter, Sally, and son, Douglas, and grandparents to two, Katherine and Patrick.
But even with family, sports played a big role.
His daughter, who is the superintendent of Parks and Recreation in Eastchester and who played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse for Suffern and was a cheerleader there, said that growing up she thought everyone spent every fall Saturday watching football. And she recalls winter Saturdays in the Suffern gym with her friends, helping out with bout sheets and standings at wrestling matches, and fishing and ice fishing with her dad. And, of course, there was pool time, since, at one point, her parents ran Suffern Memorial Pool.
Veltidi, who clearly got a lot of her love of sports (she coached modified field hockey at Bronxville and junior varsity girls lacrosse at Eastchester) from her dad, echoed what many have said following his death -- that "he was there for everyone in the community."
"Including me," she added, noting he'd always back her up and make her feel better, no matter the problem.
She'll miss that, as well as her dad being at holiday gatherings, for which he'd develop holiday-themed quizzes that became a friendly competition.
She'll also just miss the bond, she said, her dad enjoyed with her mom and with the rest of her family, including his grandkids, who learned how to "growl" like a pirate from him.
When asked about Veltidi's bond with Suffern, Wright said, "I just think he was someone who bled Suffern sports, Suffern athletics."
Mitchie said, "He was a true Mountie."
His daughter doesn't disagree and compares it to some extent to her dad's bond with everyone at home.
"It was such a sense of family," she said of Suffern and of Rockland athletics in general. .."Dad was a real family guy."
Nancy Haggerty covers cross-country, track & field, field hockey, skiing, ice hockey, girls lacrosse and other sporting events for The Journal News/lohud. Follow her on Twitter at both @HaggertyNancy and at @LoHudHockey.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Colleagues, family recall Bob Veltidi, Rockland Sports Hall of Famer