When I think of Ray Purcell, I am reminded of the attributes he had as a teacher, a coach, a friend and a fellow Johnstownian. Words like dedication, service, responsibility, leadership, loyalty and honesty all come to the top when I stir the facets of Ray Purcell's life here in Johnstown.
Ray came here as a physical education teacher during the postwar period of growth that the Johnstown public school system was experiencing, when new buildings, new programs and a very much expanded faculty all came into being.
Over the years, Ray did an excellent job in the physical education classes with all kids at all levels, as well as being a fine interscholastic coach in many sports.
A few years after joining the faculty, John Siedlecki moved up the ladder to become the high school principal, and he was required to give up his coaching duties as head coach of the baseball program at JHS.
For many years, the baseball program had been very successful under John Siedlecki's coaching, and many people were nervous about the future. Ray was appointed head coach, and he quietly stepped into the position. Under his leadership, the baseball program continued in an attitude of excellence.
Ray was the first cross-country running coach that Johnstown High School ever had, and for 19 years, his teams were a power in sectional and state competitions. He developed many great distance runners at JHS who moved on to college competition and became national class runners. Ray still remains as having the most successful record as cross-country running coach at JHS.
As a member of the faculty in the Johnstown public school system, Ray took an active part in the teachers association, serving as president for two terms. He did a great deal in helping our faculty to maintain equity among the best school systems in the Capital District.
How fortunate for the people of Johnstown to have had a man like Ray Purcell as a teacher, coach and citizen whose bright light of dedication and service affected so many of our young people.
Ray had a term he would say to his cross-country team just before each race. They would huddle up and join hands, and Ray's last words to them were always, "Be there, boys!" Ray's team usually were and Ray always was.