THIS IS A COPY OF A FAIRFIELD MINUTEMANS OUT OF BOUNDS COLUMN WRITTEN BY FRANK SZIVOS, SPORTS EDITOR, AND PUBLISHED IN MARCH 1998.
Fern "Coach" Tetreau walked away from coaching high school football 28 years ago, but his heart remains in the game. He still attends several Fairfield High games every year and never misses the Thanksgiving Day game. A football game is as much a part of the trimmings for his Thanksgiving Day dinner as stuffing and cranberry sauce. At 76 years old, Tetreau, the former Andrew Warde and Roger Ludlowe football coach, is still going strong. He's one of the top real estate salesman for William Raveis in Fairfield. But he will always be the coach. In most of his business conversations, his 17 years of coaching (from 1953-'70) still pops up. He still gets excited about football. Signing up a client to sell a house recently, he got into a long conversation about football. He got up from the kitchen table to demonstrate a trick play, where the center hikes the ball to running back instead of the quarter back. His team pulled that one a couple of times. Despite spending most of his career at Andrew Warde, he recalls three games with Ludlowe, which he didn't mind losing since his son, Mike, was playing quarterback for the Tigers. Mike still works with his father today, selling homes.
Football is something he's proud of - his legacy to Fairfield's youth. Too often, coaches earn reputations; for wins and titles. Tetreau has his share of those. But he gave his soul to the game. To him, playing football was learning about life - dealing with victory and defeat, getting knocked down and getting back up to go at again. At Ludlowe, his 1954 team was ranked in the Top 3 in the state. In 1959, he probably had his best squad at Warde, going undefeated 9-0 and in 1960 the Eagles finished 8-1. Off the '59 team, Tetreau had 15 players go on to play college football. Dave Graham was probably Tetreau's best player, who eventually played tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Coach always preferred razzle-dazzle on the football field. He liked to run the Statue of Liberty play where the quarterback fades back as if to pass and a running back cuts behind the quarterback to grab the ball. He ran draw plays and screen passes, which you still don't see much today at the high school level.
He taught his players to think on the field. One of the best plays he still remembers was against Harding of Bridgeport. Graham, who was playing defensive end, spotted a trick offensive alignment that the Warde team didn't recognize. Graham ran along the line and pounced on the ball before the snap. The play resulted in a 5-yard penalty against Warde, but might have saved a TD since the Eagles didn't know how to defend the Presidents' formation.
A Sanford, Maine native, who still speaks fluent French, Tetreau left coaching for school administration and left his mark there too. As assistant principal at Fairfield Woods Middle School, he handled the tough discipline problems. He introduced in-house suspensions for kids with behavior problems, isolating them in a classroom where they did school work, but didn't associate with classmates, which cured most wise guys. A 45-year resident of Fairfield, he was ahead of his time when he put a movie camera in a school bus to film any kids who were misbehaving. Today local school systems are introducing video cameras on school buses. For two years, he took in a Cuban refugee foster child, who spent time in an orphanage, to share his house with his three sons. Tetreau still stays in touch with Roberto "Chico" Rodriguez, who is a business executive today. Coach still watches football games with a critical eye. He likes to think of the types of plays he would call. He left the game to make a career move, but never lost his love for it. But more than the victories and losses, he will treasure the moments he shared with Fairfield kids on the football field. That's where he helped kids grow into men.
BOB ANDERSON, HOUSEMASTER, FAIRFIELD HIGH SCHOOL WROTE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN RESPONSE TO THAT ARTICLE, ENTITLED "FERN TETREAU EMBODIED THE TRUE MEANING OF 'COACH'",
I am submitting the following for your publication as a response to a recent column in your paper. I'd like to add to Frank Szivo's most deserving tribute to Coach Fern Tetreau in his recent Minuteman Out of Bounds Column "Still the Coach." I played for Fern both at Ludlowe and Warde in the mid to late fifties. We had .500+ teams at Ludlowe under Fern; however, right after the enrollment split into two high schools, the new school, Warde, also under Fern, won only 2 games in its first two years. Yet, it took only 2 years more for Fern to build the undefeated state power house Warde team of 1959.
Many Fairfield citizens recall the success of that team, with its "tricky" single-wing T-formation, using an unbalanced line, and a side-saddle blocking quarterback. The tailback in this formation had to be able to do everything which is what threw off defenses through Fern's effective use of the draw, screen and the third down 11 quick kick." In addition, in 6 of its 9 victories, this team held its opponents scoreless!
I returned to my alma mater in 1963 to leach English and assist Fern in coaching Warde football teams for about 10 years. It was during this time that I truly learned what the term "Coach" means, especially when it is associated with a fine man such as Fern Tetreau: One day before practice we learned that a player's father had died suddenly. His mother had asked Fern to "break the news" of this tragedy to him. I can vividly remember Fern doing this so caringly, as if he were himself an older brother of this young man. My respect for Fern that day and since has grown well beyond one who taught me trap blocking and planning a game strategy with x's and o's!
I am now well over 25 years beyond my last coaching days with Fern; yet, every now and then, when former players call me "Coach," I am touched that they might use that term with me, because it conveys my relationship with them beyond what I taught or failed to teach them about football; far more, it conveys what my coach and mentor taught me about life, ethics, the treatment of others and, most importantly, the value of human relationships.
Thanks, Fern, from the many of us who continue to be able to call you "Coach."
Ro & Fern Tetreau Family Website. This page was updated on November 20, 2000.