FAIRFIELD — Mike McGee’s eyes started welling up as he watched some of his heroes and fellow Lawrence High School legends gather for a news conference introducing the school’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

“I’m sure I’ll have plenty of tears on Sept. 25, too,” said McGee, who garnered 350 wins in a 31-year career as Lawrence’s boys basketball coach. Lawrence will officially induct the first 15 members of the Lawrence High School Hall of Fame on Sept. 25. On Wednesday, with roughly half of the inductees in attendance, athletic director Tim Martin introduced the men and women who made school history long before their most recent honor.

The class consists of Bruce Bickford, Cindy Blodgett, Raymond Cairnie, Earle “Pete” Cooper, Dan Dangler, Dana Fields, Gus Folsom, Harold Joseph, David Martin, Kirk Mathieu, Dick McGee, Mike McGee, Mike Mealey, Arthur Roundy and Ray Winship.

Tim Martin emphasized that the hall of fame, the brainchild of recently retired AD Bill McManus and three years in the making, is not just a sports hall of fame. Although most of the members of the inaugural class had ties to the athletic program, the hall will include people from all fields who distinguished themselves as former graduates, teachers, coaches, administrators and special contributors to Lawrence.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be in this first class,” Mealey said. “And it’s long overdue to have a hall of fame here at Lawrence.”

Seven of the inductees attended Wednesday’s news conference and noted how intertwined many in their group were, and continue to be. The closest connection belongs to the McGees, father Dick and son Mike, while others enjoyed prolific high school careers while being coached by someone they can call a fellow hall-of-famer. Some of those coaches credit other inductees with inspiring their coaching.

Cooper led Lawrence to three state championships and became the winningest coach in Maine high school football in a 28-year career at the school. When he arrived at the school in 1969, Folsom — after whom the school’s gymnasium is named — agreed to let him observe while he coached the boys basketball team.

“I was thinking to myself — ‘I’ve got a nice new job here. It’s looks like I’ve got great kids. If I don’t learn from Gus Folsom about coaching, I’m an idiot.'” Cooper said. “I got a chance to be better than I ever thought I could be just watching Gus coach.”

Mealey, a 1970 graduate, was one of Cooper’s first football captains and went on to play at the University of Maine, then came back to teach physical education and coach baseball and football at Lawrence for 27 years.

“Mike McGee was a little kid watching me play, and we’ve been friends because of his dad, Dick, who was a pillar of Fairfield,” Mealey said. “That’s the type of tradition that we’ve had here. And there’s many, many people that deserve to be here that aren’t, but they will.”

The inductees acknowledged the most common thread among them was the athletes who played with and for them.

“Very seldom did I have a kid that wasn’t willing to work hard — blue collar kids (who) had to scrape for everything they got,” Cooper said. “On the football field, they were just competitive. And it was generation after generation after generation.”

“I know most of us believe that we’re here because of our teammates and our coaching colleagues and the kids that we had play for us,” Mealey said.

To start the process of honoring those individuals, Martin said he and the Lawrence High School Alumni Association followed the blueprint of other school systems, particularly Brewer High School, that have formed their own halls of fame.

“Three years ago, Bill McManus had an idea to start a hall of fame, so he came to me and asked if we could get that going,” Martin said. “I promised him we’d get it done before he retired. We almost made it.”

“We had a great group of individuals on the selection committee and we tapped into their history and wealth of knowledge to make sure they got the inaugural class down to a ‘T’, and we think we have the 15 most outstanding individuals to get this going,” Martin said.

While 15 inductees will fill the hall at its inception, Martin said the size of future classes will be whittled down. All Lawrence graduates can be nominated but nominees must be out of school for a minimum for five years. Anyone can submit a nomination.

The induction banquet will be at T&B’s Event Center in Waterville. Prior to that, it will be holding two benefits to raise money for the Hall of Fame — a dance on August 12 and a lobster/clam bake on August 13. For more information, tickets or to make a donation, contact Tim Martin at 314-1640.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33