We are all, at some point, destined to become distant memories, if we’re remembered at all.

It’s been more than 30 years since Peter Story Sr. served as athletic director at Gardiner Area High School and 16 years since he left the state, but news of his recent death stirred memories of a man who oversaw a golden age of coaches and athletics at Gardiner.

Story had the support of administrators at Gardiner from men like superintendent Merle Peacock, principal Alex Somerville and assistant principal John Bragoli and he in turn passed that support on to his coaching staff. And what a staff it was. During Story’s tenure in the mid-70’s — it was his second go-round at Gardiner — he hired John Wolfgram, John Coughlin, Norm Gagne, Gary Grady, Moe McNally, Rob Munzing, John Burgess, Mel Coffin, Win Millett, Jon White and a host of others who left their mark on high school athletics in Maine.

“Peter went out and actively recruited us,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin still remembers the call he got from Story while he was coaching a junior varsity basketball practice at rival Cony.

“I got called out of practice and he said ‘how would you like to come to Gardiner and coach varsity basketball, ‘ ” Coughlin said. “I said I’d love to.”

Coughlin coached baseball at Gardiner, too, and recalled a day when one of his stray fungos shattered the windshield in Story’s car.

“I thought he’d be upset,” Coughlin said. “He said ‘hey, it’s part of the game,’ “

Munzing said Story was the first person to greet him when he arrived at Gardiner for a job interview in 1975 fresh out of the University of Maine. Once hired, Story introduced Munzing to Peacock and the superintendent instructed his secretary to get Munzing a teaching contract.

She told Peacock “we don’t have any positions open.” Peacock replied “we will.”

Those were days when most coaches taught within the school system by design and their services were regarded just as important on the field or court as in the classroom. Story himself had been an athlete and coach and treated his coaches accordingly.

“He was a coach’s AD,” Munzing said.

Story, who had four children who attended Gardiner schools, was a family man and role model. Munzing arrived in Gardiner before he was married.

“I was up here all by myself,” Munzing said. “Every now and then he’d say ‘come on over for a home-cooked meal, young man.’ “

Not only was Gagne winning state hockey championships and Wolfgram doing the same in football, every sport thrived from tennis to track and field, and field hockey. Construction on the Hoch Athletic Complex also began during Story’s tenure and eventually provided the Tigers one of the better facilities in the state.

Story’s sons — Peter, Mike and Jon — were also star athletes at Gardiner. Like their dad, all were small in stature with terrific work ethics and intelligence that carried them a long way.

“Guys that have keys to the gym tend to have pretty good athletes,” Munzing joked.

Coughlin went on to become athletic director at Gardiner, much in the mold of Story

“Both were detailed oriented,” said Munzing, who succeeded Wolfgram as football coach. “They looked out for their coaches.”

Wolfgram, of course, went on to become the state’s winningest football coach and added to his legacy with a state title at Cheverus this year. Gagne went on to win more state titles at Waterville and is currently hockey coach at Scarborough. McNally just completed her 32nd year as Gardiner’s field hockey coach and the annual state all-star game is named in her honor.

“I absolutely loved working for Peter,” McNally said. “He was an old-school AD who expected a lot from his coaches but who worked harder than most of us.

“He had a dry sense of humor, too. At times he was absolutley hysterical. He was fun to be around.”

Story went into the sporting goods business after leaving Gardiner and owned stores in Augusta and Auburn before moving to Florida 16 years ago. In addition to his sons, Story, 71, leaves behind his wife Helen of 49 years and his daughter Kelly Purington.

He also leaves behind a large contingent of former athletes, coaches and students who admired him for his integrity, intelligence and sense of humor.

“I never heard him raise his voice,” Coughlin said. “He was meticulously organized, just a straight shooter. He had everything under control. He was a coach’s dream.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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