AUGUSTA — Taylor Harmon might have spent countless hours teaching and motivating young athletes to do their best at the Cony Alumni Field track, but the notoriously humble coach probably wouldn’t have liked having the track named in his honor.

Even so, many of the thousands of young people he mentored and inspired to become both better athletes and better people, and their parents, believe it would be a fitting and well-deserved tribute to the man who gave all he had to local youth track and field programs.

Several of them advocated to Augusta City Council members this week that the track at Cony’s Alumni Field be named for Harmon, who died last October after some 25 years of encouraging runners in Augusta.

“The second I met Taylor, I knew he was going to be in my corner,” Husson University student-athlete Rick Orio said. “He made me the man I am today. He made me feel I was part of his family.”

Orio said at Husson he’s been captain, for three years, of a conference-winning football team. At Cony High School, Orio was state champion, and record-holder, in hurdling, even though as a freshman he’d never been over a hurdle in his life.

“It’s all thanks to that man,” Orio said of Harmon.

But Harmon didn’t just produce record-setting champions. Instead, the track coach encouraged all youths to do their best.

“Taylor made every kid feel great. It didn’t matter if you were last, first or in the middle, as long as you were trying,” said parent Eric Lind, whose two sons were coached by Harmon in middle and high school. Lind said Harmon was also a disabled veteran, and in a lot of pain, but he never let people know that, shunning any attention to himself.

Charlie Fontaine, who had a son and a daughter coached by Harmon, said, “You won’t find another man that will give as much to his athletes and kids in the community as Taylor. He was a phenomenal man, and I think this is very well-deserved.”

Leif Dahlin, Augusta’s community services director, who worked with Harmon for some 15 years, said Harmon was so beloved that advocates for naming the track after him could have filled city council chambers, if such a show of support were needed.

It probably won’t be necessary. All city councilors agreed Thursday to sponsor an agenda item at their next business meeting, likely to be voted upon July 14, to name the track after Harmon. Mayor David Rollins expressed confidence all councilors will vote for the proposal, too.

Rollins said he worked alongside Harmon during major renovations, paid for by private fundraising, to Alumni Field. He said while working on improvements there, everyone was excited and happy — except, it seemed, Harmon. Rollins said Harmon was tense during the project, because he wanted to make sure everything was just right.

“It was just his eye for perfection,” Rollins said. “This was his home, his mausoleum, and he wanted it to be set up just perfect. I thought, ‘Jeez, this guy is all in. So we’ve got to be all in, too.’ I’d love to see his name there every night.”

“Beloved” doesn’t mean he was easy on people. He was known as a disciplinarian, constantly driving young people to do their best. As long as they did that, he was satisfied.

Joe McVety, whose son was coached by Harmon, said in a letter to city councilors that “Taylor made every kid who tried hard feel like an Olympic athlete.” He said Harmon leaves a legacy of hundreds of healthy children who experienced a team sport and were made to feel important at a critical and often stressful time in a young person’s life.

Harmon coached at Cony and also oversaw the city recreation program’s summer track and field programming, putting in countless hours at the track, and went on numerous trips with young athletes to help them compete at meets across the country.

Dahlin said Harmon not only refused to accept any payment for his time, he also provided his own state-of-the-art timing gear and other equipment.

And if a child needed a pair of running shoes, Harmon would get a pair for him or her, often without the youth knowing where the shoes had come from.

“To him, it wasn’t an expense he incurred; it was an investment in the kids,” Dahlin said. “He positively impacted, literally, thousands of kids. He expected nothing but their best. Even if you were not in first place, as long as he knew you were working your hardest, that was enough for Taylor. If you weren’t working, he’d let you know.”

Dahlin said on occasions when he or others sought to honor or thank Harmon, the coach would have none of it. Dahlin said he was one of the most humble men he’d ever met.

Harmon’s daughter, Roxanne Carter, of Winthrop, agreed with Dahlin that he probably wouldn’t want the track to be named for him. However, she said, many others do want to honor him that way, and it will help his family, who made sacrifices, too.

She said when he died, he had nearly nothing, having given his life savings, his blood and his soul to the local running programs.

Carter said she might not have realized it while growing up, but now she thinks of her dad as “the most amazing man I’ve ever met.”

“He changed kids’ lives. Every week there was somebody different at the dinner table, because my dad wanted to help them,” she said.

At-Large City Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau, who brought the initiative to name the track for Harmon to city councilors, said it started last year as a way to honor him. He said school board members also have expressed support for the idea.

“I think ‘Taylor Harmon track at Alumni Field’ has a good ring to it,” Bilodeau said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.