Year Inducted: 2014
For a man who did it all, the late Veto Pesano did it with uncommon grace.
Pesano, born in Boston in 1909, grew up in Ohio where he starred in football, basketball and baseball at Mansfield High School. He was named First Team All-North Central Ohio League for both football and basketball in 1922 and 1923. He went on to play football, basketball and baseball at Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Pesano was hired as physical education director of the YMCA and moved with his wife, Mary Jane and their three children to Port Huron in 1947. He remained in that position until 1950 when he was persuaded by his friend Harold “Ike” Snyder to become a teacher and coach at the new Chippewa Junior High School in Port Huron Township.
It might have been a dream job except for one little detail. As a brand new school, Chippewa had no facilities for football, basketball or baseball. With the help of parents, he was able to get a portion of the school property cleared and made into a field where the football team could practice. Used uniforms were purchased from other schools. But every game was a road game, played on the rival’s field. In 1952, with the assistance of the Chippewa Boosters Club, a football field was built complete with lights. Later, game jerseys with numbers were purchased and the players wore them proudly.
Since there was no gym yet, every basketball practice was a road trip. Pesano arranged first with Marysville and later with Kimball to use their gyms for practice and games. Here, too, money was an issue, sometimes with humorous results. For several seasons, Chippewa basketball jerseys had numbers only on the back, none on the front.
Still, Pesano had a vision. It became a reality in 1955 with the completion of the Wagenseil Gymnasium and Community Center, which became an athletic facility showplace in the Port Huron area. Pesano’s baseball teams used the diamond behind Allendale Elementary School for practice and games until a graded field was built on the Chippewa grounds.
When ninth grade was moved to Port Huron High School, Pesano was assigned to the social studies department. He coached ninth-grade football and track at PHHS from 1964 until 1966.
Through it all, the mild-mannered Pesano managed to turn out many athletes who went on to play at high school, college, professional and Olympic levels. Jack Barden, Tanya Green, Bob Wedge and Harry Atkins – all coached by Pesano – already have been enshrined in the Port Huron Sports Hall of Fame. He was a Hall of Fame board member until his death in 1988.
Sadly for some, Chippewa and Wagenseil have been torn down in recent years, replaced by a retail complex. Yet, memories of the wonderful coach who did it all will be preserved for all time by his induction into the hall.