By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 13, 2007 Sullivan County Community College Coach Chris DePew choked up when he talked about Herman Weingarten, who has been the “Number 1 Fan” of the SCCC men’s basketball team for the last 20-some years.
For the past two decades, Herman and Shirley Weingarten of Loch Sheldrake have been regular features at just about every Generals’ home game at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the SCCC campus.
In the past year, Shirley hasn’t been feeling all that well, and everyone at the local community college was stunned a few days ago when they heard that Herman suddenly passed away at the age of 91 after suffering a heart attack at home on Wednesday morning, January 31.
“We miss him like hell,” DePew said.
“Down in the Bunker” at the Fieldhouse, Weingarten used to make the rounds: talking to the fans in the stands, shaking hands all the way around, pausing to gab with the players and offer a few pointers to the Generals’ coaching staff, usually in the few minutes left before the buzzer signaled the start of the game.
Shirley stayed up in their usual spot in the bleachers, which is now marked off as their place of honor.
“He used to find the worst times to try to talk to me, like the biggest game of the year, like five minutes before the tip off against Suffolk,” recalled DePew of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) hoops match up of January 27.
“It was the game for the number one seed, and he wants to talk to me about how the kids are doing in class,” added the Generals’ leader, tears welling in his eyes.
Four days later, Weingarten was dead.
And the Generals lost their #1 booster.
No more last minute chats, no more advice, no more pep talks in the locker room.
But the memories last forever.
“God bless him,” DePew said. “He loved these kids, we miss him terribly.”
Prior to the Thursday’s tip-off against Technical Career Institute, Dave Thomson, SCCC Dean of Enrollment Management & Student Development Services, addressed the crowd and players.
He honored the Weingartens for their 20 years of attending Generals’ home games, and their “love and support of this program” which lasted through five coaches, hundreds of wins, 10 Region XV titles and three national championships.
“He and Shirley had a long tradition of support and love for this program and its players and coaches,” Thomson said. “Love expressed through challenging athletes to complete their degrees, providing a meal or two to the team each year, and always having an encouraging word for coaches and players.”
Some things won’t change in the bunker. Weingarten’s trademark “Fall In” cheer after a successful Generals’ shot at the free-throw line. And now Herman and Shirley’s seats in the bleachers will be roped off for Shirley and her guests at every home game.
“Herman, we know that you are watching all of our games, both home and away,” Thomson said. “Coach DePew and the team have dedicated their season to your memory and with your help from above, they remember the promise they made to you in September of bringing that national championship back to where it belongs, down here in the bunker.
“We love you and miss you,” Thomson added. “God speed, old friend.”
With that, the team and athletic department staff members walked across the court and placed flowers into a wicker basket next to a framed photograph of the Weingartens set up on their favorite seats.
“We dedicated the whole season to him,” DePew said. “We love him and miss him.”
And with that, the Generals’ coach walked over to talk with some fans.
Just the way Herman Weingarten would have wanted it.