Rest well, Goldy, and enjoy those Baconators

They came from far and wide on a dreary January afternoon to say goodbye to the man most in Wayne knew as ‘Goldy’.

Jon Goldstein’s sudden passing on Jan. 28 has left a void at Goldy’s beloved Wayne Hills High School. So when we all gathered at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne on Jan. 31 to say goodbye, it was no surprise that Goldy’s funeral was attended by hundreds, including a vast part of the Wayne Hills student body, football players wearing their game jerseys, as well as an extended family and a lot of grateful friends.

1544564_10202134445336438_1012754737_n(Left to Right) Pat Cosgrove, Mike Lamberti and Goldy

There was laughter and tears. There was smiles and angst. There were tears of sorrow and tears from laughing extremely hard.

We learned about the Goldy Calendar and the many women who loved Goldy, but lost.

We learned about Goldy’s meticulous record keeping when it came to fantasy football. We learned how Goldy was a nut about baseball statistics.

1618494_10202125998325268_1997535113_nGoldy and his prom date, Carla Huntzinger

We learned about Goldy’s first encounter with legendary football coach Chris Olsen, some 19 years ago.

“I invited him to come to a game,” Olsen said to the large crowd. “So it’s game day and I’m getting ready. I turn around, and Jon is standing next to me. He says ‘I’m here’. I said, good, now get back a little, please.

“For the next 19 years, he never left my side. He was there through the good times and during a lot of times when things weren’t so good for me. When my wife became ill, he never left my side. I’ve seen this guy help kids at school who may have needed lunch money. My father once said that you’ll have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends. Well, Goldy was my friend. He was my best friend.”

1655923_10202126083207390_1933780252_nGoldy (center) and members of the Hills football coaching staff

Jon’s older brother spoke of Goldy’s love of Wayne Hills. One of his dearest friends spoke of Goldy’s dominance at the local poker games. In fact, if Goldy couldn’t make a game, generally that week’s contest was postponed. (And we learned to spell Goldy, correctly, because Jon wouldn’t stand for any other version).

Jon loved to eat. He would often lay out his planned lunch in near-perfect detail, or describe, in earnest, what he just ate. He loved the Wendy’s ‘Baconator’. When he ordered dinner at the local ‘Outback’, it was an event watching him plan his meal.

When we would go out on our Thursday nights with the football staff, everyone wanted to see what Goldy would eat.

“Jon lived a happy life,” said Goldy’s good friend, Walt Johnson. “The last few years were really good to him. He enjoyed his work, coaching kids and the friends he had in school. Losing his dad was a down time for him, but overall, he really enjoyed what he did and how he lived. I’m grateful for that.”

We learned how Jon loved books. And I’ll tell you a secret. Jon and I had discussed writing a book about the Wayne Hills football program. We had begun talks about it last winter. Now, it will be difficult to carry out that assignment without the Big Guy, but somehow, I will try and make that work.

We learned how Jon continued giving, after he left this earth, by being an organ donor and leaving his corneas so that someone else can see the world, hopefully the way he did.

What we didn’t learn, because it was long ingrained, was that Jon Goldstein was as loyal to Wayne Hills as the day was long. He may have graduated Wayne Valley, but he was a Patriot, through and through.

And, as Olsen said at the funeral, Jon may, physically, no longer be with the people he loved the most, but his spirit will never die.

It will seem weird later this year, when football activities begin anew at Hills and not seeing Goldy.

“When I’m in class, Jon would sometimes come down from his office and talk to me for a few minutes,” said Wayne Hills head football coach Wayne Demikoff. “I’m telling you, the last couple of days, I would look down that hall and thought for sure, he was walking over.”

There were so many memories of Goldy on that football field. There was the time in 2011 when a Ramapo football player purposely ran into Goldy on the sidelines. Before Goldy knew what hit him, a pair of Hills players were defending their guy.

In 2013, a Tenafly player accidentally ran into Goldy on the Hills sidelines.

“I’m okay,” Goldy said before he even hit the ground. “I’m okay, keep playing.”

The roar of laughter from the coaching staff indicated Goldy was, indeed, okay, as he quickly popped up, with a little help from the Tenafly player who offered his apologies. “No problem, son,” Goldy told the kid. “I’m fine.”

Yes, Goldy, you are fine. And you are in a place where being happy and content will last an eternity. You’ve earned it, pal.

A lot of us here will not quite know how to handle not seeing you on the football field, but we know you’re watching out for the Patriots.

Take care, have a Baconator and enjoy your new life.

 
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By mike051893

Jon Goldstein: A Wayne Hills classic and an Advocate for THE BRAND

There are so many ways to describe the late Jon Goldstein.

Coach.

Friend.

Administrator.

Mentor.

He was all of the above, but even more, ‘Goldie’ loved the ‘W’ that stood for Wayne Hills, The Brand, if you will.

1618494_10202125998325268_1997535113_nJon Goldstein, here with Carla Huntzinger, at a Wayne Hills football dinner. The affable Goldie died suddenly on Jan. 28, 2014.

Many knew Jon as the long-time assistant football coach at Wayne Hills, especially during the incredible run under then-head coach Chris Olsen. Jon joined Olsen’s staff as an assistant coach in 1995 and later became an administrator in the athletic department at Hills, a position he held until his untimely death on Jan. 28, 2014.

Jon was just 41 years of age. Just moments after I got the phone call about Jon’s passing, my phone rang, and it was Olsen, who now lives in North Carolina.

“I can’t believe it,” Olsen said, choking back tears. “He was my best friend. I had just talked to him yesterday about getting together this spring to play golf down here. I just can’t believe it.”

Olsen was planning to travel to New Jersey sometime today.

Goldie’s loyalty to the Hills athletic programs were well-defined. In addition to football, he was also the assistant boys basketball coach and the head golf coach during the spring. In 2013, Jon lead Hills to a Passaic County championship in golf and was later tabbed the county’s Coach of the Year.

1655923_10202126083207390_1933780252_nGoldstein (center) is flanked by Wayne Hills football coaches (l to r) Wayne Demikoff, Ted Sobota, Mike Kelly, Claudio Canonaco, Chris Olsen, Walt Johnson, Matt Bogert and Pat Cosgrove at a past football dinner.

I first met Jon in 2011 when I spent five days with the football program as it prepared to play arch rival Ramapo. He was friendly, yet guarded, always looking to preserve The Brand. As Jon and I got to know each other more, we developed a nice friendship.

He’d ask the craziest questions. One day during a Hills football practice, he looked at me very seriously and said ‘what are your top 5 television shows of all time?’

Another time, I was walking from the field to the locker room and suddenly, I heard his golf cart pull up behind me.

“Mike, you okay”?, he asked. “Sure,” I said. “Why?”

“I would have given you a ride up here,” he said, quite seriously. “Just let me know, I’ll drive you.”

Goldie was a fixture in that golf cart, one that originally belonged to Olsen, but later became his personal carriage as he toured the facilities. Jon was not just an assistant football coach and administrative assistant at Hills, but he was also ‘Head of Football Operations’, as described by current head coach Wayne Demikoff.

“Don’t ask me, ask Goldie,” Demikoff used to say when there were any inquires about equipment, scheduling, etc. “Goldie is the man.”

And most of the other coaches would concur. He was The Man.

When Wayne Hills held a seminar for its football program last June, discussing the importance of preparation and leadership, it was Goldie’s talk to the players who would make up the 2013 team, which resonated the most.

“Always be proud of ‘The W’,” he would say. “It defines you. When you wear the Wayne Hills logo on your clothes, be proud of what it stands for.”

Jon Goldstein wore the W for nearly 19 years. He may have graduated from Wayne Valley High and lived in Woodland Park, but he was Wayne Hills, all the way.

When Olsen had to deal with distractions during the 2011 NJSIAA playoffs, it was Goldstein who deflected a lot of the nonsense.

When Olsen retired, it was Goldie who emceed a dinner to honor the legendary coach.

When Wayne Hills won the 2011 state title, despite the loss of 10 starters, there was a moment that not many saw, but I did, in the tunnel of MetLife Stadium, long after the game had ended.

“We did it, Jon,” Olsen said euphorically. “We did it.”

Goldstein, ever the loyal soldier, countered.

“You did it, Coach,” he said. “You and these kids did it. I can’t thank you enough for letting me be a part of this all these years. I can’t thank you, enough.”

Goldie, your family and friends would probably want to echo your words about you, today.

Thank you, Jon. We’ll miss you.

By mike051893

Fourth Gift of Life Duals will once again honor Big D’s legacy of giving back

At 44 years old, Michael DiPiano had indeed entered the cross roads. With his health deteriorating because of diabetes, the Nutley native was on dialysis for kidney failure and had been read his last rites. He was a devoted husband and father of three, a well known wrestling coach and athletic director in New Jersey. But now, his life was seemingly coming to an end.

That was 19 years ago. Today, DiPiano (Big D to his friends) is beginning the 63rd year of his life. What changed the course for this man?

“The greatest gift of all,” DiPiano said with a smile. “I’ll never be able to repay that gift.”

The gift was an organ transplant. In DiPiano’s case, it meant a new lease on life after receiving a kidney and pancreas on Oct. 25, 1998. The organs were donated by a man we’ll know simply as Sean, a 21-year-old who, on Oct. 24, 1998, was killed in an automobile accident. Sean had indicated on his driver’s license that he wanted to be an organ donor in the event of his death.

DiPiano had never meant Sean, but he lives life every day with the constant reminder that Sean is indeed a part of him.

“Back in 1995, I was told I would need a double transplant because of a nearly 30-year battle with diabetes,” DiPiano recalled. “I remember a year later, I was at the Olympics in Atlanta and I was told to get to a hospital right away. My sugar was high but I thought I’d be okay. Later that summer, when I was back home, I was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital and got so sick that (St. Benedict’s Headmaster) Father Edwin (Leahy) read my last rites, and they were already planning my funeral at St. Benedict’s.”

10478566-largeMike DiPiano Sr. (right) with Delbarton wrestling coach Bryan Stoll (left) and state champion Guy Russo of West Essex at the Gift of Life Duals in 2012.

At that time, Dr. Leon Smith stepped in, through a contact of Fr. Leahy’s. A renowned Internist who specializes in infectious diseases, he assessed DiPiano’s condition. “Whatever he did, he took me from a five to 10 percent chance of surviving,” DiPiano recalled. “He saved my life, because even Father Edwin said ‘if he can get to 10 percent, he’ll make it.’”

Having administered the last rites to DiPiano, Fr. Leahy knew a higher power was looking out for DiPiano.

“If it weren’t for Dr. Smith and the Grace of God, we would have lost him a long time ago,” Fr. Leahy said. “He went from a 5 percent chance of survival to the poster child for organ transplant. It’s a great overall story.”

DiPiano’s new lease on life will be recounted at the fourth Gift of Life Wrestling Duals, set for this Saturday at Northern Valley-Demarest High School. With a wrestling theme of ‘Organ Donation is a Major Decision’ as a backdrop, there will be eight teams competing, including the host school, Demarest, which is coached by DiPiano’s eldest son, Mike, Nutley, coached by youngest son Frank, along with Delbarton of Morris Township, Garfield, Montville, Bergenfield, Lenape Valley and Robbinsville.

fd1Mike DiPiano and youngest son, Frank, after Nutley won the 2012 Essex County Tournament championship for the first time in school history. Frank is Nutley’s head coach.

Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. with the finals set for approximately 3 p.m. This is the first year that the Duals will be held at Demarset after being contested at Nutley High since the inception in 2011.

DiPiano’s association with St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark is legendary. As the wrestling coach there, he amassed a record of 274-89 and was named the Coach of the Year by the Star-Ledger in 1987. He is a member of the St. Benedict’s Hall of Fame, as well as the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After coaching at St. Benedict’s, DiPiano became the school’s athletic director. Now retired as the A.D., he remains associated with St. Benedict’s.

In May of 2011, he received the school’s highest honor to a Lay person, the Medal of St. Benedict’s.

“Mike DiPiano helped build this place,” Fr. Leahy said of St. Benedict’s. “He must have held a thousand different positions here. He was the spine of the school.”

10513806-largeMike DiPiano Sr. along with sons and current wrestling coaches Michael (left) and Frank.

DiPiano’s family, wife Karen, daughter Michelle and sons Michael Jr. and Frank had never given up on the rock of their family beating any kind of odds.

“My kids were incredible during the toughest times,” Karen DiPiano recalled. “We’re a close family and everyone took a part in being there for him. We all believed he’d get better.”

DiPiano was on dialysis for nearly two years, and at the top of the list for a transplant, before fate intervened in October, 1998.

“Back then, everyone used beepers to keep in touch,” DiPiano said. “I’m out with a friend and the beeper goes off, and I thought it was his. But he looked at me, and said ‘no, it’s yours’. That beeper was there only to inform me of a possible transplant match, so when I returned the call, I knew things would be happening quickly.”

When DiPiano was informed that there was a match for his kidney and pancreas, there was little time to get to know who the donor was. The surgery was scheduled for Oct. 25, 1998, a date which is clearly evident on Michael’s right arm in the form of a tattoo.

“The surgery lasted about eight hours,” DiPiano recalled. “I was in the hospital about seven days. The biggest concern after a transplant is that the body could reject it, but everything went well. I could tell pretty quickly how much better I was feeling. I don’t think I really knew how sick I was until after the transplant.”

DiPiano actually has three kidneys now. “They don’t remove the old kidneys, they kind of stored them in my body,” he said with a laugh. “The one working kidney is in the normal place.”

With a new pancreas, DiPiano’s diabetes is no longer the concern it once was. With his blood sugar near normal, he doesn’t need to take insulin, but is careful with his diet.

As his health improved, DiPiano returned to work at St. Benedict’s in January of 1999. “I might have gone back a little too early,” he said, “but I felt like I was ready.”

He also wanted to know more about Sean.

“Normally, the process with a donor is that it’s anonymous,” DiPiano said. “I have gotten to communicate with Sean’s mother through E-mail, and while I’ve never met her, I hope to one day.”

DiPiano’s passion is talking about the importance of organ donation. He has been to numerous high schools in New Jersey, where he usually begins by showing a film clip about Jason Ray, the 21-year-old mascot for the University of North Carolina basketball team who was struck by a car and killed in 2007 while walking to a diner on Route 4 in Ft. Lee. (Lee was there because the basketball team was in New Jersey for the NCAA Eastern Regional).

“Jason was a organ donor and that film really has an impact on the kids,” DiPiano said. “It goes on to show the many people Jason saved by being a donor. It’s very emotional.”

On the surface, DiPiano is a hard-nosed individual, a man’s-man who takes no prisoners, so to speak. But he has no problems expressing his emotions on this subject. He recalls attending the first Transplant Games, for those athletes who are recipients of organ donation, in Minnesota nearly seven years ago.

“When I went to the first Transplant Games, it was such an overwhelming feeling for me,” DiPiano, his eyes welling, recalled. “That’s when I had the tattoo made, to honor Sean, the date of my transplant, as well as the initials of a very close friend, Peter Kupczak.”

DiPiano’s message has resonated well in New Jersey, where the theme of Saturday’s tournament will focus on the need for people to be organ donors.

Michael Sr. has been to numerous Transplant Games since 1998, both in the United States and abroad, including Thailand and Australia. DiPiano has competed in athletic events at the games. He speaks constantly on the need to be an organ donor. He is very much involved with the work of the National Kidney Foundation, as well as the New Jersey Sharing Network, which procures tissues and organs.

“Over 110,000 people are waiting for an organ donation of some sort,” DiPiano said. “Twenty five die, waiting, each day. It is truly amazing what medical science can do when someone gets a new lease on life with a heart, lung, pancreas, kidney or liver. It’s amazing.”

Mike DiPiano is indeed an amazing man. He thanks his family, his friends and loved ones for the constant support. And he remembers a young man named Sean.“I’ll never be able to thank him enough,” DiPiano said.

“I just hope I can meet his mom one day and tell her that.”DiPianoM_122012_BT_tif_                                                              Mike DiPiano hosts an annual Christmas party at St. Barnabas in Livingston for children who have undergone organ transplants.

By mike051893