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  • ‘Woody’ was driving force for Bears’ soccer

    STONINGTON — As the world soccer community focuses on the World Cup, the local soccer community celebrates the memory of one of the founding fathers of Stonington High soccer — Richard Woodworth, who passed away earlier this month.

    “Woody,” as his friends and players affectionately called him, is remembered as a positive influence, mentor, gentleman and confidante. Shortly after he came to Stonington to teach at Stonington High in the late 1960s, he coached youth soccer in the Mystic Valley Soccer League and Stonington Community Center.

    He then was a driving force to bring varsity soccer to Stonington High and became the Bears’ first coach in 1971.

    “Mr. Woodworth was a great coach to play for,” said Joe Mendonca Sr., who played on Stonington’s first team in 1971 as a senior and went on to become a successful coach himself, leading Wheeler to state titles in 2001 and 1999. “He was a good teacher of the game, he let you play and he was like a father figure to me. I am very thankful that he pushed as hard as hard as he did for Stonington to field a varsity team. He was a great man, and you didn’t want to let him down.”

    Steve Sutton, at 1972 Stonington graduate, remembers Woodworth as a man who went out of his way to help players and students. After Sutton’s senior year, he was unsure of his college plans, but wanted to become the first Stonington soccer athlete to play in college.

    Woodworth told Sutton he was going to take him for a ride in his car. They drove to Mitchell College in New London where Woodworth earned an associate’s degree before getting his bachelor’s and master’s at Central Connecticut State.

    “He got me into Mitchell College,” Sutton said. “I played on a nationally-ranked junior college team there and then transferred and played at Eastern Connecticut State. I owe that to Woody. He would go out of his way to help his players and everyday students that he taught.”

    Woodworth coached Stonington soccer until 1978 but he remained active with school and local athletics. He was Stonington assistant athletic director for 25 years of his 32-year Stonington teaching career.

    After retiring as a Stonington teacher, he became principal of St. Michael’s School in Pawcatuck in 1997 for eight years. He later served as principal at St. Mary’s in Jewett City for three years until 2008.

    Woodworth was a leader in civic and non-sports organizations right up to his death. He is a past president of the Pawcatuck Lions, Wequetequock Fire Department, was treasurer of the Stonington Community Center and District Boy Scout commissioner.

    Mendonca said Woodworth’s wife Joan, who predeceased him in 2010, was also active in Woodworth’s community service during their 48 years of marriage. Woodworth is survived by a daughter and two sons, including Jeff Woodworth (SHS Class of 1985), who is a Stonington Athletic Hall of Fame inductee after a standout soccer career.

    “I sent my kids to St. Michael’s because of Woody,” Sutton said. “He was a great leader, but had a nice way of showing it. It was all positive. From the late ’60s to just a few years ago, it’s incredible to think about all the lives he touched in a positive fashion.”



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