Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
Glen Cove Board of Education President Joel Sunshine joined other former runners and friends and family of Albert “AJ” Johnson in dedicating the Glen Cove High School track in honor of the late Glen Cove High School track coach.
A graduate of Glen Cove High School, Johnson retired in 1999 following a 30-year career as an art teacher and track and cross-country coach in Glen Cove. He passed away three years ago, and the dedication was fittingly held on his birthday.
Sunshine, who ran for Johnson on the cross-country team, served as master of ceremonies at the track dedication. He welcomed a multitude of familiar faces, including fellow runners Tracy Crow, Ed O’Rourke and Carlos Vasquez, former Glen Cove Athletic Director Sal Travatello, and former assistant coaches Jim Peterson and Savy Gallo, among others. Glen Cove City Mayor Ralph Suozzi and Nassau County Legislator Delia De Riggi-Whitton were also on hand to present proclamations commemorating the district for the dedication and for memorializing Johnson for his work with local student-athletes through the years.
“AJ made running a team sport easy,” said Sunshine, who shared interesting stories about his former coach, recalling “rabbit runs” to Garvies Point in which team members attempted to catch their coach. He also spoke of how Johnson was not just a coach, but also a mentor and friend. “He was always available to us. If you needed AJ, you called him.”
Crow, an African-American who grew up in the Orchard section of Glen Cove but now resides in California, echoed these sentiments. He spoke of how Johnson made him feel welcome during a time when the city was still segregated.
Several family members, including grandchildren Josh and Rochelle Brown, also spoke fondly of the legendary coach, not only as a leader of athletes, but as a quality person. Joined by Johnson’s daughters Viki Lynn Brown and Tami Basile, the family looked on as a plaque was unveiled at the entryway leading to the athletic complex, alongside the plaque dedicated to J.C. Maiden, for whom the field is named.