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A special display for Coach Jay

Anne Frank Elementary staff donate trophy case in memory of former Samuel Recreation Center employee and youth coach Jason DiMartino.

Display of love: Ciaran DiMartino places the jacket of his late father, Jason, in a trophy case created in his memory at Samuel Recreation Center, 3549 Gaul St.

When Jason “Bubba” DiMartino, 46, passed away in February 2018 from cholangiocarcinoma, he left behind a wife, two sons, extended family and numerous friends.

The longtime Torresdale resident and former city Department of Parks and Recreation employee also left behind hundreds of athletes who knew him as Coach Jay.

And, trophies.

On Friday, Dec. 6, a final resting spot for all the awards DiMartino’s teams had amassed over the years was unveiled.

Staff at Anne Frank Elementary School, 2000 Bowler St., collected funds and had a trophy case custom made to house all the hardware at Samuel Rec Center, 3549 Gaul St., where DiMartino had most recently worked as an assistant rec leader and coached soccer for nearly a decade.

The wooden trophy case will sit just outside the entrance to the indoor basketball court.

“Though this has been a terrible time for my family, you have been amazing. You are all examples of kindness, love, community and support,” said DiMartino’s wife, Cathy, to the crowd. “Honoring Jay’s memory by having this case made, I could never thank you enough.”

Amy Bussman, one of Cathy’s coworkers at Anne Frank, recounted  how a casual conversation about not having enough room in the DiMartino home for all the trophies turned into a mission.

“We wanted to do something special to remember him,” said Bussman, standing in front of the trophy display case. “Jay was more than just a coach to many children. But more than that, he was a friend, a second father, a role model and a shoulder to cry on.”

After the DiMartino boys pulled away the cover to reveal the new home for the trophies, one of Jason’s first players, Jim “JR” Borton, 37, placed the first and newest trophy.

The trophy was created to commemorate the first championship his team won with him at the helm in 1993.

“If it wasn’t for Jay, my boys wouldn’t be involved in sports,” said Borton, who was 10 when he started playing baseball and basketball for DiMartino.

After Borton, DiMartino’s sons and former players took turns placing trophies, plaques, photos, and a jacket in the display case.

Growing up in Kensington, DiMartino’s legacy began at McVeigh Rec Center, 3300 D St., as a volunteer T-ball and baseball coach and ended with his final stint at Samuel Recreation Center in Port Richmond.

DiMartino’s former supervisor and Recreation Leader III at Samuel, Jamie Miller, was present at the trophy case unveiling.

“Having the trophy case at Samuel means so much to all of us here. It was something Jason always wanted,” she said. “We can now honor him with his own space. I know he would’ve been so excited to have this here. The kids can now reminisce about the great times they had playing under Coach Jay.”

 

In between McVeigh and Samuel, he coached everything from rec teams to his sons Connor and Ciaran DiMartino’s CYO teams to Lighthouse Soccer to the Torresdale Boys Club.

And, as much as DiMartino impacted the lives of his players, his wife will be forever grateful to them, and all those who worked to make sure his legacy lives on.

“I was getting knocked down and my Anne Frank family got together to make my life easier,” she said. “And, through Jay’s coaching, we have friends who became like family. All of you have helped to remind my boys how special Jay was.”

 

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