The last surviving member of a team of five athletic directors and five high school principals that helped create the North Central Connecticut Conference (NCCC) in 1963 has died.
Robert Atkinson, a former coach and athletic director at Suffield High, died on January 7 at the age of 94.
Atkinson, Robert Healy (Ellington), Mel Kleckner (East Windsor), Otto Goltz (Stafford) and Charlie Sharos (South Windsor) were the five athletic directors that helped form the NCCC in 1963 along with school principals Howard Brown (Suffield), Gordon Getchell (Ellington), George Donovan (East Windsor), Henry Adams (South Windsor) and Raymond Lucas (Stafford), according to Robert “Jiggs” Cecchini, the league’s long-time secretary.
According to Cecchini, the 10 men met during the winter of 1963 to form the league.
It was an opportunity for four of the five schools to play for a league championship. In the winter of 1963, South Windsor, Ellington, East Windsor and Stafford were playing as independents while Suffield was in the Charter Oak Conference.
In the fall of 1963, the first season of the NCCC, Cecchini was a first-year physical education teacher at Suffield and an assistant coach with the Wildcat basketball and baseball programs.
Atkinson came to Suffield in 1954 and became the school’s athletic director and coach of the boys soccer, boys basketball and baseball team. He led the Wildcats to their first-ever outright state championship with a two-point win over Bristol’s St. Anthony’s School in the 1960 Class S basketball championship game, 64-62.
A few months later, the Wildcats brought home their second state title when Suffield stunned defending champion Hale-Ray, 1-0 to win the 1960 Class S title. Atkinson’s Wildcats shared the Class S title with Hale-Ray in 1958 when the two teams tied in the final, 2-2.
To help develop a feeder system for basketball, Atkinson developed the Saturday Morning league for seventh and eighth graders using his varsity players as coaches. A similar arrangement was later established in soccer.
In 1964, he was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church (serving for five years in Suffield’s Calvary Church) and in 1971 was ordained an Episcopal Priest. In 2003, he was inducted into the Suffield Athletic Hall of Fame.
Atkinson served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific. He graduated from Searles High in Methuen, Mass., and attended Springfield College after the war. He was an educator for 19 years at Spaulding High in Barre, Vermont. He lived in Meredith, N.H., for the past 26 years.