Bruce Wearne, who coached the Farmington High football team for 16 seasons, led the Indians to the CIAC playoffs twice and to the state championship game in 1999, died on Thursday, March 11, at the age of 71.
Wearne, who lived in New Hartford, was a physical education teacher in the Farmington school system for 35 years at the elementary, middle school and high school levels before retiring in 2008. He also served as athletic director at Farmington High for three years (2000-02) and was the varsity boys track and field coach.
Wearne was well-known for his football abilities – first as a player and then as a coach.
“He had a true passion for playing and coaching football,” his obituary stated. “It would be an understatement to say that Bruce, also referred to fondly as Bernie, Coach, Gramps, and Grandpa Bernie, was beloved by many.
“You could travel across the country and run into someone who would tell you that coach had changed their life. He gave so much of himself to others. He loved with all of his heart, and he exemplified what he inspired people to be in life — a difference maker. He is a true example of how one person can set off a ripple effect of kindness and inspiration,” his obituary stated.
Wearne grew up in New Britain and played on three teams at Pulaski High School that won Hartford County Conference (HCC) championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967. The Generals’ 1966 and 1967 teams were each 9-1. Wearne also played football at Central Connecticut State University under coach Bill Loika.
Wearne had three tenures as head coach at Farmington and his second stint from 1994 through 1999 was the most successful in terms of wins and losses. In 1995, the Indians were 8-1-1 with their best record since 1982.
A year later, the Indians went 8-2 and won a share of their first Northwest Conference championship since 1982. In 1998, the Indians went 9-2 and earned a share of the Nutmeg Conference title along with their first-ever CIAC tournament berth.
Hard work and determination had turned around the Farmington football program. “We always took the kids to the door (of success),” Wearne told this writer in a story previewing the 1999 season for the New Britain Herald. “I tell them ‘If you want (success), you have to go for it. If you don’t, well, it’s your season.”
“All we have to do is open the door,” Wearne said before that 1999 season. “They are willing to work, work and work. They go hard. They never complain. They push each other and bring each other along. They love playing the game.”
In 1999, Farmington went 10-0 – the first undefeated and untied season in school history. They won their first-ever CIAC tournament game with a 33-0 win over Holy Cross in the Class L semifinals before losing to Fitch-Groton in the Class L championship game, 55-7.
Wearne stepped away from football for a second time by taking the athletic director’s position in 2000 but the foundation he built helped the football program post winning seasons in four of the next five seasons.
Wearne coached two more seasons at Farmington in 2007 and 2008 – the first year that Farmington joined the Central Connecticut Conference and a more challenging schedule than the Indians had been accustomed to playing.
Wearne (70-93-4) finished tied for the most coaching wins in school history with one of his coaching mentors, Paul Maskery, who worked with Wearne as student teacher in 1970-71. Both men finished with 70 career wins.
Wearne was an assistant when Maskery established the Farmington High wrestling program in 1971 and worked as an assistant for five years with Maskery and the football team. “He was my right-hand man,” Maskery said. “He helped me in so many ways. He became a dear friend.”
Wearne was the interim athletic director for three months in 1990 when Maskery had a hip replacement procedure.
When Maskery stepped down as football coach after 14 years in 1982 to become the school’s athletic director, Wearne was hired as the football coach. He won 22 games in his first eight seasons (1983-90) before stepping down following the 1990 campaign.
Wearne’s 16 years as head coach is the longest tenure in the program’s history that dates back to early 1920s.
Wearne is survived by his wife, Laura S. Wearne and his two daughters, Kimberly Levesque and Jodi Langer, his sons-in-law, Jason Levesque, Ricky Langer Jr., and Andrew Chen, and his 10 grandchildren, Jake, Greyson, Maddox, Ricky, Hendrik, Sunlyn, Weston, Amelia, Alex, and Ava, his sister, Patricia Barnes and brother, Barry Wearne. He is predeceased by his daughter Ah-Jing Chen.
Friends may call at the Ahern Funeral Home, 111 Main St., on Route 4 in Unionville on Tuesday, March 16, from 4-7 p.m. Social distance guidelines will be followed.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Little Free Pantry at St. John’s Episcopal Church, PO Box 27 Pine Meadow CT 06061 and New Britain Youth Football & Cheer, PO Box 576, New Britain CT 06050.