A Trip Down Memory Lane

Jul 23 2019 /

By Kevin Eickman

In the autumn of 1962 Milford was not the growing city it is today. Back then there was an innocence to most of life, distant from the problems of today’s world. While life is never easy, one of the lasting joys is that of friendship and camaraderie. On Sunday July 14, a group of ladies who defined what was Milford during that period joined to remember those joys.

This was not just any group of ladies, these athletes are a special Milford squad that turned Southern Delaware on its ears. These athletes may have come closer to perfection than any sports collective since. Over three seasons of sports from 1962-1963 there was only one; one defeat that is. The Girls Hockey team was not only undefeated 7-0 but also only scored upon 3 times, the Girls Basketball team won all of their games in a 13-0 season and the Girls Softball team lost only one game, in a loss they would avenge later that year.

The size of the gathering was a lesson in family and togetherness. Fifteen members including one coach showed up to share their memories and renew their friendships. As they sat in a circle, one by one they recollected the magic of that special group, playing the greatest tribute to the one who had led them there, Coach Lucy Coons.

Rachel Grier-Reynolds was the first to speak. “I think of Lucy Koons every day she is always in my thoughts,” Reynolds said. “The lessons learned playing both hockey and basketball served me for the rest of my life. Lucy had a plan and a structure and we all followed it and I have tried to live my life the same way.”

One of the lighter moments came when Eileen Short-McGrath chimed in with the simplest of statements. “We just knew that we needed to get the ball to Mary Ann [Hitchens].” As the room exploded in laughter, McGrath became serious and stated “From what I learned at Milford I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Our coaches continually showed us how much more there was to life than sports. As a result of that I went to college and eventually earned my masters and was an educator and coach for 34 years.”

Kay Mercer summed it up on a grander scale, “This wasn’t just about sports and school. This was about family. We were one big family who grew up together and have managed to stay together over the years.” Mercer stated.

As the time passed the laughter rose and the stories became a collection of memories of times gone by. These were not women living in the past however; these were ladies that had come together to celebrate their love for one and other. Having made lives and differences in the lives of others, there was no doubt that this is a special group.

When they were asked whether there was a stigma attached to girl athletes at the time they were playing, the group to a lady responded in unison. “It was quite the opposite, we were highly respected by all our fellow students and teachers. The boys would come out to support us and we even had a chance to demonstrate our skills against them,” Grier-Reynolds said. “The boys played us in field hockey and we beat them pretty good. They could not believe how much running we could do and still keep on playing at a high level.”

Mary Ann Hitchens made a career out of athletics and education at a very high level. She coached field hockey and eventually become a key athletic administrator at The University of Delaware. Her accolades include the ECAC Hall of Fame, Delaware Museum Sports Hall of Fame, University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame, University of Delaware Wall of Fame as well as the National Field Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame. When asked to describe her time at Milford, Hitchens easily shared her thoughts. “I coached for about 20 years and sometimes there is a magic to a group. This was just that kind of group. What really made us special however was the commitment of everyone to teamwork. You can’t teach that, this group just had it instinctively.”

Every player shared that everything they had, they owed to coach Koons. As the players were meeting and singing her praises, Lucy Koons was saying goodbye to this earth. On the very day this fine group of ladies met and celebrated all she had done for them, they lost the coach who had shaped and molded them into one of the finest groups of individuals in Milford history. To seek comment would have been redundant. In their thirty-minute conversation it was quite evident that Lucy Coons was full of class and values, just like the group of ladies she coached.

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