By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
A special dedication is scheduled to take place Fri., Oct. 20 at Asbury Park High School, a dedication that school officials say is long overdue.
Before Friday night’s football game, the Asbury Park High School stadium will be dedicated to former student, athlete, teacher and coach, William “Butch” Bruno, who died in 1981.
Bruno’s accomplishments are vast and varied, including being the only Blue Bishop athlete in the school’s history to earn four varsity letters in four sports. He was also named All-State in football, basketball and baseball.
“This tribute to Mr. Bruno is long overdue and I’m just glad that we’re able to honor him in this manner. Bruno exemplifies the Blue Bishop spirit as a scholar-athlete who returned to his hometown to serve as an educator, coach and role model,” said Dr. Kristie Howard, Director of Student Services.
Jim Bruno, former Asbury Park City Councilman and deputy mayor, called the dedication “a great honor.”
“He was a leader,” he said. said of his father, “I didn’t see any of it but all my life people would tell me stories of his athletic life. Fans would be all around the track. After big victories the players would throw him in Deal Lake which less than 100′ feet from the field. I would like to thank the board for this honor. The Bruno family and friends will cherish this for generations.”
He also recalled that his mother at one time wanted to move to Loch Arbour, but Butch would have none of that.
“He wanted us to live in Asbury Park,” James said. “He was born on Springwood Avenue in 1913 and he never left Asbury Park.”
Butch Bruno died in 1981 at the age of 67.
“I have pictures of him on the sidelines in his sweats and a big cigar in his mouth,”Jim said.
According to a release from the district Bruno attended Notre Dame, where he played football and later earned a degree in history. Following college, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and then returned home to teach history and civics at Asbury Park High School for 25 years.
During that time, he also coached football from 1945-1966, and had a record of 114-50-13. His 1953 team was undefeated.
Under Bruno’s leadership, the Blue Bishops earned NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV titles in 1946, 1953 and 1954. In 1981, Bruno was inducted into the NJISAA Hall of Fame and in 2009 the Shore Football Coaches Foundation.
The district plans to present the family with a plaque on Oct. 20, which will be a replica of the one that will be mounted in the spring at the stadium during an official unveiling.
Another of Butch’s sons, Billy, said, “We’re all very excited about this, as a family. We’ll all be there.”
Billy remembers watching his father coach.
“I grew up on the sidelines. I was a water boy, went on the bus with the team. I had a great childhood,” he said.
One unique thing he remembers about his father’s coaching was that he had his football team sit on the lake side of the field, facing the bleachers, when normally the team would sit in front of the bleachers, with their backs to the crowd.
“He kept them away from the cheerleaders and the crowds,” he said. “We’re very thankful that the Asbury Park school district is doing this.”
Beach Utility Manager, Gary Giberson, played football for Coach Bruno and was delighted to hear of the honor.
“That’s terrific, Butch was a very inspiring guy,” he said.
Giberson also remembers playing football as the highlight of his high school career.
“We had the best times. It was the best time I had as an athlete. I played guard both defense and offense. Football was one of the highlights of my high school experience and he made it that way,” he said. “Butch was a great influence on me and my team.”
Giberson recalled the season when the team only lost one game and tied another.
“And we played big city schools, Perth Amboy, Jersey City, Union,” he said.
President of the Asbury Park Fishing Club, Joseph Pallotto, worked for many years as a lifeguard for Bruno, who became the beach director after retiring from his teaching career.
“He was a great man, he was really great, he was old school,” Pallotto said. “He was a tough guy, the disciplinarian type.”