By Jim Hague
When Ed Abromaitis was a teenager growing up in Kearny in the early 1970s, he had to make a very tough decision, one that would affect him for the rest of his life.
Abromaitis decided to go to Queen of Peace High School instead of attending the hometown Kearny.
“I took a lot of heat from the people in Kearny,” Abromaitis said. “I heard it from all of my friends.”
So much so that when Abromaitis played baseball against Kearny, standout pitcher Bob Stanley, who later went on to pitch for the Boston Red Sox, went after Abromaitis.
“We were friends, but every time we played Kearny, he hit me with a pitch,” Abromaitis said.
But Abromaitis knew he was always doing the right thing.
“Queen of Peace was my life,” Abromaitis said. “As corny as that may sound, it’s just the way I feel about the school.”
Abromaitis played baseball and football at QP, graduating in 1974. He went to Kean and played baseball there, but soon after graduation, Abromaitis returned to QP as a physical education, health and driver’s education teacher.
Soon after, Abromaitis became a coach. He was an assistant football coach for almost 30 years under the regimes of the entire Borgess family as well as Andy Cerco. He became a highly respected baseball coach, leading the Golden Griffi ns to a host of wins and championships on the diamond.
And in 1985, Abromaitis was promoted to the role of athletic director, serving QP in that capacity for 22 years.
From the late 80s through 2008, Abromaitis was Queen of Peace. He was the most identifi able member of the athletic department. You mentioned Queen of Peace around the state and instantly, the name of Ed Abromaitis would come up.
But in 2008, the school’s administration decided that they wanted to make a change. Abromaitis, the loyal soldier who fell on the sword for the higher-ups when controversies arose with the coaching revolving door, was unceremoniously removed from his AD duties, replaced by another QP alum in John Ahmuty.
“I was devastated,” Abromaitis said. “I never thought that could happen.”
But it did.
Instead of being bitter and angry, Abromaitis decided to remain on at QP as a teacher.
“A lot of the alumni helped me through it,” Abromaitis said. “They reminded me that I was Queen of Peace, through and through. Tony Riposta (a respected attorney in North Arlington and a former standout athlete at QP during his day) was the voice of reason. When he spoke to me, I listened. But I had others who helped me. I tried to do the best that I could for the school, because I loved the school.”
A lot of other people would have walked away after getting the proverbial shaft, headed for the hills in search of another position at another school.
“I couldn’t walk by the office for a long time,” Abromaitis said. “It hurt. Eventually, I would get over it.”
Abromaitis stuck it out and remained on. He remained on as an assistant football coach, an assistant baseball coach. He was still a teacher. He knew Ahmuty and liked him.
“He’s a good guy, a Queen of Peace guy,” Abromaitis said.
Through it all, it was always about loyalty. Abromaitis was going to remain loyal to the school. After all, he bleeds green and gold. He has a tattoo on his bicep that portrays his love for QP. He’s a Golden Griffin for life.
In May, the QP revolving door started spinning again, when administrators decided that they were not going to rehire Ahmuty as the AD after three years. “Going in another direction,” was the standard catchphrase used, like it was when school administrators replaced seven boys’ basketball coaches, seven football coaches and four girls’ basketball coaches in the past nine years. The turnover in athletic personnel at the school has been absolutely staggering.
When Abromaitis heard the word that Ahmuty was being replaced, he was flabbergasted. It was a case of “Here we go again.” “
Honestly, I was shocked,” Abromaitis said. “I thought John was doing a good job, but they were looking for someone new. I don’t know the reason why.”
Without extending the search for a new athletic director, the administration approached Abromaitis and asked if he wanted his old job back.
“I thought that part of my life was gone,” Abromaitis said. “It was over with. When they asked me, I thought I could help. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than any other alumnus would do.”
With that, Abromaitis was given the responsibility of being the leader of the athletic department once again, a role he held for over a quarter of a century. He didn’t appreciate the way the job was taken away from him almost four years ago, but that’s in the past.
“I’m not trying to ride in on a white horse and save the day,” Abromaitis said. “I just wanted to help like any other person would do.”
But not any other person was removed like Abromaitis was.
“It’s water under the bridge now,” said the 56-year-old Abromaitis, who has spent more than 40 years of his life associated with the school. “I’m moving forward. We’re all going to go forward from here. Like the Bob Seger song, ‘Turn the Page.’ Well, that’s what I’ve done. I can’t go back. I’m not going to wallow in the past. I’ve turned the page and moved on.”
Abromaitis has hit the ground running in the job he held for most of his adult life. The school needed a new boys’ soccer coach. There is always the challenge of scheduling. It’s almost as if nothing ever happened.
“It’s as simple as that,” Abromaitis said. “I love the place and I’ve always been loyal to it. I don’t know any other place. It’s my home. I belong here. I think there a lot of us, the alumni, who still bleed the green and gold like me. I’m just one of many.”
The school has suffered through enrollment woes in recent years. The participation numbers are down. Still, Abromaitis remains optimistic.
“I still think we have some good talent here,” Abromaitis said. “We just don’t have a lot of depth. We don’t have the numbers at the lower levels. That’s what we have to do. We have to get the enrollment back up and be competitive on the lower levels. We have to have a freshman or a JV (junior varsity) team. We need to get our athletes experience in every sport.”
Abromaitis said that he has received a ton of e-mails and phone calls from his fellow athletic administrators, welcoming him back.
The fall season is rapidly approaching. Abromaitis was in his office every morning last week, getting ready. Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. Just ask Ed Abromaitis. He is home again, but in reality, he never left.