Somers High School Alumni Gather to Remember Beloved Gym Teacher
Teacher's Ability to Relate to Students Sets Him Apart
Back in 2006, longtime Somers Track Coach and Phys Ed Teacher Charles Gilberti lost a extended fight with cancer. He died at the age of 67 in Las Vegas. At the Lovell Street Bar and Grill, Somers alumni and colleagues came out to pay respects soon after. They did so in a manner befitting a Somers fixture that few ever addressed as Charles or Mr. Gilberti.
"Mo, what's up," were words that often emerged from the hearts and minds of Somers students. The endearing reminiscence came from Roy Arnesen, who coached track with Gilberti for 20 years.
Chuck was one of us.
More typically, "Chuck" precipitated any conversation with the very approachable gym teacher. "It made him more accessible and put him closer in the light of a friend rather than an authority figure," said Suzy Moravick, who organized the small informal gathering.
At the same time, Gilberti was no pushover and maintained a distance appropriate to being a responsible member of the faculty. "You definitely knew where the line was," said 1982 graduate Sue Westmark-Sanchez.
Former baseball coach and math teacher, Joe Rinaldi simply chalked the easy interaction up to Gilberti's natural feel for the job he loved. "It takes a certain personality to relate so well to kids, and Chuck had that," said Rinaldi.
Chuck was young once and understood.
But the genesis of the salutation was merely incidental. "He was only three years older than the seniors when he began teaching in 1966. So it evolved very naturally," said Rinaldi.
As for any questions administration may have raised over 35 years, Rinaldi referred it back to Chuck simply being Chuck. "He had a personality in which he didn't care what other people thought," said the Mahopac resident.
That may have played a role in putting the bigger picture above the everyday infractions all young people succumb to along the way. "Never being judgmental," said Westmark-Sanchez, "he was someone that always had your best interest at heart. That was even when you were screwing up."
Of course, Gilberti also showed that by not adhering to the constraints of the job description. The hands on the clock didn't deter either. Kimberly Pittelli Shaw remembered all the times he sacrificed in taking students on weekly ski trips. But it was more than that. "Chuck actually took time out of his life to give advice that could change your life," said the 1982 graduate.
Proud to Coach and There for All the Students
On the athletic end, Rinaldi speculated on the aspect of his coaching legacy that Gilberti would be most proud of. "He'd be thrilled that the Somers Track Invitational, which he began in 1977, is still going on," said Rinaldi.
But Chuck's worth and legacy certainly extended beyond putting an annual meet down on paper and getting it up and running. "Chuck had a magnetic personality." said Coach Arnesen. "He knew when to push kids, when to hug them and was great with both the boys and girls."
But Moravick, who graduated in 1981, did make a distinction on a bias based on gender. "I think because he had two daughters, he took a more fatherly approach with the girls," she remembered fondly.
Still, boy or girl, runner or wrestler, Chuck could always be found out of bounds or on the sidelines. "If you were a Somers athlete, you were one of Chuck's guys," said Arnesen.
The same was true of the non-athlete who knew Chuck only as the gym teacher, according to Westmark's recollection. She remembered him as a jokester. One who wouldn't let his own demise get in the way - even on a night like this."If he was here he would probably say, 'I wanted to kick all your butts at some time back then, but I wouldn't trade it for anything,'" she concluded.
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