Lamoureux ready for next chapter after 46 years at St. Bernard
He is the enduring voice from their high school days. For some of them 46 years later. Maybe that's really Art Lamoureux's legacy. The teacher they all remember, because who could ever forget that person in your life that encouraged you, invaluably criticized you, challenged your acumen and cared about you sometimes more than you cared about yourself?
Discourses on literature. The vagaries of public speaking. The elements of grammar. The schemes of football. And Friday vocabulary day. If Mr. Lamoureux said it, memorize it.
This is how you get to be the best teacher they ever had.
Which is a nearly universal sentiment among 46 years' worth of graduates from St. Bernard School.
The best teacher they ever had.
And for the first September in 46 years, the School On The Hill is without its former teacher, football coach and athletic director. Its conscience. Its soul. Art Lamoureux and all his decency, buoyancy, consistency and whimsy is retired at 69.
Happy and healthy, too.
"There comes a point in time," Lamoureux was saying one late summer night from his home in New London, the same home in which Art and Maureen Lamoureux have lived for the last 45 years, "that you say 'I've done enough, fought the good fight, been a loyal servant.' It was time for me to go."
After 46 years at the same place. After 46 years of memorable lines, everlasting instruction and steadfast virtue. Art Lamoureux was the ultimate lamp carrier, delivering a light for the way to impressionable kids negotiating adolescence and all its curveballs.
"He is St. Bernard," said Bill Buscetto, the school's former athletic director and Lamoureux's former student and quarterback. "Teachers always made St. Bernard. He was a throwback. You think St. Bernard, you think of him. I bet if you asked a thousand people who they most associate with St. Bernard, most would say Mr. Lamoureux.
"And I still call him Mr. Lamoureux, because I'm scared not to," he said. "He made the school. He brought people together."
Arthur F. Lamoureux Jr. was born in Boston, 70 years ago come October. Teaching was never going to be his vocation. Until his mother, Helen, told him "why not give it a try?"
There is irony here. The consummate educator's dad, Arthur F. Lamoureux Sr., never made it past the eighth grade.
"I didn't see my father until I was two-and-a-half years old," Lamoureux said. "My parents got married in California just before my father was shipped overseas. My mom died in 2000 and we moved my dad back here from Cape Cod where they were living. Every Saturday morning, I brought him coffee and we caught up the two-and-a-half years. That's when I learned he went as far as the eighth grade."
Mr. Lamoureux fought in World War II overseas as a combat engineer. His family was in Boston when he returned in 1946. And then it became the good fortune for 46 years' worth of future St. Bernard students that Mr. Lamoureux became a Teamster and found a job here driving as a route salesman for Bambi Bread.
The Lamoureux family found a house on Chester St. in New London in 1946.
Lamoureux attended kindergarten at the old Bartlett School in the city, St. Mary's School and then St. Bernard class of 1962, the school's first class of boys. St. Bernard began as an all girls' enclave in 1956.
"Our group, the class of '62, we just celebrated our 50th..We get together once a month for dinner," Lamoureux said. "Funny. As you get to the end of your life, you realize how much those relationships mean."
Lamoureux attended UConn briefly until a "dalliance with not studying well" led to a nine-month stint at Electric Boat. Too much like work. He went back to school later that year and graduated from Assumption College in 1967 with a degree in English.
"That's when I signed my first contract to teach at St. Bernard with Brother Christopher Norton and the Christian Brothers when they were there," Lamoureux said.
Lamoureux's first year teaching, 1967, was the first year the school moved to Uncasville from Broad St. in New London, where the courthouse and Martin Center are today.
"The only reason I came back to St. Bernard is because my mother said 'you know, you should try teaching.' It wasn't something I really wanted to do," Lamoureux said. "I wanted to go into the Air Force. I always liked that thing about computers and missiles.
"But everyone likes to do what their mother says. So I gave it a shot. In 1967, they couldn't find teachers. I went to the draft board, and they said, 'No, go teach.' So I signed my first contract for $5,400."
Now Art Lamoureux, wearing a St. Bernard-red polo, sitting in his favorite living room chair, was awash in the old days again. He was recalling the teachers who influenced him with the same reverence his students would one day have for him: Pete Plourde, P.J. Crotty, Ed O'Neill, Tom Hayes, Jim Powers, Art St. Germain. Oh, how he needed their guidance.
Fancy that. The masterful maestro of the classroom was once a green English major who never had a formal education course.
"All those guys took young teachers under their wing," Lamoureux said.
The significance of those days went beyond Lamoureux's professional life. This was about the time he met Maureen, his everlasting love. And it's a St. Bernard love story.
Maureen Lamoureux's mother is the woman affectionately known as "Sis" in St. Bernard lore and legend: Carmella "Sis" Guerin, the first lay teacher in the history of the school and first athletic director.
"I worked for Herb Moran when he was the rec director in New London," Lamoureux said. "I met Maureen when they had the zoo (at Bates Woods) up there. One thing led to another. I was in college at the time."
They celebrated their 45th anniversary in April. Art and Maureen are the parents of Nicole Lamoureux Busby, the executive director of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, who lives in Virginia with her husband, Mark; and Arthur F. Lamoureux III, or "Artie" as he's known at Coast Guard Academy, where he is the Director of Athletic Operations. Artie and his wife, Deidre, live in Clinton with their children - and more importantly Art and Maureen's grandchildren - Liam and Molly.
"The only reason I was able to do everything I did at St. Bernard is because of Maureen," Lamoureux said. "She's absolutely one of the last coach's wives. They recognize if you're going to coach, it's involves scouting and things that will keep you out of the house even more.
"My wife raised our children. I had to be out doing other things, like watching everybody else's kids grow up. And she did a wonderful job. Quite frankly, my wife is the best friend I have on the face of this planet."
Here's something funny about Art Lamoureux: Everything. No, really. The man's sense of humor is an onion. Peel back the layers until you catch tears. Of laughter.
It was one day late in his last school year the joke was on him. Lamoureux thought one of his students was merely a diligent note-taker. Turns out she recorded all of his lines and presented them - handwritten - to him during final exams.
"I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes," Lamoureux said, the victim of his own onion this time.
Among the preeminent Art-isms:
"Forewarned is forearmed."
"I'm such a majestic pain in the (rear)."
"Observe that question. Now slowly sneak up on the answer."
"I reject your dilemma."
"The only reason some people are allowed to live is because it's a crime to shoot them."
"I was born humble, but it wore off."
"Some of these politicians have the logic of earthworms. My apologies to earthworms."
It was during his early years of teaching that Lamoureux learned the value of what he calls "gentle humor."
"Where does it come from? I don't know. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 140 to frown and I'm just kind of a lazy guy," he said. "Sometimes humor is a great way to diffuse a tense situation. You have to be judicious. I always thought I could correct youngsters with gentle humor. It's the easiest way to deal with adolescence. It worked for 46 years."
Indeed. Virtually everybody interviewed for this story grinned immediately at the first mention of Lamoureux's name. Maybe because of the humor. Maybe because his delivery resonates with kids. Or maybe because he really is a majestic pain in the (rear).
Take, for instance, one night last summer when Art and Maureen were having dinner at Tony D's in New London, an establishment built by his former student. They hadn't finished the appetizer yet when Tony D'Angelo, the popular proprietor, walked in, took one look at his old teacher and yelled, "Denouement! Denouement!"
Friends of D'Angelo's have a hard time remembering him yell any other words but of the four-letter variety. And yet he remembered "denouement" from Friday vocabulary days 40 years later.
"I remember that word and 'pinnacle,'" D'Angelo said, before raining hosannas on his former teacher.
How fitting, really, those two words resonated with D'Angelo, just as Lamoureux's career was reaching its denouement. At its pinnacle.
"It's rewarding to know you had an impact," Lamoureux said.
Then he paused and said, "of course, here's what I always tell my students. I'm not your friend. I'm your teacher. Ten years from now, hopefully you'll come back, hopefully we'll meet somewhere, hopefully we'll stop for a beer, hopefully you'll buy and we'll have a good time."
To reiterate: Arthur F. Lamoureux Jr. is ready for retirement. The house needs some work. He wants to join a gym, cook dinner for Maureen, write a book. His voice will be heard on fall Saturdays by the Thames, the longtime public address announcer for Coast Guard football, who occasionally dupes the crowd into thinking there's Roast Crown of Pork and French Onion Soup at the concession stand.
Lamoureux, though, believed to the end of his career he wasn't necessarily ready for the rocking chair. He applied to be the school's headmaster last year. He was not hired. St. Bernard hired the retired - and respected - Waterford High School principal Don Macrino.
"I was never given the answer. I was a finalist. I thought I could offer something, unite the alums," Lamoureux said. "I certainly had the support of the parents, students and colleagues. They have a plan evidently that didn't include me. You'd have to ask them."
Michael Stramiello, spokesman for the Norwich Diocese, wrote in an email to The Day, "You can appreciate that we cannot comment on the proceedings of the search committee as we must maintain strict confidentiality out of respect for all the candidates. Art was a wonderful teacher, coach and athletic director over his remarkable 46 years. There is no more telling tribute by faculty, students and the entire SBS family than the honorary degree the Class of 2014 presented to Art this past May 30th at their graduation exercise."
Stramiello alluded to a surprise tribute at graduation. Lamoureux was given a second diploma and several ovations, an event that touches him to this day.
Still, some in the St. Bernard community believe Lamoureux's longevity and reputation among alumni would have resuscitated what is perceived as a moribund school from financial stagnation.
"It would have been easy for me to support him," veteran teacher Jim Leone said. "Art would have done his best to bring a lot of people back that have kind of drifted away. He bleeds red and gray. That's something those of us who have been there more than 30 years really understand. We have a passion and a love for the school that I don't know if others outside it truly understand."
Lamoureux would like some clarification from the diocese. Otherwise, he's over it.
"Three things I believe in. My family, my faith and St. Bernard," Lamoureux said. "Those are the three things that make up my life. St. Bernard is my life, my heart and my soul. Years from now they'll be saying 'Art who?' St. Bernard, I hope, goes on forever. It's got a message. It's got a reason for being. I have no hard feelings. I wish St. Bernard nothing but the best."
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