STRATFORD—As Dave Johnson walked into the Bunnell High gymnasium earlier this month, the memories were everywhere he looked.
The next he walks in one more memory will be hanging from the gym wall.
Before last week’s game against Stratford, the Bunnell High gymnasium was dedicated and named after Johnson, who was athletic director for the Bulldogs for 34 years.
A sign designing “The David Johnson Gymnasium” now hangs on the wall.
“A lot of good memories,” Johnson said. “I count my blessings for the 37 years I’ve been associated with Bunnell High School, 34 as athletic director. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to associate myself with some of the most talented and amazing people.”
Johnson, the son of a former Boston Braves pitcher, was born in Milford but soon moved to Massachusetts, and attended Springfield College, where he met his wife.
Soon after they got married, she got a job in Stratford and the couple moved to town.
In 1979, he was hired as a track coach and substitute teacher, kicking off a long and storied career at Bunnell.
Other opportunities arose for Johnson to switch jobs, but in the end, he remained a Bulldog.
“To be honest, I was always very happy at Bunnell,” Johnson said. “I was very happy in Stratford. I kept my eyes open, but nothing ever came around that was better than Bunnell. There might have been bigger jobs with better pay, but at the end of the day I couldn’t be happier than I was at Bunnell.”
Bunnell, needless to say, was always happy with Johnson and everything he brought to the table.
“What speaks to me the most about Dave Johnson is beyond all of the accomplishments and accolades, he dedicated his career as an educator and athletic director with the student= athletes’ best interest in mind,” present-day Bunnell athletic director Wayne Thrall said. “He led many of the conversations that sparked positive change within high school athletics. His impact reaches far beyond the walls of Bunnell High School.”
In fact, these days it reaches throughout the South-West Conference, where Johnson is the lame-duck commissioner.
“Again, the best part about that is being able to stay in touch with some of the best people on earth and all that coaches I’ve worked with and fellow ADs, and the kids,” Johnson said.
He will step down from that position after this school year with plans on relocating to Pennsylvania to be closer to his grandchildren.
Whenever he returns to Connecticut, though, he knows he will have a home with his name on it.
“(That night) was more of a celebration of the great family that Stratford Public Schools, and Bunnell and Stratford High are,” Johnson said. “Just amazing staffs. I was blessed to spend all those years with some very talented people.”
Truth be told, Stratford Public Schools was blessed to have Dave Johnson in its gymnasium.
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