Monday, October 13, 2014

The Unconventional Hockey Grandmom

by Caroline Stanistreet

     Now that the ice is made in most rinks in Central New York, hockey season is once again upon us.  But this year, it’s a little different as there is a Hockey Grandmom in heaven now, cheering on all the Tykes, Mites, Squirts, and any kid who is lacing up his or her skates for the next several months. That Hockey Grandmom was my mother, Jackie Coley. Her passing was one of those special occurrences that you sometimes hear about.  She died at 12:05 a.m., just 5 minutes into her 90th birthday. Since then, I have heard all kinds of amazing reactions and stories about that accomplishment.  First, living until the age of 90 in our world is quite a feat in itself!  One of the other things I’ve heard from a few people is that since her passing was an exact “circle of life” from birth until death, they are given extra special blessings in heaven.  I’ve read other obituaries about deaths on birthdays and wedding anniversaries and it seems more frequent than I first thought. And when her tired body began the shutdown to the time of passing, there was a Supermoon, which shined into the night on that August 9th. Cool stuff!

Jackie Coley 
                                Jackie Coley

Jackie was a columnist for The Syracuse Post-Standard.  She wrote the “Social Notebook” for 22 years, and loved every minute of it. So here’s that unconventional part of Jackie - behind those fancy dresses, high heels and reporter’s notebook was a hockey grandmom.  Jackie was not your “typical” grandmom though.  Those grandmoms attend every single game no matter the time or temperature, but let me first share a little background on her marvelous and wonderful life.

     She became a huge hockey lover because she married a huge hockey player - my father - Dan Coley, in 1956.  Dan played defense at Colgate University, and was co-captain of Colgate’s only undefeated team in 1947 when they finished at 13-0!

Co-Captains Dan Coley and Allen Short (1947) at Colgate’s then-roofless rink!

     Years later, when my sister Melissa attended Colgate in the mid 70s, Mom would often accompany Dad to the village of Hamilton to watch some great Colgate hockey games. They would meet up with Melissa and her friends in the stands, and amidst conversations, Mom would cringe while Dad would tell the ref what he was supposed to do.  She would also accompany my dad to the Syracuse Invitational Tournament, held at the War Memorial and usually featured Colgate and 3 other top-notch college hockey teams, like Cornell and Clarkson.  Never mind the hockey game itself, as Mom could not wait to visit the Colgate hospitality room and do her usual socializing!!  She would still wear her fur coat, even if the War Memorial is known to be slightly warmer than most other rinks.

     This went on for a few years until I attended Oswego State in the 80s, but she chose not to venture to Oswego’s hockey rink…only to Oswego’s swimming pool at Laker Hall, where I used to compete.  There, my father would yell, but not at the officials, but at me while I attempted to “sprint” during the 500 yard freestyle.  Jackie would wear that coat into the 85-degree pool area, as she was still thawing out from the late January walk from the parking lot.   My Dad passed away in 1982, but she continued to attend my swim meets.  Shortly after I graduated, she began writing the column she so dearly loved.
     Fast forward to the late 90s – and there came the grandkids!  As a result, there was another “circle of life,” or should I say, circle of hockey games again. While Jackie was in the midst of writing the “Social Notebook,” which required attending fundraisers about 4 or 5 times a week, she still found the time to watch some of her grandsons’ youth hockey games. She would visit my sister Melissa, her husband Jay, and grandson Jack during Christmas breaks in New Jersey and watch Jack’s holiday hockey games and tournaments.  Upon her return, and always donned in that fur coat, she would venture to Shove Park in Camillus and watch my son Sean and dozens of other 4-year-old boys literally trip, tumble and pour onto the ice for the annual “TykeFest.”

 “Grandma Jackie” and Grandson Sean

     She became quite enchanted with the development of youth hockey, which our father Dan and his brother Trey were also involved with for years in Buffalo.  Undaunted by what her editors told her not to write about as a social columnist, she covered the dedication ceremony of the new Shove Park locker room expansion for one of her Social Notebook columns in 2007.  She told me it was one of the best stories she had ever written, and a framed version of her story still proudly hangs on a wall at Shove Park – but not near the hockey rink, rather, in the more appropriate Community Room!

Jackie’s favorite story

     So, Hockey Grandmoms out there, this tribute to my mom is for YOU!  Your kids and grandkids thank you for loving them enough to help them with transportation, taking weekend trips to tournaments, or buying your grandchild a post-game hot chocolate.  And to them, it really doesn’t matter whether you wear a fur coat, a down jacket, or a hockey jersey to the games. Just being there is enough! 

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