EAST PROVIDENCE — Adding another accolade to a long list of honors he’s received for his years of service in the sports realm, city resident Chuck Vermette was recently honored by the Rhode Island Catholic Diocese in a ceremony officiated by Bishop Thomas Tobin and held at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul earlier this spring in Providence.
Mr. Vermette, 75, was recognized for his 65 years of participation in Catholic Youth Organization/Catholic Athletic League basketball. He was nominated for the award by Phil Ricci, Mr. Vermette’s long-time colleague in the East Providence School System and its former athletic director.
“Any time you get an award from your peers, it makes you feel good. I really appreciate Phil Ricci for nominating me and being there at the ceremony,” Mr. Vermette said.
A member of several halls of fame, including as a Class of 2004 member at East Providence High School, Mr. Vermette has a deep connection to many sports. Generations of youngsters recognize him as the burly referee who likes to chew on his whistle in basketball. Just about the same number of baseball players know him for his decades as an umpire. The same could be said for hosts of adults who know him from his several summers as a softball umpire.
And it’s on the diamond where Mr. Vermette’s umpiring career really began. Abandoned by his father when he was two, Mr. Vermette, his brother and mother came to the city to live with his uncle, Joe McMahon, a captain on the East Providence Police Department. He discovered love of sports from another uncle, Ray Carroll, a long-time coach in the Warwick School System.
As a precocious youngster who began school early and attended the Sacred Heart in city, he put a baseball team together at the age of 10 when the pastor of the parish said there wasn’t enough money available to properly outfit the team. Soon after, the adult coach of the squad quit, leaving it to kids the likes of Mr. Vermette to take charge. He did.
“There were only a few teams. If you didn’t have a game, you would umpire. That’s how it all started,” Mr. Vermette explained.
He and his cadre of chums, including his brother Bill, would also start basketball teams at Sacred Heart, helping run the outfits and refereeing as they did during baseball. He eventually coached several Sacred Heart baseball and basketball teams to championships. He even tried his hand at track and field and softball, meeting his wife of now 50 years, Carolyn, in the process. The Vermettes are the proud parents of four, grandparents of seven.
“I didn’t know anything about track,” Mr. Vermette conceded.
His playing career eventually over in his mid 20s, Mr. Vermette turned to coaching and officiating full bore. He would enjoy great success as a coach at the old Riverside Junior High School, where he served as an Assistant Principal from 1958 to 1986. He finished his career also as an Assistant Principal at East Providence High School from 1986 to 1990.
Mr. Vermette is a 1954 graduate of LaSalle Academy, a 1958 grad of Providence College and he received his master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston. The award he received from the diocese wasn’t his first. In 1962, he was given the Eagle of Cross Award presented to teenagers who serve the church in an extraordinary manner. In 1963, he was named the CYO Man of the Year for East Providence/Bristol County.
“Once I decided to be a teacher, I knew I wanted to keep coaching. You get close to your teams because it’s a smaller group. You’re able to talk to the kids outside of the building. I really enjoyed it,” Mr. Vermette explained. “No matter what you teach, you’re a guidance counselor. You can lead kids no matter if you’re in the classroom. It’s the same thing in sports.”
Throughout his professional career and to this day, Mr. Vermette has been an official. He was an active member of the high school baseball umpires association for 53 years, the basketball officials association for 44 years and the football referees association for nearly 40 years.
Mr. Vermette is counted as a member of the Rhode Island Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1997), the International Association of Accredited Basketball Officials (2000) hall and the United States Slow Pitch Softball Association/New England hall (2005). He continues to officiate basketball for CAL, middle school and high school freshmen. He does the same at the latter two levels in baseball.
“It’s a hobby. That’s what it is,” Mr. Vermette said.
A devout Catholic (“I never miss Sundays,” he said), part of the reason for his dedication to CYO/CAL, specifically, is his faith.
“It’s about being a good Catholic, sure. It’s also about giving back to community and for the love of sports. It’s a little bit of all those things,” Mr. Vermette said.
Asked if he’ll ever stop officiating, he said it was unlikely.
“I might cut back. I have, but I’m not going to give it up,” Mr. Vermette concluded with a wry smile. “I haven’t got it right yet. I’ve got to keep going until I do.”