HERMON, Maine – As Paul Soucy was growing up in South Portland during the 1960s, he found many of his role models within the schools he attended.
Soucy was just 12 when his father died, and while his mother worked hard to support her four children, he immersed himself in football, basketball and baseball like so many of his friends and found guidance in those who taught him.
“The mentors in my life as I grew up were coaches and teachers, they replaced my father,” said Soucy, the Hermon High School athletic administrator and vocational coordinator who will retire from a 41-year career in education at the end of the month.
“People like [former South Portland football coach] Jack Flynn and [basketball coach] Gene Hunter, they’re why I got into education. I wanted to teach and coach,” Soucy said.
After graduating from the University of Maine, where he played tight end on the Black Bears football team, Soucy spent one year as an English teacher and coach at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, N.H., before returning to the Bangor area to take a teaching and coaching job at Brewer High School in 1973.
“I stayed there one year and realized that teaching English wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Soucy said.
Soucy also was an assistant football coach and later the varsity girls basketball and softball coach at Brewer for 10 years before leaving coaching to pursue a master’s degree that led to his hiring as assistant principal at Hermon in 1989.
Soucy went on to hold similar positions at Bangor — twice — and Brewer through 2002, when he came to a realization.
“After one particular stressful day at Bangor High I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing this job for?” Soucy said. “I knew I didn’t want to be a principal. I always wanted to be an athletic director but the opportunity never presented itself until the Hermon job came open.”
That was 11 years ago, a decision that allowed Soucy to turn his professional attention back to his love of athletics.
Not that he ever strayed far.
For some three decades Soucy was a fixture at the Eastern Maine high school basketball tournament. His initial duties included serving as a public address announcer when the girls’ tourney games were still played at Husson University and athletic trainer when former head trainer Wes Jordan left each year to accompany the University of Maine baseball team on its annual spring trip.
He eventually became the tournament floor director, a post he held for 16 years.
Soucy also was the first director of the Big East Conference, originally a league established during the mid-1980s to help the state’s northernmost Class A basketball programs develop their schedules. It went on to host an annual postseason awards banquet and publicize its athletes through frequent statistical releases each winter.
The conference, which now serves the state’s northernmost Class B schools in a similar capacity, annually presents a Paul Soucy Spirit Award in honor of the man who served as its director for 22 years.
Soucy also was active as a high school football official and softball umpire for more than two decades, working numerous state championship games in both sports.
“It was a great way to stay involved in sports that I played and coached and loved,” he said.
Soucy’s tenure as athletic administrator at Hermon has been marked by at least two notable developments — an upgrading of the school’s athletic facilities and the introduction of varsity football.
The facilities upgrade began shortly after Soucy and current principal Brian Walsh began working at the school on the same day, July 1, 2002.
“They had a beautiful high school [completed in 1996],” recalled Soucy, “but state funding doesn’t cover athletic fields so they did what they could at the time.”
A comprehensive study was completed and a committee formed to address such concerns as the lack of a regulation-size field hockey field and the desire for lights on the soccer field.
Thanks to significant local fundraising efforts and major in-kind donations of labor and materials, Hermon’s field hockey field is regulation size. The field that now hosts home soccer and football games — known as Pottle field in recognition of major benefactor Barry Pottle — not only has lights but considerable home and visitors’ seating, a press box and storage area, a concession area and a prominent entryway.
Four new tennis courts also have been built, other fields have upgraded and the school purchased a combination multisport scoreboard and message board with part of a $100,000 donation by Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, a 1987 Hermon graduate.
“A lot of people in from the community came together to help make these things happen,” said Soucy.
A similar grass-roots effort resulted in Hermon fielding a varsity football team for the first time in 2011. Youth programs were established by the local recreation department initially at the third- and fourth-grade levels and additional age-group teams were added each year until there was a pool of players ready to compete in high school, first at the subvarsity level and for the last two years as a member of the varsity LTC.
“I think there’s a solid football culture starting to develop here,” said Soucy.
Under the four-class varsity football format approved by the Maine Principals’ Association in March, Hermon will move this fall to the new Eastern Maine Class C, joining Belfast, Camden Hills of Rockport, Foxcroft Academy, Madison-Carrabec, Mount Desert Island, Nokomis of Newport, Old Town, Waterville and Winslow.
“I think it’s going to be good for football and I think it’s going to be good for Hermon football,” said Soucy. “I think we’ll be competitive. [Hermon head coach] Ken Frederick has done a good job here and we’ve always had good numbers.
“I think football is in pretty good shape and the future of football here is pretty solid.”
While improved facilities and the addition of football are among the major changes within Hermon’s athletic program, Soucy also has seen significant changes throughout Maine’s interscholastic sports world through his four decades of involvement, including more parental involvement and the increased athleticism of today’s participants.
“But probably the biggest thing that has changed,” he said, “is there’s much more public scrutiny about decisions you make and second guessing whether it has to do with coaching or other things you do.”
Now 63, Soucy is looking forward to retirement, which will include sharing more time with his wife of 42 years, Linda, and other family members as well as landscaping and visiting his hunting camp in Beddington.
It’s unlikely, though, that retirement won’t also include a continued connection to the local sports world, perhaps as a timer or scorer at various events or even by getting back into officiating.
“I don’t think I’ll be too far from athletics,” he said.
A replacement for Soucy at Hermon has not yet been named.