MERIDEN — Platt High School lost one of its athletic founders on Thursday as Paul R. Crone passed away at age 91.
Crone was Platt’s boys tennis coach for 44 years and also the inaugural head football coach when the school opened in 1958.
“He’s one of the Founding Fathers of Platt athletics,” Platt athletic director Rich Katz said Monday. “He had a great passion for tennis at Platt. He was also an outstanding history teacher. He was a very impactful person.”
Crone headed Platt football for nine years and his teams went a combined 34-46-1. He also served as an assistant for the school’s football team for five seasons.
However, Crone's major achievements came in tennis. He was named the Connecticut High School Coaches Association's tennis coach of the year in 1977 and 1981. He was the National High School Coaches Association's New England Division coach of the year in 1970 and 1988.
“He was actually a great coach,” said Jim Mercuri, who played for Crone before graduating Platt in 1974. “He inspired many young kids to continue in the sport of tennis. He had such a good way about it and he made the sport fun.
“I’m 63 and still play twice a week. My dad was an avid tennis player, as well, but I owe Coach Crone, too. He made a sport fun that I’m still enjoying to this day.”
Crone coached his 44th and final season of boys tennis in 1997. He also headed Platt girls tennis concurrently for four seasons between 1979 and 1982.
Crone compiled a career tennis coaching record of 396-213. He guided the boys teams to league titles in 1976, 1977 and 1994.
“He was a great instructor,” said 1966 Platt grad Jim Frederick. “He taught me so much about playing tennis. I still carry that stuff with me today. He’s a real student of the game. He knew how to teach the game the right way. He would tell us how to throw the ball up correctly on a serve. It had to land in a circle behind our right foot. That’s how I learned to hit my service.
“Mr. Crone had patience, but could be tough when he needed to be,” Frederick added. “I have fond memories of him.”
Crone was an athlete himself. He was a ranked senior player in the U.S. Professional Tennis Association and also penned a ski column for the Record-Journal for several years.
Crone conducted various summer programs and was involved in the Special Olympics tennis program.
For his accomplishments, he was inducted in the inaugural class of the Platt Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
In 2002, Crone was inducted into the Meriden Hall of Fame. Six years later, in 2008, he was named a Meriden Sportsman of Distinction.
Most recently, Crone was a Stoddard Bowl honoree in 2011.
The Platt High School tennis courts are named in Crone’s honor. The Paul Crone/Michael Curry Tennis Scholarship is also given out each year at Platt.
Katz said he remembered seeing Crone working at Rinaldi’s Sports Shop.
“If you wanted to get your tennis racket strung, you would go see Paul Crone,” Katz said.
Crone served on the CHSCA's executive committee. Beyond athletics, he was a member of the Meriden Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) and on the Board of Directors of the YMCA.
For three years, Crone served on the Meriden Zoning Board of Appeals and, from 1991 to 1995, on the Meriden Board of Education.
A Philadelphia native, Crone served during World II in the Air Force (1944-46). He relocated to Connecticut to attend college at Wesleyan, CCSU and UConn before settling in Meriden with his wife Nancy, who died in 2017.
The couple, married in 1949, had four children — Eric, Steven, Susan, and Paul Jr. In all, Crone taught for 38 years before retiring in 1989,
“He was a wonderful person, wonderful teacher and wonderful coach,” Katz said.
“I loved the man,” said Platt graduate Dan Santomero, who now lives in Hilton Head, S.C.
“He was my tennis coach from 1970 to 1974. I’m glad they named the Platt tennis courts after him. I had him a class in school — Latin America and Canadian history. He was a great guy.
“Coach Crone got the best out of me,” Santomero added.
“When I moved to Hilton Head, he and his wife came down here for a week on vacation. That was a nice week.”
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