Referee Ron Patry of Meriden talks with his grandson Joshua Rodriguez prior to the start of the Platt-Rocky Hill game at Falcon Field last fall. Patry, who referees both high school and college football games, will be honored tonight at the Eastern College Football Awards Banquet at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
March 26, 2014 09:03PM
By Bryant Carpenter
MERIDEN — In the first football game he ever officiated, Ron Patry blew an inadvertent whistle.
It was just a youth game. All the same, an inadvertent whistle is a major faux pas regardless of the skill and experience level of the players, not to mention the game officials.
“I got so excited when I threw the flag for a clip, I blew the whistle,” he now admits.
Needless to say, Patry grew much more polished in his craft over the next 32 years. So much so that the Meriden man will journey tonight to MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants, for the annual Eastern College Football Awards.
One will be going to him: the Red Hill Award, presented to the top officials in the northeast.
“I’ve got two minutes,” Patry said Wednesday of tonight’s acceptance speech. “Just thanking people is going to take two minutes.”
Such as Skip Chase, the veteran Meriden referee who retired after the 2013 Stoddard Bowl. Or other refs with city ties — Tom Ross, Bob Burbank and the late Randy Kamberbeek.
Patry says he’s had plenty of mentors over his career, which is why he, in turn, devotes much of his time to teaching the next generation of Connecticut-based high school and college football officials.
“I’ve got more years behind me than I do ahead,” said Petry, who will be 59 in October and figures he has another five years of field work in him despite the bone-on-bone friction in one of his knees. “That’s why I try to mentor as much as I can.”
Patry, a one-time player at Platt and Mattatuck Community College, started down the road of football officiating in 1982, when he was coaching his son Timothy’s South Meriden baseball and his wife Lynne was pregnant with their daughter, Joanne.
Within two years he was working high school varsity games as line judge on a four-man crew. By 1990, he was a back judge playing a pivotal role in implementing a five-man officiating system. He was also working Division II and III college games.
By 2000, he was on seven-man crews, primarily as a referee, but also handling every other officiating slot from time to time save for umpire.
He’s worked high school and college postseason games.
In the first college game he refereed — Merchant Marine at Coast Guard — he flipped the coin for the directors of Homeland Security and Defense to call. In the ranks of the Central Connecticut Association of Football Officials, he’s risen as high as vice president.
Mostly, though, Patry was at home on the field.
Outside concerns, even criticism from the stands and sidelines, never seem to touch him between the lines.
“It’s really getting away from all the world’s problems,” Patry said of officiating. “There can’t be a more happy place than when you’re out on that field.
“It’s really a passion, it really is,” he added. “It can’t be a hobby. I tell [officials], ‘If you don’t like what you’re doing, I suggest you get a part-time job at Foot Locker. At least you’ll get to wear the shirt.’”
Patry’s family will be traveling with him to East Rutherford tonight. So will his mother, Yvette. She passed away in 2000. Patry brings some of her ashes with him to every game he works and sprinkles a few of them in the end zone. He also wears one of her rings. It’s been known, upon prayerful appeal, to hold off rain until after the game. Hey, a ref needs all the help he can get, even the good ones.