MERIDEN — Patrick Good’s phone would ring every night around 7 p.m. It was that familiar voice of his lifelong friend Craig Drezek.
“Drez” as Good calls him would have a goofy way of greeting his friend, who he first met playing Little League in Meriden in 1978.
“Sometimes he would call and sing songs from cartoons we used to watch together in the ’70s,” Good said.
Drezek would call on his commute from Goodwin University to his home in Seymour.
Earlier this year, those calls stopped coming as Drezek was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital for severe back pain. Initially, he tested negative for COVID-19. A later test revealed he did have the disease and last Wednesday night, Drezek died at age 49.
The Meriden native left behind loving family and friends including his wife Jamie and five children.
Todd Hennessey, Drezek’s neighbor and close friend, was getting updates from the hospital on Craig’s condition since he re-entered the hospital again on May 9.
“The last time he texted me he was concerned that his oxygen levels were low and he had funny breathing,” Hennessey said. “He was good for a few days. Then the ventilator ... Then it was the biggest roller coaster ride up and down and how well and bad he was doing. We were on pins and needles. (Jamie) is the bravest woman I know. She would give me updates, give positive news, give negative news. We were hoping and praying. But it was his time for some reason. You never know why.”
Drezek was a 1989 Maloney High School graduate. A standout on the basketball court, he and his younger brother Chris were the children of parents Patricia and Roger Drezek.
Roger died when the boys were teens, and big brother Craig became a father figure to Chris, who is four years younger.
“He took on the burden of me at a very young age,” Chris Drezek said. “His first priority was always taxiing me around to Little League or basketball in his 1985 blue Mercury Topaz. We lost our dad young and he took on that responsibility and he looked out for me. He’s looked out for me ever since.”
The brothers were proud of their Meriden roots. Craig’s passion was basketball and Chris was partial to baseball. They would discuss coming back to Meriden and being the next Ed Zajac and the next Howie Hewitt. Both were legendary coaches at Maloney in baseball and basketball, respectively.
“He’s one of the best inside players that we’ve had a Maloney,” Hewitt said. “He had all of the moves. He played hard and with both hands and was a tireless worker. He worked like crazy. When he went to Post (University) he became a good three-point shooter.”
“He’s been a credit to every place he’s gone,” he added. “People just rave about him. He was a tireless worker who did everything he could for the kids.”
Following Maloney, Drezek moved on to Post University where he signed off as the school’s all-time leading scorer and totaled a 3.8 GPA.
Drezek grew up a New York Knicks fan and became the team’s accountant after college for a few years.‘Genuine’ educator
After a few years in that position he decided to get into education. He ended up at Sacred Heart-Waterbury where he taught, became principal and eventually school president.
Drezek was critical in Sacred Heart building a new gym at the Waterbury school.
“He went from the Knicks to Sacred Heart, a gym that had carpet,” Chris Drezek said. “But he figured out a way to do it. He couldn’t accept a carpeted gym.”
Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield was his next stop. He was principal from 2006 to 2008 and the school’s superintendent from 2008 to 2011.
“He’s one of of the most genuine educators out there,” Region 6 School Superintendent Chris Leone said. “He was dedicated family man and a good caring colleague.”
Most recently, Drezek was superintendent of magnet schools and educational partnerships at Goodwin University in East Hartford for the past year.Caring father
All the while, Craig and Jamie’s family grew with five children — Caden, Kiley, Sydnie, Colbie and Alex.
“I used to give Drez a hard time because his wife was a better basketball player than he was,” Good said with a laugh. “She played at Seymour and at Post as well. She is a pretty legendary player.”
Good said Drezek was bound for greatness, but his kindness and generosity were his two best attributes.
“Athletically and professionally he was a can’t-miss, no-doubt driven for success,” Good said. “People may remember him for what he did on the basketball court. But he was truly a great friend. He was always kind and generous. We always had that Meriden connection. He would always ask me about his friends here and wanted to stay connected.”
Good said much of their conversations were about Drezek’s five children.
“He was incredibly proud of them,” Good said. “He was a caring father. More than anything, he was passionate about his kids. That’s his lasting legacy, how much he loved his wife and kids. That’s what got him going.”
The Drezeks and Hennesseys hit it off right away when the Drezeks moved to Seymour six years ago. Their daughters played AAU basketball together.
Last summer the families vacationed together in Myrtle Beach, a trip that stemmed from AAU basketball.
“We went to the beach and he was a dedicated father,” Hennessey said. “I was just going through the pictures of him and his kids throwing the football together and looking for seashells with his daughter. It was always family first. He loved being a father and he and Jamie were still like college sweethearts. They gave off a great vibe.”Set an example
Hennessey added that Drezek also loved reality television, especially “The Bachelor.” He also enjoyed performing card tricks.
“I’m going to miss everything,” Hennessey said. “He was so charismatic, generous, humble and a great father and a great husband. I’m going to miss him so much.”
Four of five of the Drezek children are basketball players. Alex, a junior at Seymour High, is a cheerleader. Sydnie was an All-State player in high school and Kiley was named All-NVL. Caden plays football at Seymour. Colbie, the youngest, is in seventh grade.
“As good as he was as a player, he was 10 times better off the court,” Hennessey said. “Just a caring and genuine person.”
Chris Drezek said his brother was “larger than life.”
“Everybody knows a story about him it seems,” he said. “For me, as his kid brother. He was a guy I looked up to and still look up to, to this day. I followed his footsteps and I always tried to be like him. He changed his career to go into teaching. I got into the same path and we both ended up superintendents.”
Chris Drezek, who now lives in South Windsor, is the Enfield school superintendent. He was going down another path before his brother called with a teaching opening at Sacred Heart several years ago.
“We both tried the ‘business world thing’ but our heart was always in working with kids,” Chris Drezek said. “I talked to him about it. He told me he had an opening. But he said I had to do it now.”
Chris Drezek was a teacher at Sacred Heart for a few years before becoming an administrator at St. Paul-Bristol.College fund
Chris Drezek said his main concern is Jamie and his nieces and nephews.
“His kids were his whole world,” Chris Drezek said. “When he was at their games, you knew what side he was rooting for. He was decked out in full gear and was so proud of all of his kids. Now that they live in Seymour, his entire wardrobe is Seymour Blue right now.”
Chris said the family has set up the The Craig Drezek Memorial Fund Scholarshp for Drezek’s five children. To donate, visit https://fundly.com/craig-drezek-children-education-and-memorial-fund
“My heart goes out to Craig’s family,” Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni said in a statement. “This is such an awful tragedy. Craig was well-known and so respected in the Meriden community and across the state. We lost a great champion for kids.”