Thursday, July 26, 2018

Saying Goodbye To Nick And Polly

TigerBlog never met Nick Donatiello.

When he heard that Donatiello had passed away last week, though, it still felt as if someone he knew well was gone.

Nick Donatiello was, at one time, the sports information director here at Princeton. He was a 1982 Princeton grad - the class president and the manager of the football team as an undergrad - and he stepped immediately into the role of communications director, also in 1982.

That made him a little before TigerBlog's time. Nick was here in a way, way different era of athletic communications, one that disappeared on TB's watch, actually.

Back in 1982, sports information was still most media relations. It was like that in the 1990s, when TigerBlog first started working here, when it was still a time of pitching stories and judging success by how much you could get written about you in publications local and national.

All that changed, of course, with the advent of the internet. Now Princeton Athletics is its own media outlet, one that for the most part has sidestepped the media to give information directly to those who want to consume it.

TigerBlog likes this way much better on so many levels. It forces constant creativity and the ability to adapt to changing technologies, and it allows Princeton to tell its story directly.

If there's one thing he misses about the way it used to be, though, it's the relationships he used to have, and make, with media members. TigerBlog got to meet so many great people who were sportswriters and broadcasters - and yes, some really annoying ones too.

The job then was creating information that media members could use to tell the stories. That was the job for Nick Donatiello, back in the early 1980s.

There are still old files in the Jadwin basement of former coaches and administrators, and TB looked in Nick's. There were all kinds of interesting things in there, including a story from the Daily Princetonian with this title: "Sports Information Office Enters The Computer Era."

What was the computer? A Wang OIS - 115 -2. 

TigerBlog has heard a lot of people talk about Nick with great fondness.

Nick was a civil engineering major, one whose senior thesis was entitled: "Queuing Theory Applications and Considerations in the Design of Upstream Line-Concentrator-Type Data Communications Devices." When TB saw that, it made him wonder why someone that smart would want to work in athletic communications.

Well, he very briefly thought that before he was struck by the irony anyway.

Nick left athletic communications long ago, embarking instead on a long career in business and technology after attending the Stanford School of Business, where he'd also teach. He was two days shy of his 58th birthday when he died of natural causes.

His complete obituary can be found HERE.

Nick's funeral was held last Friday. TigerBlog was at a funeral at the same time, this one for Polly Bohus.

Polly and Nick knew each other, TB would guess. Nick and Harvey Yavener definitely knew each other. TB knows that for a fact.

And, going by what TB observed for about 15 years or so, any SID who knew Yav knew Polly.

Harvey and Polly were inseparable for more than 60 years. They never got married, but they lived together from 1959 through her death a week ago. That was a rarity for those days.

Harvey was one of those sportswriters who covered Princeton back then. In fact, it's possible - actually likely - that no sportswriter ever wrote more column inches about Princeton Athletics than Harvey. TB would guarantee that no sportswriter has written more about Princeton women's athletics than Yav.

Wherever Yav went, Polly went too. If there was a game going on in Jadwin Gym, Polly was most likely in the balcony while Yav was on press row.

At her funeral, Yav gave a very emotional eulogy. He called them an "odd coupling" and started with what was obvious - she was very tall and he is very short.

He also mentioned that his prospects for lifetime happiness were slim until he met her. He also said that in 60 years together they never had one argument.

And so what if TB witnessed one or two spats between them? It didn't matter. They were in love, and they were the perfect partners for each other.

They traveled together. They rented a shore house together - in the off-season. They cooked together. They ate in the best restaurants. And mostly, more than anything else, they went to college sporting events together.

No matter what he did, she patiently waited for him. She was definitely a saint, that's for sure. TB used to joke that there was a special place in heaven for her. He thought back to that at her funeral.

He also thought about how Polly didn't eat chicken. It wasn't because she didn't like how it tasted. It was because she grew up on a poultry farm.

She loved the Jets and hated Penn State. She was generous. She was warm. When you went to their small apartment on the eighth floor of a building on West State Street in Trenton, she was going to feed you like few others would.

Her career was in the Trenton Police Department, as an administrative assistant. She had a stroke in the 1970s but came back from it to the point where you couldn't tell anything was wrong, though she'd never drive again.

A few times when Yav couldn't drive because of a surgery or eye issue, TigerBlog would drive her on her errands. Wherever they went in Trenton, everyone of every race and every background and every occupation would stop and say hello to her.

They left the apartment in Trenton a few years ago, settling in an assisted living facility in South Jersey. Her health had been failing and she was 86 when she died, but still the news that she was gone stung TB.

Polly loved to collect ceramic angels. Her house was jammed with them.

At her funeral, Yav mentioned that she was now with the very angels she used to collect.

TigerBlog smiled at that.

Then he went back to shedding a few tears for Polly Bohus, one of the most beautiful people he's ever met. 

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