There are some teachers and coaches you never forget for the profound influence they had on your life. Could be one, two, maybe a handful. But they pop into your thoughts decades later and you smile and feel gratitude.
Charles “Chuck” Fieldson, who spent 33 years at Miami Beach Senior High School as a social studies teacher, head varsity basketball coach, football coach and, finally, athletic director was one such educator.
Fieldson, whose run at Beach High started in 1954 with his move from West Virginia where his coaching and teaching career began, and ended with his 1987 retirement, died at 90 in Davie on March 14.
His stats alone impress: Miami Herald’s Coach of the Year in 1965. Florida Coaches Hall of Fame inductee in 1981. United Teachers of Dade Distinguished Service Award in 1985. Miami Beach High School Hall of Fame inductee in 2004.
Plus, the school dedicated its gymnasium in his name and named the Chuck Fieldson Athletic Award for outstanding student athletes in his honor.
But his students and players, who posted remembrances on his guest book, put the heart and soul to those résumé distinctions.
▪ “As one of the ‘Last Typhoons,’ Class of 1960, I remember Coach Fieldson as a wonderful teacher who instilled in me a love of history that continues to this day. I still have the yellow, paperback textbooks we used in class,” wrote Barbara Skigen.
▪ “Chuck Fieldson was a wonderful man who embodied everything a boy could ask for growing up and looking for in a ‘coach.’ He coached the Miami Beach Hi-Tides at a magical time in their sports history and will always be remembered as one of the best to ever coach at Beach,” wrote Neal Slansky, a 1969-1971 student.
▪ “His life, well lived, will live on in all the young men and women in whose lives he made such a difference,” wrote Cornelia Turk Philipson, Beach High Class of 1958.
“I don’t think even my brother and I realized what an impact he had on these guys until later years. The first time we realized it is when they threw a birthday party for him and it was just incredible,” his daughter Donna Machado said. “These guys thought of him as their father — not only as a coach and a teacher and a friend — but as their father. It was quite moving.”
Adds son Bill Fieldson, a 1969 Christopher Columbus High School graduate: “I think when you’re younger you kind of don’t understand it. That was his passion. But as you get older, you step back and you’re honored and it instills a lot of pride in your dad. He did make a wonderful contribution and touched a lot of lives. So many of the former students kept in contact with him. He never had to look for a dentist or a doctor or a lawyer. There were always former students stepping up and taking care of him.”
Columbus, a boys’ private Catholic school in Westchester near the Fieldsons’ home during those years, tried to recruit Coach Fieldson. They got his son on the varsity basketball team, instead.
“Coach Fieldson was an outstanding coach, well respected, and a dear friend of the late Dick Pollock [former Columbus basketball coach] and myself,” said Brother Kevin Handibode, Columbus president and freshman basketball coach. “We all learned a great deal from Coach Fieldson. I always admired him as a person and as a coach. He built an outstanding program at Miami Beach High.”
Fieldson was born May 8, 1924, in Oswald, West Virginia, one of seven children. After serving in the Army during World War II and graduation from Marshall University, where he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1990 for his football accomplishments, he moved to Miami and began his career at Beach High. There, he was known as a serious teacher. No easy passes for student-athletes.
“He would tell them, ‘Do not take my class because if you have a failing grade, you will be ineligible.’ And he meant it,” his son said. “He was a straight-up guy. He walked the walk.”
In addition to his son and daughter, Fieldson is survived by grandchildren Brittany and Derek Fieldson and sister Maxine Fieldson. A viewing will be held 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday with burial service at 11 a.m. Saturday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn South, 11655 SW 117th Ave. in Miami-Dade.
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