Jim Carey, affectionately known as “Coach,” was long recognized for his dedication to the local community — whether it be as an educator, umpire or coach.

Born in Derby, Carey’s love of athletics was legendary, from his playing days in high school and college to his four decades of coaching to his exploits as an umpire on Shelton’s ball fields. In addition, his desire to aid those in the community pushed him to the Shelton Parks & Recreation Department, serving as director of the city’s playground program for more than five decades.

When Carey died at the age of 90 last year, his family wanted to keep his memory alive — and what better way than an annual scholarship to a counselor working with his beloved Shelton Summer Playground Program?

“I know he is looking down, smiling ear to ear,” said Carey’s daughter Amy Seitter, who was joined by her sisters, Judy Ahearn and Lynn Chamberland, Friday, Aug. 2, at the Shelton Community Center to present the first-ever Jim Carey $1,000 Memorial Scholarship to Shelton resident Courtney Sissick.

The idea for a scholarship stemmed from all the contributions made in his name after his death. The family’s hope is to provide a $1,000 scholarship to a counselor in the playground program each year for the next 10 years.

“We wanted to keep his name alive,” said Seitter. “He was so big in the town, so it was important for us to do something to honor his memory and all he did for the city of Shelton. We decided to give a scholarship every year to one of the counselors with the playground program.”

Sissick, one of the playground program’s arts and crafts directors, is entering her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she is majoring in elementary education with an English concentration. She is a student teacher in Ellington.

“This is such an honor,” said an all-smiles Sissick. “I love kids, and this program is so incredible. It is so much fun working with the children. This is the best job in the world.”

The Shelton Summer Playground Program is a free program for children ages 6 to 14. It operates at six locations throughout the city, offering children outdoor activities, arts and crafts, board games, and even field trips.

"When we think of summer in Shelton, we think of playgrounds ,” said Seitter.

Along with the $1,000 scholarship, the family also gave Sissick a Wiffle ball and bat, since Shelton is the home for Wiffle ball manufacturing. Seitter said her father would always have a Wiffle ball and bat in his truck, just in case he showed up at a city park and no one had one with which to play.

“For my father, it was all about kids,” said Seitter, “and keeping them active and keeping them out of trouble. He was dedicated to teaching them teamwork and staying in shape. When he died at 90, he was still in great shape. He was always in great shape.”

Parks & Recreation Director Ron Herrick recalled Carey’s dedication, serving as playground director 50 years before retiring at 86 years old. Not wanting to stay away permanently, he then volunteered time to assist.

“He was a fantastic person,” said Herrick of Carey.

Carey was a well-known sports figure in southern Connecticut, having played, coached and officiated baseball, football, basketball, track and softball for more than 50 years.

At Derby High School, Carey lettered in football, basketball and baseball and was captain and leading scorer when the team finished second in the 1945 state tournament.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Carey began his teaching and coaching career in 1949 at East Hartford High School, where he was head track mentor and assistant football coach. After East Hartford High, his career took him to Trumbull High School, where he served as chairman of the Business Education Department and continued his love of coaching with coaching roles in baseball, football and women's track.

When his playing and coaching days were over, Carey held many leadership positions and officiated high school and college games for more than 45 years. He was a member of the Western CT Football Officials Association, Valley Umpire Association and served as vice president of the New Haven Board of Approved Basketball Officials, president of the Valley Umpire Association, president of the New Haven Basketball Association and president of the CT Football Officials Association (CFOA).

Carey was a founding member of the Valley Umpires Associates and in recognition of his service to the organization, the Outstanding Umpire Award is named in his honor. In 2008, he was recognized as the official starter for the Annual Commodore Hull Thanksgiving Day road race. He was inducted into the CT Football Officials Hall of Fame, CT Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, Trumbull High School Hall of Fame. In 2016, he was honored by the CFOA with the Carey Community Service Award that is now presented annually in his honor.

Carey was a past member of the Shelton Board of Education and served on the building committee for the Shelton Intermediate School project. He was director of the Shelton Parks & Recreation Department for 54 years, serving as a mentor to hundreds of college counselors and thousands of Shelton youth. He was also a volunteer at the Shelton Community Center for 25 years.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com