John Litman, left, and Wally Carpenter share a moment at the Warrior Hall of Fame induction ceremony Oct. 14.

John Litman, left, and Wally Carpenter share a moment at the Warrior Hall of Fame induction ceremony Oct. 14.

“Growing up in Brookfield only meant one thing – you better be tough,” said Wally Carpenter at his Oct. 14 induction into the Warrior Hall of Fame, Brookfield High School’s celebration of athletic achievements.

“You better have perseverance to win, but never quit,” he said.

That toughness started at home for Carpenter as the middle brother of three boys, said the 1975 graduate. His teachers and coaches set the expectation that students “do their very best in the classroom, on the football field and out in the community.”

Carpenter, whose brother, Bernie, was inducted in 2012, said he wanted to start on the football team, so he was willing to do whatever his coaches asked of him. That meant being long snapper along with offensive tackle and defensive guard, and then switching to running back as a senior. 

At Hiram College, Carpenter switched again, to center.

Later in life, as a special education teacher, administrator, school principal and coach, he tried to instill the values he had learned at Brookfield in his students, players and staff, he said.

“I’m truly blessed to be standing before you tonight; I really am,” said Carpenter, who also lettered in basketball and baseball at Brookfield High. “It’s more than words can say.”

Toughness also was a hallmark of the 2000 girls volleyball team, which is the only volleyball team in school history to win 20 games and a conference championship. That team lost its first two matches and, once it got itself together, it lost two starters, Trina Shockey and Elise Deramo, because of injuries suffered in a car crash.

“The depth of the team really surfaced after this, when Kayla Haun and Jen Ford were moved into the starting lineup and came through with flying colors,” said head coach Dan Deramo.

Although a “highly emotional” team, it was fundamentally sound and each player accepted her role and filled it admirably, he said.

“We weren’t some spoon-fed, entitled, cherry-picked team of stud recruits built for success,” said Co-Captain Paige Bowser. “We weren’t the tallest, we weren’t the fastest, but we definitely were some of the scrappiest. We fought for respect within the TAC-8, our conference at the time, and we worked together to get where we were going.”

Following a loss to Hubbard, the winning team’s coach, Chuck Montgomery, noted Brookfield’s toughness.

“Man, I’m sure glad I don’t have to play you anymore,” Montgomery told the Warriors, Bowser said.

“It was a compliment, because we really did give them a game every time we took the court,” she said.

The members of the Class of 2023 of the Warrior Hall of Fame are, seated from left, Dan Deramo, Jill Bray, Dick Bray, Heather Bray, Chris Bray, John Litman and Wendy Shaffer Daugherty. Standing from left: Richard Pavone, Jessica Zebroski Flanagan, Corrie DeCapua Rumple, Paige Bowser Sample, Amanda Zebroski Hanahan, Trina Shockey Gooch, Elise Deramo Stredney, Regina Deramo Lucente, Juli Alter Sanchez and Kayla Haun Codispoti.

Also inducted were Richard Pavone, Class of 1971, who lettered in football and baseball, and played both sports at Division I Kent State University; John Litman, Class of 1971, honored for his many years coaching basketball at the Carl Hoffman, middle school and high school levels; and Julie Bray, Class of 1986, three-time basketball letter winner, member of the 1983 district championship team and four-year starter at Youngstown State University.

Bray died in 1990 in a car crash in the Columbus area.

“It is very meaningful for our family to know that she will be remembered forever for the impact she made while she was a Lady Warrior,” said Bray’s younger sister, Heather. “Julie was 22 when we lost her, so basketball defines much of who she was and what we remember.”

Bray, at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, was a dominating presence on the court, especially on defense, but her toughness showed when the team lost two members, Brenda Haun and Kathy Poto, in a car crash.

“I know she was very supportive of her teammates and really helped them get through and emerged as a leader to help them cope with that, and then the next year they actually went to the district championship,” Heather Bray said. “While her size could be intimidating on the court, off the court Julie was a very caring and empathetic person.”

Pavone was passionate and competitive about sports, factors illustrated by a story from Mark Means, who coaches the Sharpsville High School football team. Pavone is an assistant at Sharpsville.

After his college days – Pavone played with NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert and Division I national champion coach Nick Saban on the Golden Flashes – Pavone turned to softball, a sport he played into his ’50s.

“Rich would go to great lengths to be the best he could be,” Means said. “He would travel to Columbus, Ohio, three hours away, to practice for two hours, and turn right around and drive all the way back three more hours, just to make himself better.”

Pavone gave the glory of his induction to God, and thanked his parents, wife and other family members, his teammates, coaches and classmates.

“I’m honored and humbled to be inducted,” he said.

Pavone was one of the classmates who stuck with Litman during a dark time in his life.

“Back, when I was a young guy, I didn’t have the simplest of lives, and it wasn’t because I didn’t have a family that loved me,” Litman said. “It was because, within a period of about five years, I lost my aunt, my mum, my cousin, Mary, and my cousin, Debbie, all to cancer.”

Convinced that he would contract cancer – a disease that later took the life of his daughter, Adrienne – Litman strayed from the fundamentals of life that he would later try to teach his players.

“I didn’t exactly follow the safest paths in life,” Litman said. “I had a good time, but I was on some bad roads.”

“Something magical (happened) about the mid-’70s,” he said. “A group of my friends and I got together and we started playing softball together. They probably saved my life, without knowing it. They got me focused on not dealing on one day at a time anymore. They gave me hope for the future.”

Once the group started having kids, they coached their sons in baseball. An umpire for the youth baseball league, Mike Missick, recruited Litman to coach Carl Hoffman basketball, a sport Litman felt inadequate to teach. But, Missick, attracted to the way Litman talked to the kids and preached the fundamentals of baseball, offered to train him to coach basketball, starting in 1990.

Outside of Missick’s tutelage, Litman attended varsity basketball practices and coaching clinics.

“The times in my life when I didn’t do things fundamentally right, I wasn’t very successful, or I hurt people that I cared about,” Litman said. “Why I stress fundamentals to all my players on and off the court is because, if we do things fundamentally right, we have the best chance to succeed. I’ve tried to model – and I’ve failed at it – but I’ve tried to be fundamentally better and better, because I have a responsibility, not just to myself and my family and my grandkids, but I have a responsibility to the kids that you trust me to coach.”

Induction nomination forms are available at the school’s website.