Peter Creedon, a longtime Sachem schools educator credited with coining the district’s moniker, Flaming Arrows, has died.
He died June 15 at an assisted living facility in East Setauket, said a son, Bayville attorney Peter Creedon. The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 90.
A former semiprofessional basketball player, Creedon was coaching at LaSalle Military Academy when Sachem athletic director Dave Rothenberg and founding superintendent Walter C. Dunham hired him as a teacher and the district’s first basketball coach.
The first season’s record was 4-14, and Creedon did not return as coach. But “Rothenberg saw something in Pete: leadership perspective, somebody who could come in and establish a program, and it worked,” district historian Chris R. Vaccaro said. “The guy spent more than three decades influencing people.”
Creedon, who worked in the district from shortly after its creation in 1955 through 1987, told Vaccaro about the Flaming Arrows origin in a 2015 interview.
The name was chosen as a “neutral title that would offend nobody and honor the Indian heritage,” Creedon said in the interview posted on Sachem Report, a website about Sachem schools and alumni. He said he would use different Native American-themed names for the teams in his early sports write-ups. Dick Berger, an administrator at the time, suggested they pick one name and “stick with it.”
Creedon’s inspiration came from a Western movie that showed a flaming arrow being shot into a wagon. “I suggested flaming arrows was a neutral name and recognized the fighting spirit that was Sachem,” he told Vaccaro.
The district was a patchwork composed of Farmingville, Holtsville, Holbrook and Lake Ronkonkoma whose early administrators bought land for schools from farmers. Its first graduating class, in 1959, numbered only 77. “We came from nothing,” Creedon told Vaccaro.
Over decades as an English teacher, guidance counselor and principal — Creedon retired as principal of Sachem South, now known as Samoset Middle School — he helped build the district into a powerhouse with classes of 1,800 graduates.
Today the district is the second largest on Long Island, after Brentwood. Sachem athletes have played professional football, baseball, basketball and lacrosse; its wrestlers and race walkers have represented the nation in the Olympic Games.
Creedon’s son Peter, 61, recalled attending games as Sachem sports grew in popularity. “It felt like you were in the dugout at Yankee Stadium,” he said.
After retiring, Creedon founded St. James Tutoring, his son said.
Looking back on his career, Creedon told Vaccaro: “If you’re a Sachem kid, you’re a Sachem kid. I don’t know of any kid who went to Sachem who wasn’t proud to be there.”
Peter Joseph Creedon was born Nov. 15, 1927, in North Quincy, Massachusetts. His father, also named Peter Creedon, was the town’s deputy fire chief; his mother, the former Mabel Leblanc, ran the school lunchroom.
Creedon served in the Army in Japan from 1945 to 1947 and was discharged as a corporal. In 1951, he graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in English.
He met his wife, the former Isobel Bacon, at a party in Quincy. They married in 1953 and moved to Centereach in 1955. In 1965 they moved to St. James, where they lived for most of their married life. His wife survives him.
Creedon is also survived by two daughters, Kyle Creedon, 58, of Melbourne Beach, Florida and Elizabeth Creedon-Awad, 51, of Smithtown; and a brother, John Creedon, 93, of Red Bank, New Jersey.
The family will hold a wake Monday at the St. James Funeral Home from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at Sts. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
A scholarship fund is being established in his name for Sachem students, said son Peter Creedon, who requested that pledges be directed to PeterCreedonScholarship@gmail.com.