Wesley Phelon’s students loved him so much that they couldn’t help but cheer when he walked into a room. The Turtle Hook Junior High School teacher, affectionately called “Doc,” was the star of many Uniondale pep rallies, evoking jubilation at the simple utterance of his name.
The widely popular teacher, who also served as a baseball and football coach in the Uniondale school district, died Aug. 24 in Midlothian, Virginia. He was 87.
Longtime track and field coach Dennis Kornfield remembers Phelon well. “At our pep rallies, everybody was hyped up and cheering for each of the sports as they were announced,” Kornfield said. “But I’d never experienced anything like the thunderous applause and response that Phelon got when they introduced him all the time. The entire gym gave him a standing ovation and you just knew he was an incredibly popular and loved man. Kids were on waiting lists to get into his class.”
Phelon, who was born May 6, 1929, was a 1947 graduate of Mineola High School and a 1951 graduate of SUNY Cortland. He taught fifth grade at Floral Park-Bellerose School for nine years before he moved to Turtle Hook, where he taught social studies for 29 years.
“He was an innovative teacher who connected with the kids,” Kornfield said.
Phelon’s daughter Colleen Hall, of Bon Air, Virginia, remembered the ways that her father would keep the attention of his students and athletes.
“He was a very good artist and he would draw caricatures and things like that in the classroom and for the kids on the field,” she said.
Phelon had a passion for drawing. He would spend hours researching and creating special caricatures as retirement gifts for friends and colleagues.
Aside from being a beloved teacher, he spent many years on the baseball and football fields developing young talent. He coached baseball and football at Turtle Hook. He compiled a record of 98-33-2 on the gridiron and a 218-109-10 record on the diamond.
His love of sports stretched to the professional ranks as well. He was a devoted fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jets, Islanders and later the Mets.
He spent 25 years as a member of the Jets’ ‘chain gang,’ the crew that controls the sideline markers and keeps track of the down-and-distance for each play.
His connection with the Jets began in 1960 when the team was still called the Titans and playing at the Polo Grounds.
Kornfield recalled a story that summed up the devotion Phelon had to his family, as well as his beloved sports teams.
After suffering a major heart attack, Phelon, who had a penchant for humor, had two questions for his doctor: “First, will I be able to make it to my daughter’s wedding? And will I still be able to work the sidelines for the Jets?” before jokingly adding, “Not necessarily in that order.”
He retired to Virginia in 1990 but continued to make the weekly trip on Sundays to work for the Jets at the Meadowlands for three more seasons.
“My dad’s retirement dinner in 1990 was an epiphany,” Hall said. “Seeing all the people he impacted and seeing and talking to many of them again recently is humbling. He inspired me to live my life to the fullest.”
In addition to Hall, Phelon is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marcoa; son Kevin Phelon of Glen Allen, Virginia; daughter Eileen Walter of Glen Allen and six grandchildren. A memorial service was held Friday in Virginia.