The Post-Journal

Dutch Leonard

The T-shirt John “Dutch” Leonard was wearing was hunter green and the letters were white.

Beyond that, nothing else made sense to me.

I couldn’t pronounce the words — all two of them.

I looked at them again.

And again.

And again.

“Bahstun Gahdin.”

“C’mon, Dutch,” I said to myself the other day as I examined the photo on the Facebook profile of his oldest daughter, Sue Lewellen. “What kind of T-shirt are you wearing?”

Heck, for all I knew, he’d taken the letters on the top row of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ eye-test chart and had them ironed on the crew-neck T.

Maybe, I thought, that’s why Sue and her daughter, Brittany, who were also in the photo, had such big smiles on their faces. Maybe they thought “Bahstun Gahdin” was as nonsensical as I did.

I should have known better.

You see, to Dutch, the former boys varsity basketball coach and retired math teacher at Jamestown High School who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 73, there were few places on earth like the “Bahstun Gahdin” — New Englanders’ way of pronouncing the former venerable home arena of their beloved Celtics.

That’s why Doug Berlin of Jamestown — another huge Celtics’ fan — is still touched more than two decades later by Dutch’s act of kindness that not only forged a friendship, but also exemplified the character by which the Butler, Pa. native lived his life.

Berlin, a Long Island native, is a postal carrier who makes no bones about his love for the green and white. His favorite all-time athlete is Bill Russell; he can do a great impersonation of legendary Boston radio play-by-play man Johnny Most; and he has committed to memory virtually every big game since he became a Celtics fan in 1963 when his father took him to see Russsell & company in Madison Square Garden.

That’s why, as Berlin recalled the other day, he wasn’t surprised when Fred Cole, a co-worker at the Jamestown post office, approached him one day in the late 1980s and suggested he meet a guy by the name of Dutch Leonard.

“You’re a big Celtics’ fan,’’ Cole told Berlin. “You have to meet Dutch Leonard.”

Not the bashful sort, Berlin took Cole up on his offer, drove to Dutch’s home on Catlin Avenue unannounced.

“I knocked on his door,” Berlin recalled, “and I said, ‘Dutch, I’m Doug Berlin,’ and we were instantly like old friends, talking Celtics basketball. We talked for quite a while that day. It wasn’t even, “Hi, how are you?’ We just started going on and on about the Celtics.

“We stayed in touch and we would run into each other now and again.”

About a year later, Berlin’s home phone rang. On the other end was Dutch, who not only began to rehash the Celtics’ game from the night before, but he also informed Berlin that he had a surprise for him.

As it turned out, Dutch had a friend by the name of Joe Tardie, who lived in New Hampshire. Tardie also happened to have two season tickets to the Celtics games at “Bahstun Gahdin.” Berlin indicated he had always wanted to see a game there.

That set off the following by-play:

“What are you doing in three weeks?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ve got two tickets to see Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls at Boston Garden.”

Berlin was floored.

“I just couldn’t believe it,’’ he said. “Here’s a guy who I knew peripherally, even though we had a bond with the Celtics. Then there’s a guy (Tardie) who I had never met …”

Together, Dutch and Tardie made Berlin’s dream come true.

Before he knew it, Berlin was in the car headed for Long Island where he picked up his dad. Father and son continued their unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime journey to the “Bahstun Gahdin,’’ home of the parquet floor, and all those championship banners and retired numbers.

“My dad was thrilled to go,’’ Berlin said.

A generation has passed since that trip to Beantown. Dutch, who coached the Red Raiders to three Section VI championships in his career and is a member of both the Butler and Grove City College halls of fame, is gone, but his Celtics friend from Jamestown’s north side won’t ever forget him.

“He was a man after my own heart,’’ Berlin said, “but to go that extra mile …”

The late John Jachym, a longtime friend and mentor, used to tell me all the time the following: “Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident and money takes wings. The only thing that endures is character.”

If that’s the way we’re all to be measured, Dutch is a member of that Hall of Fame, too.

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