The Post-Journal

Priester’s Story

Track And Field, JNP, Family Make Up Large Parts Of Man’s Life


Tom Priester is an interesting, compartmentalized man.

How he arranges his life in order to satisfy all the compartments is a story of its own.

He is a father, a coach, a USA Track and Field official, a retired and contented man, a grandfather (all largely the reason for the contentment) and passionate devotee of the local Joint Neighborhood Project. His days are spent sorting out the best ways to complete all the missions laid before him with these involvements but he is tireless and forever invigorated with what he does. Even as a septuagenarian and feeling like all retirees the inevitable bite of age nipping at his heels, he doesn't flinch for a minute at getting things done.

Joint Neighborhood Project board.
Tom Priester, far right, is pictured with the Joint Neighborhood Project board when the agency celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2008.
P-J file photo.

Tom retired in 1998 from three decades of teaching high school physical education at the Southwestern Central Schools. He says: "I loved every bit of it. I had good mentors like Naomi Berg and Flash Olson.

I loved it that you get to see kids in physical education with their moods and their troubles. Sometimes you can help."

While teaching, he also coached tennis, boys volleyball, bowling, track and field and coached cross country for 45 years, ending with a league record of 410 wins and 255 losses for the boys teams. His girls teams were league champs for four years.

By far, the love of his athletic life at the moment is his involvement, for 25 years, serving as a certified track official with the USA Track and Field organization. He has proudly officiated at National Masters Meet, Regional USA Track and Field Championships high school championships and NCAA Divisional Championships, as well as World University Games and World Veterans Games. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Service Award for the Niagara Association of USA Track and Field. As a track official, he must be certified every four years and the position as official is an unpaid one.

Part of what keeps him grounded with all these portions of his life is his own attitude, which he refers to as, "I get a feeling of great satisfaction in doing what I can do to help someone or aid an organization with its goals. I respond to any call for help and in doing so, can really feel good."

For many who have known Tom for all of his years here in the area, these are words of truth, for the man and for his goals and interests.

Tom has been married 45 years to a wonderful wife, Susan, and has two adult children. His six grandchildren, whom he sees regularly, are the sparkle in his life. His son, Dayne, lives in West Ellicott and three of the grandchildren, Eric, 14, Nathan, 12, and Sarah, 10, happily occupy a good bit of his time. His daughter Shannon, who lives in North Carolina, also has three children; Christopher, 21, Tony, 18, and Danielle, 12. He is able to do everything, in his words, with his grandchildren and revels in the opportunities. He and Sue hope to be great-grandparents, soon. Another uplifting part of his life is his 43-year involvement with Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Beyond his family, Tom's greatest involvement is with JNP, Joint Neighborhood Project. As all of Jamestown is aware, this is a valuable community resource. Tom has served on the board of directors for some time and cites Patty Perlee, JNP director, and Samantha Ellis, the Spanish Services navigator, as key elements of the success of JNP. He also mentions the board of directors, with John Saraka as president and Joe Pillittere as vice president, helping others on the board to do business. These other board members are: Jan Mara, Deb Pifer, Vicki Mason, Jane Lindboom, Tara Eastman, Sandy Merwin, Dave Anderson, Elsa Hern, Karen Rine and Kathy Robinson Jewell. The board helps to actualize the primary functions of JNP which are a Nearly New Store, a food bank, a summer camp, Live and Learn classes, a six-week summer recreational program for kids ages 5 to 10, the JNP Christmas Store for Kids and overall health promotion and protection. The JNP is helped by the United Way in its capital funding and many of the regional foundations, such as Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and the Lenna Fund, also provide support.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.