I've waited a long time to write this about Mr./Coach/Lou Lanzalotto, not taking lightly what I say. It bothered me deeply that someone who meant so much to so many of us should have a blank for his memory page.
Where to start, yes, a gifted teacher. Nothing earth shaking, nothing terribly innovative. But what an experience to be in his History class! Laid back, easy going, talk about what was going on at PHS, social comments, teasing & joking. We would eventually get around to the subject of History. Could one conclude he had a lazy approach to teaching & History? I would say one could conclude that. But the discussions, the research papers with each of us given a specific & different topic from each other hand picked to fit us by this Master Teacher. Quizzes, tests? I guess we had them but I don't even remember, obviously making no lasting impression on me. But that senior year I entered his classroom as a math major accepted to Rutgers & by the end of that year I had reapplied & switched to a History major at Rutgers. And so followed my career as a Social Studies teacher & Principal.
And talk of taking a personal interest in his students....The summer before senior year, I was hoping to be in his history class. We were both in the Office so he said let's check. He went to VP Mr. Azzolino's wooden "box" of little pigeon coop openings for little slips of paper with student names wrapped with a rubber band. I was not. So Lanky Lou just switched my slip with someone else's slip & I was in his class!
During that busy senior year, my History class with Mr. Lanzalotto was right after lunchtime. It was during that time I would run around trying to address student council business seeing various people & trying to eat lunch. Needless to say, sometimes I ran out of time & reported to his class with my bag lunch in hand. He would notice things like that & say something like, "Busy day? Eat your lunch." And so I did, starting out his class listening, participating best I could while I downed a sandwich.
And "The Coach" that he was in Track & Field as the winningest coach there probably was in any sport at PHS, across Bergen County & the NNJIL. His magic again as with his teaching was his relaxed approached of leadership. He was more track guidance counselor & psychologist who we were devoted to. We would never let him down & kill ourselves to achieve what we thought were his expectations of what we were capable. --Indiviual events but, boy, what a total sense of team in instilled in us! Contrary to my achievements on the Cross Country Team, on the Track Team with the depth of distance runners in those days with only the mile run as the only event for us, over four years I could count on one hand the places I took in track meets. And yet, Coach Lanzalotto made me feel I was an important member of the team all four years.
On the personal side, Mr. Lanzalotto would go to my father's barbershop to cut any hair he had left around that grey spot on one side of the back of his neck! Teacher, Coach, Mr. Lanzalotto came to be a second father to me. We would occasionally hang out at his house near PHS & got to know Mrs. Lanzalotto & all his kids (who I enjoyed meeting years later all grown up). Even after graduation, our Committee met at his house to plan the first reunion for The Class of '64, the Fifth Year Reunion, held at the Swiss Chalet on Passaic Street in Rochelle Park! By then, I was drafted & to be shipped out to Vietnam. But the Committee completed the work on the Reunion without me. I wrangled a pass to leave Basic Training at Fort Dix to attend the Reunion. So many of you were there including Mr. & Mrs. Lanzalotto. I remember MCing the evening at the microphone & drinking water glasses filled with scotch! I was carried down the long stairway by Ron Carletta & the Lanzalottos at the evening's end to the car. The remainder of the weekend was ugly! Fast forward to the 1970's, he even tried to secure me a position at PHS teaching history but things did not work out.
To conclude this tribute to the man, it was his love, his humanity that made Mr. Lanzalotto a very special person to thousands of us he helped educate. Quality was his mark as a person. On more than one occasion, Mr. Lanzalotto was asked to be Principal of PHS. In fact, I think he was briefly Acting Principal during Mr. Joe Mc Donough's recuperation from a heart attack. He consternated over accepting the position. Mrs. Lanzalotto counselled him that he was happy being a teacher. He finally decided. He would accept the position only if he could continue as track coach. That request was denied. And so the decision was made for him. Love, humanity, quality prevailed in the end. If only he had more years of retirement to enjoy. Goodness knows, Mr. Lou Lanzalotto, Coach, Lanky Lou, you deserved it! We loved you & still do!