BUD PIRONE, 1939-2020
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Even when William “Bud” Pirone was at Fox Nursing Home, Madolyn Palmer wanted to make sure he was still part of the Alumni Association he helped create.
“He was still able to communicate with us about the program book,” she said. “When it was finished, I took it over to him, and he just grinned from ear to ear.”
Pirone, revered history teacher, principal, tennis coach and co-founder of the Oneonta High School Alumni Association, died on Jan. 13, 2020, one day shy of his 81st birthday. A funeral was held Saturday, Jan. 25, in the Belden Auditorium.
“There is no more fitting place to gather today than here in this building, where Bud gave his service to the community,” said the Rev. Dick Breuninger, the retired United Methodist pastor. “As we look around this auditorium, each one of us could tell a story of a beloved dad, husband, coach, teacher or principal.”
An Oneonta native, Pirone learned to play tennis in Wilber Park, and was watching a tennis match one day when he saw George Waddington looking worried. “Bud had just gotten tenured at Sidney school, but Mr. Waddington was worried about who was going to teach history and tennis,” Breuninger recounted. “But within three minutes, Bud had a new job!”
He quick became an inspiration to his young charges. “Kids thought history was just memorizing facts until they met Mr. Pirone,” said Breuninger.
He became principal in the mid-‘80s, and fostered an “active-learning environment” by enriching athletic and club opportunities and developing a wider variety of courses. “He wanted students to be well-rounded,” said Breuninger. “Even if that meant taking four years of math.”
“My first encounter with Bud was in 1975, and I knew he was a teacher who commanded respect,” recounted Dave Forbes, the retired SUNY Oneonta track coach, who also spoke at the service. “He motivated his students to do well, and when he became principal, he led by example. He wasn’t a fan of drama; he was a problem solver. His only real problem was that he was a Red Sox fan, but what can you do?”
In addition to Pirone’s work at the school, he also helped created the OHS Alumni Association, alongside Palmer, the district’s former business manager, and Tony Drago, the legendary basketball coach and AD. “He was the first president and the first one to come up with the newsletter,” said Drago. “He did a lot and he did it well.”
Part of that was creating the Wall of Fame and the Athletic Hall of Fame. “He wanted to make sure people got recognized,” said Palmer. “It was important to him, especially to bring home students and make sure they got recognized.”
And in 2014, he took his own place on the Wall of Fame. “I couldn’t give him any more admiration,” said Palmer. “He really was one of a kind.”
More than an educator, he was a family man. “My father had a reputation as a harsh grader, and once told me he gave himself a B+ as a father and husband,” said his son, Michael. “But I gave him an A+.”
“Family was everything to him,” said daughter Kim Pirone Baskin. “He never missed an opportunity to spend time with his grandchildren.”
Also in the service, daughter Patty Pirone read Ecclesiates 3:1-15: “There is a season for everything,
and a time for every event under heaven.” “It was marked in Dad’s Bible,” she said.
His son-in-law, Walt Baskin, read 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13, a passage that was read at Bud’s wedding to his wife, Rose Anne: “Love is always patient;
love is always kind.” His granddaughter, Hannah Baskin, read a poem titled “October’s Bright Blue Weather.”
“If Bud saw paradise as a walk in the woods on a golden afternoon, the best way to honor his memory would be to go for a walk on a lovely day,” said Breuninger. “If it’s too cold to walk, sit down with a good book.”