Lynn School Committee member and former school principal Vincent Spirito remembered his long-time friend and colleague, Arthur Fiste, as a wonderful person and “a Lynn legend who made an impact an impact on all of us.”
Spirito delivered the eulogy for Mr. Fiste at a service held last Friday at the Solimine Landergan and Richardson Funeral Home on Ocean Street. One day earlier, people had packed the funeral home and waited in long lines to pay their respects to Mr. Fiste’s family.
“This is a sad day for all of us,” Spirito said. “We have lot a great person and a great friend. The overwhelming turnout is a true credit to Art and the Fiste family.”
Spirito said Mr. Fiste had touched his own life in so many positive ways. “He was my godfather, a teammate, a player, my coach, my colleague, and most important, my best friend,” said Spirito.
Mr. Fiste excelled in sports at Lynn English High School and North Texas State University and became a legendary high school basketball coach who was voted Northeastern Conference Coach of the Year seven times. He was inducted into the English and North Texas State Halls of Fame and played against such NBA greats as Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor.
“Art Fiste had many accomplishments in his lifetime: on the basketball court, in the business world, in the school department, and in the political arena,” said Spirito. “And his biggest accomplishment was his family, his wife, Barbara, his son, Jay, his daughter, Lisa, and their wonderful grandchildren [Nicholas and Alex Fiste, Cameron and Colin Frary, and Dylan Kesselman. This is what Art called the important things in life.”
Spirito said Mr. Fiste was in a class by himself as a high school basketball coach. “His coaching ability was second to none. I honestly believe that Art could have been a big-time college or NBA coach. But Art’s love for Lynn kept him here.”
Spirito said he Mr. Fiste patterned his teaching and coaching methods after famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden whose “pyramid to success” was knowing that you’ve done the very best that you’re capable of doing.
“This was a big part of his coaching theory and his values in teaching,” said Spirito. “Be a team player, loyalty, trustworthiness, and be industrious. This is what Art did best, a tremendous motivator.”
Spirito said Mr. Fiste loved being a member of the Lynn community.
“Art loved Lynn – the children of Lynn, the people of Lynn,” said Spirito. “He especially enjoyed his close friends and the camaraderie at the Gannon Golf Course.”
Mr. Fiste was very proud of his family.
“His son Jay, is a standout athlete and very successful engineer,” said Spirito. “His daughter, Lisa, who he said, has inherited his salesmanship, has a very successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. Art always talked about his grandchildren. He is also very proud of his daughter-in-law, Jane, and his son-in-law, Dr. Howard Kesselman. And every time he talked about his girl, Barbara, a twinkle came upon his eye.”
Edward Shadoff, athletic director at Lynn Tech, said Mr. Fiste was an outstanding classroom teacher.
“He was one of the best elementary teachers that I have ever come across,” said Shadoff. “I used to go in to his room [at the Cobbett Elementary School] and it was like being in the Army. He taught respect. I have never seen a better control of a class than Arthur Fiste had.”
Shadoff, a long-time basketball referee, said Mr. Fiste was also a master strategist who knew basketball inside and out.
“Arthur Fiste was obviously one of the better coaches on the North Shore because he had a marvelous ability of tweaking things at halftime,” said Shadoff. “Not everybody can adjust at halftime but he had that marvelous ability. And he was also extremely patient with officials, especially young officials. He was there to help officials as opposed to criticize them or whatever. And he was a marvelous coach for an official to work for.”
Lynn cable television announcer John Hoffman said Mr. Fiste “a terrific, terrific gentleman.”
“When you talk about great basketball coaches in the area back then, there were Vin Olivo, Bob McKenna, and Arthur Fiste. They were all of the same old school. They were all tremendous.”
Hoffman also reflected on Mr. Fiste’s storied athletic career that began at Lynn English High School. “Everybody remembers him as a basketball player at English, but he was also a baseball catcher and he wondered how I knew that,” said Hoffman. “He was a very good athlete. Elmo Benedetto, the Lynn athletic director, helped Arthur pick North Texas State where he continued to excel in sports.”
Hoffman said Mr. Fiste’s influence in the community spanned sports, education, and politics and that he was one of the founders of the Walter Boverini Basketball Tournament.
“I don’t know of too many people in Lynn who have touched so many avenues in the city of Lynn as Arthur did – you talk about politics, teaching, teaching basketball, playing basketball, and his family carried on the tradition. His son. Jay, was a very good athlete at Lynn English. Arthur was truly a gentleman and loved by everyone.”
A fund has been established in memory of Arthur Fiste at Lynn English High School. Donations can be made in care of Principal Andy Fila at the school.