Below is a sample of some of the many tributes we've received this week in memory of Mr. D.
Mr. D was more than just a gym teacher. It takes a special person to be respected and loved by 40 years’ worth of students.
"A day without mincha is like a day without sunshine."
He created generations of kids that can figure out that they went to the same school from the names of games. Pillo polo will forever live in my mind as the greatest game in the world of competitive sports.
He was the great balance of disciplinarian, coach, and entertainer.
I know I'll always remember his funny jokes, friendly presence, and the joy he took in really knowing each of us, even though he had taught hundreds of kids before us.
I remember that on our last day of classes, back in May, the boys decided we should have one final, unscheduled gym class. It was our best one. We had bought a Crackabout ball and reserved Mr. D and the gym for one hour after the Running of the Seniors. After an epic gym class, we each signed the ball and gave it to Mr. D. I think it's still in the gym closet (it's yellow, about the size of a volleyball). We promised to play with it again for our five-year reunion. I hope that we'll still play, in memory of our teacher and friend.
I think a nice tribute to Mr. D would be a collection of his more memorable quotes. Any student of his could name a dozen: "Seeervice!" and "May I have the floor, please?" were classics, along with "You may get the ball, and share it with your teammates, IF!," "Pushups, go!" and plenty more. Mr. D quotes are famous, both in and out of Maimo, and they are a good way to keep his memory strong.
My memory is quite vivid. We show up to gym in 5th grade, and lo and behold we have a dashing, young, 30-year-old super-fit male gym teacher! (Quite a contrast to a rather elderly female, old-fashioned instructor.) Mr. D'Agnelli. He was so friendly and fun! We quickly coined his nickname, "Mr. D". Gym was transformed. Gym no longer consisted of a serious regimen of jumping jacks and the like, with maybe a kickball game if we were lucky. Gym became a variety of fun sports! Most exciting was when Mr D introduced "pillo pollo"! Mr. D. quickly became our friend, coining nicknames for all of us, and always showing up for our gym period with a smile on his face, enthusiasm and energy, and some joking mixed in. Gym was fun for everyone, athletic and non-athletic alike. There was something for everyone in the course of the year and the range of activities that he had planned for us. When I think back to how Mr. D. was able to run gym class (pillo pollo, gymnastics, bean ball, to name a few) in that tiny rectangular corner of the lunchroom - it's truly remarkable!
This is an end of an era. Mr D was the best. Made coming to school so much fun - he was the one teacher with whom we could talk sports and he always had our backs. A true mentsch.
Ernie was an incredible mentor and a joy to work with during our 25 years together. Mr. D had an amazing ability to connect with people of all ages, especially his students. Ernie was kind, caring, and always found a way to make everyone around him smile with yet another creative nickname or one of his million funny sayings. We all remember the thrilling pillo polo tournaments and lively Color War events that Mr. D. wonderfully initiated and organized. But those day-to-day moments are what we especially loved. Discussions about Elvis, the Beatles, Survivor, Boston sports teams, the latest book he was reading, Maimo alumni popping in to visit, and students excited about the day's activity. The great expressions that made every day a special one in the gym:
"This is a whine-free environment."
"You can come to the center line and grab the bean bags and share them with your teammates IF..."
"Be very careful not to karate chop your neighbors."
"My grandmother can tie her sneakers faster than that."
"I'm sure the person behind you in class after gym will appreciate it if you bring a change of a shirt."
Mr. D brought his unique personality and energy to school every day. What fantastic memories we have because of Ernie. He is a Maimo legend!
He was truly a profound moral influence on countless students over the course of four decades.
We’ve all had that one teacher who left a deep and lasting mark. For me and countless others who went to Maimo, that teacher was Mr. D, the gym teacher. He was a constant at Maimo, touching countless students. He was a truly special person.