NEW HAVEN >> Pete Barbarito and Mike Marone shared a bear hug Saturday morning at Wilbur Cross High that could be felt over several generations of those connected with the school’s football program.
Barbarito, now 74, is the winningest CIAC coach in New Haven history with 106 victories and a Class L-II state championship in 1984. Horace Marone was his predecessor, leading the Governors to an undefeated season and the top spot in the final Register Top 10 Poll in 1963.
The two men combined to coach nearly 40 years at Wilbur Cross. And those two men, the two most successful football coaches in the program’s history, now have the school’s field named in their honor.
Wilbur Cross is now home to Barbarito/Marone Field.
“This is a tremendous day for me. It’s like a reunion,” Barbarito said. “There’s a player here from every year I coached (1975-94).
Said Mike Marone, Horace’s son: “Wilbur Cross was everything to my father.”
The new name of the field is displayed on the school’s athletic complex, the scoreboard and the press box.
Many former players, as well as several dignitaries, attended Saturday’s ceremony in the school lobby. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, city Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries and his predecessor, Dr. Reginald Mayo, were in attendance.
They all got a chance to celebrate the lives of two men whose families will forever be intertwined. Horace, who coached Cross from 1957-74 and passed away last year, was college roommates with another Barbarito, George — Pete’s cousin — at Providence College.
“The Barbaritos were Horace’s best friends going all the way back to high school,” Mike Marone said.
The entire Barbarito family has over 160 years dedicated to education in the Elm City. Pete was also the school’s athletic director and city supervisor of athletics. Among his many accolades include being inducted into the halls of fame for both the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and the New Haven Gridiron Club.
“Of all the banquets and stuff I’ve gone to through the years, he was very excited about this,” said Lynn Barbarito, Pete’s wife of 49 years.
Said Pete: “This is something I never dreamed about. I’m almost speechless. I’m grateful to be co-recipient of this prestigious honor.”
The sons followed in the fathers’ footsteps when it came to football. Eric Barbarito won a pair of state championships at Hillhouse (2002 and 2006) and was a sophomore on the Holy Cross team that lost to his dad and Wilbur Cross in 1984.
“Thank you for being my inspiration,” Eric told his dad at the ceremony.
Not only did Mike Marone coach at East Haven, but also served as the school’s athletic director. And Mike’s son Rob is now the head coach at Lyman Hall after years as an assistant at — you guessed it — Wilbur Cross.
“It’s great to have a father who was a football coach, but it was more than that. He was a part of the Cross community,” Mike Marone said. “Coach Marone was a very lucky man. He was surrounded by his players throughout his entire life.”
Now future generations of Cross football players will play home games on the field named after two men best associated with the program’s rich history.