Long-time sports writer and columnist Jim Bransfield died Saturday afternoon after a short illness.
Bransfield had been at The Middletown Press in different roles for close to 30 years. He was also a retired teacher and paraeducator from the Middletown Public Schools.
“Jim Bransfield was an extraordinary man. A loving father and educator who touched thousands upon thousands of lives for the better,” Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said in a Facebook post Saturday, adding that he learned a lot from Bransfield and respected him tremendously. “He was passionate about sports, education, justice, and equity. He was a well known and universally respected announcer, journalist, and sports columnist.”
Bransfield’s columns would run each Monday in The Middletown Press under the kicker “Monday Musings.” He would also cover games and write sports features.
“Jim was the consummate journalist,” Middletown Press Managing Editor Cassandra Day said. “For him, writing was like breathing, it came so easily. Jim had strong opinions — he didn’t mince words — but his deep love for Middletown always came through. He will leave a huge hole in the hearts of many, many people.”
Bransfield was a public address announcer for Middletown Legion baseball, Middletown High School football, the CIAC baseball championships and Xavier High School football and basketball. He was also Xavier basketball’s official scorer.
“Jim had a keen sense of the pulse of the Middletown community and played a special role for each of the MHS graduating classes after his retirement at their commencement ceremonies,” Drew said in his post. “His columns were anticipated every Monday for so many Middletown residents. He had a biting wit as a columnist combined with a thoroughness often unseen in modern journalism.”
Drew called Bransfield “a fixture and icon in Middletown.”
“He fought hard for what he believed in and taught others to do the same, always leading by example,” Drew said. “He was the consummate NY Yankees fan and gentleman. His passing leaves a great void in Middletown.”
Within minutes of the news being shared on social media, friends and community members reached out to show their support.
“He was one of a kind!” wrote Kim Kotter Molski.
Middletown football coach Sal Morello said Bransfield will be missed.
“He was a pillar in the Middletown sports community,” Morello wrote on Facebook Saturday.
Others agreed that so many things will never be the same again with Bransfield.
“Hopefully there is a baseball game in heaven for you to announce and watch,” Doug Wedge wrote.
In addition to teaching in Middletown, Bransfield also taught briefly at Nathan Hale-Ray High School in Moodus.
Former sports editor Robert Mayer, who worked with Bransfield for many years, said Bransfield was the voice of his students and their rights.
“I used to love playing Legion baseball against Middletown at Palmer Field to hear him say my name,” Mayer said. “Later when I was the sports editor at The Middletown Press, we became friends. I truly valued our talks and was proud to run his amazing columns each week. Amazingly there were some that didn’t like him but he couldn’t care less. He lived his life with great conviction to his beliefs and showed others how to live.”
State Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said Bransfield’s passing brought to mind a particularly poignant conversation the two had at a memorial service at Middletown’s First Church held in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.
“Jim cared deeply about young people,” Lesser said. “He felt pride about their accomplishments and he felt pain when they suffered. I don’t think it’s possible to love this community more than he did.”
Ned Resnikoff said by the time he started at Middletown High School, Bransfield was already semi-retired. However, he stayed on as the faculty adviser for the school newspaper.
“Which meant I spent more time with him and got to know him better than any other teacher I’ve had,” Resnikoff said “And he was the best kind of teacher: Someone smart enough to run circles around you, empathetic enough to take you seriously even when you were a dumb— teen, and dedicated enough to kick your a— when you weren’t reaching your potential. I owe him a lot, and there are hundreds of other MHS graduates who can say the same.”
Middletown Common Council Minority Leader Sebastian Giuliano said Bransfield was part of so many kids’ lives in Middletown — weather as their teacher, at the school paper or through the athletics program.
“There are certain people, when they made them, they broke the mold,” Giuliano said. “There’s just one copy and that’s it — one — and Jim was like that. Who replaces a Jim Bransfield? Nobody.”