Senior night is a celebration, when parents or guardians get to walk arm in arm with their student-athletes to commemorate not just the end of one chapter, but the start of another. The Scarsdale varsity football team had to find an alternate way to honor one of the members of the Class of 2023.
Paul “Paulie” Jimenez Jr. would have been there sandwiched between his parents, mom Joanna and dad Paul Sr., had it not been for the rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that forms on soft tissue, that cost him his life as a 10-year-old on Jan. 5, 2016. Instead, the entire senior class escorted Paulie’s parents onto Butler Field on Friday, Oct. 14, prior to Scarsdale’s homecoming game, with Paulie’s cousin, Alexi Hairatidis, a senior on the team, with his arm around his aunt, and friends and former teammates Noah Chappell and Colby Baldwin carrying a No. 3 Jimenez jersey and a poster-sized version of the sticker the team wore on the back of their helmets in Paulie’s honor.
“It really was beautiful,” coach Andy Verboys said. “They all walked back arm in arm and walked them down. Nothing is going to replace Paulie, but they know every one of those seniors will always be there.”
Paulie was buried in his own No. 3 youth football jersey, so Jimenez Sr. said the family will “treasure forever” the varsity jersey the team presented them with.
For the Jimenez family — his sisters are Edie, now a junior, and Juliette, now a seventh grader — it was another difficult day, a reminder of what wasn’t, but also a spotlight on what the community has meant to them for the last seven years since Paulie’s biopsy and grim diagnosis seven years ago this week in 2015.
“That was something that was super special,” Jimenez Sr. said of the ceremony. “The last few memories we have of Paul is Paulie in his football jersey, in his Raiders jersey. During that short 2.5 months that he fought, his goal was to beat this and get back out there on the field with his teammates. It’s super special that they remember him and honor him in that way. That was his love, just being out there playing, being a fun kid.”
Jimenez Sr. still pictures the “forever” 10-year-old boy and has trouble with the “reality he would have been going on 17 years old and bigger than me.”
Being on the field brought back a lot of positive memories for Jimenez. He even ran into one of Paulie’s friends, Eleanor Gutstadt, who became a volunteer EMT and is going into the medical field inspired by Paulie and his impact on her.
The Jimenez family moved to Scarsdale so Paulie could grow up with Hairatidis, when they were in second grade.
“They would have been playing side by side,” Jimenez Sr. said. “That was Paulie’s best friend. They were basically like brothers. I knew it was super hard for him to sit there and be part of that, but also really important for him. Paulie loved him and loved that whole team.”
The cousins played football together and though Hairatidis stopped at one point he started playing again as an eighth grader and knew that it should have been Paulie out there with his parents on senior night.
“I’m there with his mom and his dad walking down the aisle that he should have been walking down, so it was not easy, but I’m glad they honored him in that way,” Hairatidis said. “It was a little hard for me, but I’m very glad they did it.”
Hairatidis remembers Paulie’s passing as happening “way too fast” and how “unpleasant” it was when they were dealing with it as fifth graders, but the lasting impact Paulie had gives him solace, especially with the PaulieStrong Foundation.
“It makes me sad, but it makes me happy at the same time,” Hairatidis said. “Sad because the reason it was created in the first place was because he got sick, but happy because it’s had such a big impact on so many other families and so many other people. It just makes me proud.”
Scarsdale improved to 4-2 with the 41-0 win, sparked by the ceremony and Paulie’s memory.
“Paulie and Alexi were best friends and he carries that,” Verboys said. “It’s a really tight group and that’s why we played so well. I’ve said that a million times that when a group of kids come together and lean on each other special things happen. We just put it all together. Yonkers had two first downs, their third on a penalty. That’s a team that moved the ball against New Rochelle, moved that ball against everybody else, but they couldn’t do a thing with us. The kids were just so on.”
Baldwin remembers the day Paulie served as honorary captain during a varsity game in the fall of 2015, around the time of his diagnosis. The two and some friends were watching a game at the turf field before heading over to Dean Field for the special moment. The rest is a bit of a blur.
“I remember my parents telling me and it was sad and I guess I didn’t understand it a ton,” Baldwin said. “I knew the situation and I was probably bummed. I probably didn’t understand enough to get emotional about it. I remember when it happened and one of the practices after he was diagnosed a lot of guys on the team all shaved our heads to support him. It was so he wouldn’t feel alone.”
If it didn’t seem real back then, it certainly seemed real on senior night.
“He’s part of the senior class,” Baldwin said. “Nobody is left out, especially when a family has a loss like that. We wanted to do it for him, for his family so they still are a part of Scarsdale football.”
Paulie might have been the biggest football fan of the bunch, and certainly the most enthusiastic. “He just loved playing football,” senior Will Delguercio said. “He was always smiling. He came to practice every day and he wanted to get in and do what he could to help.”
Delguercio remembers Paulie’s illness being “really quick.”
“It was kind of scary,” he said. “We didn’t really know what was going on, but we just prayed for him and did what we could for him.”
Delguercio reflects back now and knows he learned, “You can’t take any of this for granted. You’ve got to come out and enjoy it every day.”
Campbell Killian also remembers how happy Paulie was to be on the field and how big of a 49ers fan he was, but also the devastation of the situation.
“I feel like it’s only been seven years, but that’s such a huge part of my life, all of our lives on this team,” Killian said. “We don’t understand how quickly it has gone by. We stretch it out and think it’s gone more quickly than it has. I feel like just keeping him in our memory right now brought us all together.
Jimenez Sr. met with the football team earlier this season when they put the stickers on the back of their helmets to let them know how much their support has meant to the family over the years. There were a lot of hugs and some tears shed.
Verboys remembers Paulie walking with the varsity team in 2015 “like it was yesterday.” Paulie wasn’t feeling well and left after halftime, so the entire varsity team showed up at his house later that day with a signed team game ball, which Paulie’s dad keeps on his desk.
“It’s part of life, but the kids have been affected by it,” Verboys said. “Last year I lost my niece and Noah Chappell lost his sister earlier this year. One of the last things Noah’s sister said to him was, ‘Always demand the best,’ and that was our motto this year. It’s been a heartfelt and tight group of seniors. They’ve been through a lot.”
The football program unofficially retired No. 3 in Paulie’s honor, but allowed it to come out of retirement this fall so Chappell could wear his sister’s old soccer number in her honor this season. Madison “Madi” Chappell died in February at the age of 25. She had battled metastatic cervical cancer during college and graduated from Syracuse in 2019 with a goal of becoming a physician.
The PaulieStrong Foundation (#PaulieStrong) has served as an inspiration to many over the years.
“Cancer is awful and people go through some awful things, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in that so much money is being poured into it and they’re coming up with different ways of treating it and more and more people are cured and living with it and it’s all because people and families had to go through hardship, but for the strong ones it becomes a mission,” Verboys said.
The foundation was not started in Paulie’s memory — he was the one who got it off the ground with the goal to sell 100 T-shirts.
“He was a big advocate of it,” Verboys said. “Knowing he had this rare, horrible cancer he still found the strength to help other people who also had it. In the short time I knew Paulie I knew he was a really special soul. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and my niece. It makes everybody else stronger. That’s what Paulie would have wanted.”
The foundation surpassed $2 million raised last month at its annual golf outing at Scarsdale Golf Club, which raised a record $276,000. After hearing all of the personal speeches, and an update from the chief of pediatrics from Memorial Sloan Kettering, the CEO of New Jersey-based CE Tech pledged an additional $100,000 on the spot. “It was an emotional moment to say the least,” Jimenez Sr. said.
Just as his teammates didn’t understand what was happening back in 2015, Paulie didn’t either. “All he knew was he was told he had cancer and was told through us researching what it was that less than 4% of government funding goes towards pediatric cancer,” Jimenez Sr. senior. “In his mind he wanted to fund research dollars for his doctors.”
Jimenez Sr. said his son’s shirt sale goal was “super ambitious” and now there are tens of thousands of them around the country.
“When Paul was diagnosed it was the first time I can remember even hearing of a child being diagnosed with cancer,” Jimenez Sr. said. “It’s not something that’s talked about, it’s not something that many people are public about and then come to find out there were several children in Scarsdale who were diagnosed with childhood cancer.
“I respect people’s privacy and the way they want to go about handling things, but for me I wanted to shout from the rooftops about the need for funding, to spread that awareness.”
Spreading awareness, advocating for change and raising funds are the main goals of the foundation. While everyone knows October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month thanks in part to the large promotion by the National Football League, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Jimenez Sr. would like to see it get more attention.
Another major event happens in March when the foundation holds its annual Lego drive, which are donated to kids who are receiving treatment to “help take their minds off the painful treatments they’re going through,” Jimenez Sr. said. It was Paulie’s favorite toy. Close to 10,000 sets have been donated over the years and they can be purchased on Amazon and sent directly to Memorial Sloan Kettering in March.
There are many other ways to honor Paulie and support the foundation throughout the year. (Visit pauliestrong.org for more or find the foundation in Instagram at @pauliestrong.)
Senior night was just one of them.
The following story appeared in The Scarsdale Inquirer on Oct. 14, 2016:
Always Raiders: Football program supportive in times of need
By TODD SLISS
Harvey Kaplan lived the life Paul Jimenez Jr. never got to.
The former is an 83-year-old whose doctors can no longer treat the metastasized melanoma he’s been battling since 2000. The latter a Greenacres fifth-grader whose battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer, lasted only two and a half months before he died Jan. 5.
In both — a 1951 graduate of Scarsdale High School and a Greenacres Elementary School student known as Paulie — lie stories of hope through the common bond of Scarsdale football. In consecutive Octobers, Paulie and Kaplan were honorary captains for the varsity football team, Paulie for the Oct. 24, 2015, playoff game against Mahopac, Kaplan for the regular season finale at Clarkstown South last Friday.
For Paulie, being honorary captain was his official last hurrah with the Scarsdale football program. Once he fell ill, he was no longer allowed to play the game he loved, and did not return to school once he began his chemotherapy treatments.
“Paul Jr. was a special young man who just started playing a couple of years ago,” Scarsdale Youth Football president and 1981 Scarsdale graduate Rippy Philipps said. “He loved the sport, loved his teammates and he was really into it.”
What Paulie really missed was playing football. He tried other sports, but what he loved most was putting on the armor and feeling invincible, like a super hero. When he got sick, the season had just started and Paulie played in just one game. He made an interception on the last play of the last game he ever played.
“There were a few times we showed up at practice to surprise the team,” Paul Sr. said. “They all came and huddled around him and gave him a big hug. They sent letters. We got bags of letters from the football program all the way up to the seniors in high school who showed up to the house.”
Paulie and his dad played a lot of Madden instead. “That was kind of our way to get through that,” Paul Sr. said.
Stephen Nicholas Jr. was a senior last fall when Paulie became an important part of his life. He teared up, as did many of his teammates, during the National Anthem when Paulie was honorary captain standing beside him in his No. 3 youth football jersey. As a captain of the team, Nicholas Jr. reminded his team through its playoff run to play for many people, Paulie among them.
“Even being able to go out on the football field is something we take for granted,” Nicholas Jr. said. “With Paul, it really opened our eyes to how lucky we are.”
Several times Nicholas Jr. and the Raiders visited Paulie’s house. Once prior to his being named honorary captain, the second after the game to deliver Paulie the game ball.
“We were all so pumped,” Nicholas Jr. said. “It was just awesome to see his smile once we gave him that.”
The youngest Nicholas, Brian, was on Paulie’s youth football team. His illness hit the entire Nicholas family hard, and they were constantly there for the Jimenez family. Brian and many of his friends shaved their heads in Paulie’s honor.
“When I got the news he passed away I was devastated, same with a lot of guys on the team,” Nicholas Jr. said. “We went over to Paul’s house to talk to his parents. We told them they would always be a part of the football program.”
The leadership of the program, coach Andy Verboys, is constantly talking about history and tradition from coaches to players to teams on and off the field. That passion for everything Scarsdale has trickled down to his players over the years.
“Coach Verboys does a great job making sure we remember where we come from and how we’re raised,” Nicholas Jr. said. “It’s about the community and all who are involved. Paul was a football player in the youth program. We all go back and help out with the younger guys.”
As for Kaplan, he doesn’t go a day without talking about Scarsdale football, which was undefeated both his junior and senior seasons in 1949 and 1950. It puts a smile on his face even on days his cancer is winning the war. Son Charlie Kaplan, a 1977 Scarsdale graduate, marvels at his dad’s ability to remember in such detail all the games he played and all the teammates he had over the years. But what truly stands out is how his dad has used his life experiences to keep fighting each day.
“The peace he has you can credit to his strong faith, but the tenacity and the fight, that comes from the heart and experience on the football field,” Charlie said. “That carries you through in areas of life, even fighting cancer.”
The big highlight of Kaplan’s trip was supposed to be getting together on Dean Field with three of his former teammates, but what made Kaplan’s weeklong trip to Scarsdale for his 65th high school reunion even more special was Scarsdale surprised him by naming him honorary captain for the team’s Friday night road game against Clarkstown South, which was kind enough to let Kaplan walk hand-in-hand with captains Robbie Keith, Nick Leone, Henry Zurkow and Barry Klein and do the coin toss at midfield. Kaplan thought he was just going to the game as a spectator.
“We like to pride ourselves on being a family,” Philipps said. “We don’t believe talk is cheap, so, for us, family is of the utmost importance.”
In October of last year, the Jimenez family — mom Joanna, Edie, now 9, and Juliette, now 6, along with Pauls senior and junior — took a short family vacation to Washington, D.C. That was the first time Paulie showed signs he was not feeling well. The “healthy, fun-loving 10-year-old boy” was often tired on the trip, according to his dad, though his parents didn’t think much of it with all the walking around they were doing.
“We got back home and the next day he was very tired and lethargic,” Paul Sr. said.
Two days after coming home, Paul Sr. chaperoned a school trip to an obstacle course and “even then there was something not right.” The next day Paulie woke up and his lips were white and he was pale. He collapsed in the bathroom. Joanna is a pediatrician and thought Paulie’s appendix might have ruptured, so she rushed him to NYU Medical Center for an emergency appendectomy. By this time, Paul Sr. was just landing in Toronto for a business trip. He got back home to LaGuardia around midnight, by which time a CT scan showed a tumor inside Paulie had ruptured.
Days after he served as honorary captain, the diagnosis was in; rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft muscle tissue cancer diagnosed about 250 times per year worldwide in children. What complicated matters was the location of the tumor between the pancreas and the spleen. Doctors feared an operation would be fatal, so Paulie was put on a 54-week chemotherapy program, with radiation to begin around the midpoint.
Just eight weeks into the treatments, Paulie woke up to find the tumor had ruptured and he was bleeding internally. Doctors decided the only hope — as slim and dangerous as it was — was to perform that original surgery they avoided. Paulie died during the surgery. The tumor that was 3 centimeters at diagnosis was now 10 times bigger.
“As a family we never considered the possibility we weren’t going to beat this,” Paul Sr. said. The family was planning all the things they would do once Paulie got better like road trips, seeing their favorite football team, the San Francisco 49ers, and returning to school with his hair grown back. But the chemo took a major toll on Paulie. He lost a tremendous amount of weight and lost, his family said, what made Paulie Paulie, his “very outgoing, fun personality.”
“He just became very closed off,” Paul Sr. said. “He still communicated somewhat with his friends, but he didn’t like people to see him in that condition. He wanted to wait and get everything back together once he finished it …every day he would wake up and go to sleep in intense pain.”
One shining light came out of Paulie’s illness, driven by Paulie himself. The #PaulieStrong movement. He wanted to sell 100 T-shirts with proceeds benefiting other children who were suffering from the same type of cancer.
“I told him, ‘That’s ambitious, but we’ll shoot for 100 shirts,’ but I was really thinking there was no way,” Paul Sr. said. “Now I look at it and we’ve turned that into a foundation and sold over 2,000 #PaulieStrong shirts and raised over $200,000.”
In addition to the foundation, others have run events to raise money in Paulie’s name in conjunction with Memorial Sloane Kettering. Rudy’s on Central Avenue pulled together a golf outing last month that raised $35,000. Greenacres Elementary School did a run/walk and raised $18,000. Proceeds from this year’s Scarsdale Concours d’Elegance car show named #PaulieStrong as one of its beneficiaries.
“We looked at these doctors and they just didn’t know what to do anymore,” Paul Sr. said. “There’s not enough research when you have a cancer that’s diagnosed only 250 times a year. They had him on a chemo regimen that was 30 or 40 years old. I had no idea that less than 4 percent of all cancer research money went to pediatric cancer. It’s not right.”
Paul Sr. works for BMW and got his company to lend some vehicles for the car show earlier this month. “He’d be here riding his bike through the village and checking out the cars,” Paul Sr. said. “I’ve been in the auto industry for 15 years, so every time there’s a car show at the Javits Center I’d take him. He would do what all these kids are doing — sit in the front seat, take a picture and feel cool he was able to be around all this great technology.”
Edie was walking around the village selling #PaulieStrong shirts as her way of dealing with the loss of her brother. Joanna would later show up with Juliette to lend more helping hands.
“Each one of them deals with it in such a unique way,” Paul Sr. said of his daughters. “Edie has a hard time talking about Paul and she’ll change the subject all the time, whereas Juliette talks about him all day every day as if he’s still here.”
Juliette picked out as much green soccer apparel for her first season playing the sport in honor of her brother’s favorite color. “She reminisces about him all day,” Paul Sr. said.
The Scarsdale community stepped up for the Jimenez family from the moment it realized Paulie was headed down a tough road. There were meals constantly delivered to the house as the daily trips to the city never subsided.
It has been nine months since Paulie’s death and the football program has not disappeared from the lives of the Jimenez family. This season, all players are wearing stickers on their helmets in Paulie’s honor. Stephen Nicholas Sr., a 1978 Scarsdale graduate who coached Paulie for two years, and Philipps asked Paul Sr. to coach this season. He said no at first, but changed his mind. “I realized every time I drive past Crossway I break down in tears remembering all the practices,” Paul said.
Joanna also reminded him of something that happened three years earlier at the end of Paulie’s first season of youth football.
At the year-end party, Paulie won a raffle and got to pick a prize from the table. There were all kinds of great items, including a Colin Kaepernick jersey the Jimenez family donated. What Paulie came back with was a book on coaching youth football. He handed it to his dad.
“He said, ‘I got it for you because I want you to coach me next year,’” Paul Sr. said. “With that in my head I called them back and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’”
Paul Sr. never did coach Paulie, but, this fall, he’s been working with the fifth- and sixth-grade team Paulie would have been on.
“I’ve never coached a day in my life, never even played football growing up, but he loved it, loved those kids and those kids were always supportive of him and I said, ‘You know what, it’s an opportunity to give back to the football program that he loved so much and that cared for him,’” Paul Sr. said.
It’s a mixed bag of emotions during practices and games.
“It’s fun while I’m there and playing with the kids and just seeing them do their thing,” Paul Sr. said. “But then being that only dad getting in your car after practice by yourself is not fun. We had our game at Pelham and it was just devastating to be there without him.”
The reminders about Paulie are constant. They are actually the reason Paul Sr. said he gets out of bed every morning. Between the helmet stickers, two buddy benches in Paulie’s honor at Greenacres Elementary School and the events like the car show, Paulie’s spirit is thriving in Scarsdale.
“Joanna and I wake up every day and it’s a reminder that this actually happened,” Paul Sr. said. “You go to school and work and you have to do the things to keep moving ahead with the kids. There’s that constant kick to the chest every single day; this is real and this happened to us.
“He was my best friend, my first born, my only son and I can’t even function half the time when I think about it, but at the same time if we can do anything to try to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other family that’s the only thing that stops me from going crazy every day.”
Based on outward appearance, you can’t tell Harvey Kaplan is sick. He’s been battling cancer for 16 years. Sure he walks gingerly and needs help sometimes — not exactly strange for an 84-year-old — but he loves to tell stories, with the ones focusing on playing football in Scarsdale putting the biggest smile on his face.
Kaplan and 23 others members of the class of 1951 celebrated their 65th reunion last week and one of Kaplan’s requests was to head to Dean Field, which was a special place for him and his teammates, for what perhaps was one final time. His family couldn’t even be certain he’d be healthy enough to make the trip with his wife of 60 years, Judith, from their home in Georgia, but the week went off without a hitch.
Kaplan and several classmates spent about a half hour at Dean Field Wednesday last week, including a trio of former teammates, Bernie Cropsey and 1950 team captains Conrad Corelli and Mills Ripley. Kaplan also was a wrestling captain, soared over hurdles in spring track, and he and Ripley were Eagle Scouts under the beloved E. Gordon Smith.
The field looked much different from their playing days. The school size in both enrollment and facilities has doubled, and the baseball field faces the opposite direction.
“It was fun,” Kaplan said of returning to Dean. “The team was bigger than I thought. I met the center and he was much bigger than me.”
Coach Verboys stopped what he was doing during practice and talked to the former Raiders. He marveled in the fact the 1949 and 1950 teams did not lose a game. “I could use some of that undefeated,” he told the visitors.
The visiting foursome talked about their coach, Dave Buchanan, whom they hold in the highest regard. They were impressed with Verboys and what he’s done with the program over the past decade, from wins to playoff performances to the number of alumni who move back to town and the rising numbers who are competing at the college level.
“That’s just so mind-boggling,” Verboys said. “To have them standing on Dean Field with the memories of those undefeated teams and to think all this time Mr. Kaplan has kept the memories of his high school playing days is so powerful to me. It makes me realize how important my job is.”
Winning and losing becomes secondary to building character and creating a lifetime of positive memories. When Verboys spoke with Kaplan there wasn’t much talk or gloating about undefeated seasons.
“It was more about the legendary coach Dave Buchanan and the camaraderie and being in the trenches with his best friends and working so hard together to be perfect and how it set him up for his future life and how he always reflected back,” Verboys said.
Verboys brought the varsity team over to meet the truly old school Raiders. To the current team, the likes of Philipps and Nicholas Sr. from the 1970s and ’80s are the legacy, at least until they met players who were born in 1933.
The 1949 team was 6-0, beating Pelham 25-0, Rye 8-0, Eastchester 22-0, Blessed Sacrament 34-0, Horace Mann 36-0 and Bronxville 34-6. Senior year the team topped Peekskill 19-14, Pelham 19-0, Rye 39-0, Eastchester 29-0, Blessed Sacrament 39-6 and Bronxville 34-0. This year’s Raiders are 4-2 after falling to Clarkstown South 31-14.
“I think it’s really cool to have such a legacy there,” senior Adam Schwall said. “It’s interesting to get to talk to guys who have been a part of what we’re doing so long ago and to see the culture hasn’t really changed that much. We’re just really trying to bring a section title back to Scarsdale for those guys.”
Kaplan, who played center and middle linebacker, reminisces more about his junior year than his senior year. Perhaps that’s because of Bert Redegeld, who was a year ahead of him and a captain in 1949. They became friends when Kaplan moved to Scarsdale, but in 2000 they reconnected at a reunion and as Redegeld put it, “Harvey is … now my best friend.”
“We shared that 1949 football season and that season means an awful lot to both of us,” Redegeld said. “It’s given me a memory that is probably the most memorable thing in my life. My family and family events are the most important, but the ’49 season, my final year, we were undefeated, untied and scored upon only once. That simply gave me a sense of self-confidence to get through life. Harvey and I get together once or twice a year and we talk about it.”
Up until this year, they usually meet up to toss a football around at Dean Field. “I’m too old for that,” Kaplan said with a smile.
Redegeld also played in college at Williams, but “the years at Scarsdale meant more to us than the college years,” Redegeld said. “Much more,” Kaplan added.
“It was very different in college,” Kaplan said. “I got whacked around and broke my ankle. The coach had us doing something we shouldn’t have been doing. But in high school it was really a great spirit. I’ll never forget we used to meet in the late summers to start and get in shape.”
Like today’s Raiders, as big as they have gotten, the Raiders of the past often found themselves undersized compared to their opponents. But just as that hasn’t stopped Verboys’ teams, it didn’t stop Buchanan’s teams. Redegeld and Kaplan both weighed in the 160s, but against teams like Blessed Sacrament they were facing 220-pounders.
“They were a bunch of giants,” Redegeld said. “It gave me the feeling of self-confidence that I could tackle anything. One time we held a team to minus yardage. Of course I was just one member of the team, but that carried me through life in business and the military.”
Kaplan remembered his best chance at scoring a touchdown for the Raiders against Peekskill.
“I played center and against Peekskill the quarterback threw the football and I intercepted the football, but I dropped it,” he said. “I could have had an open field touchdown. I messed it up. It was the one chance I had.”
Junior year featured the combination of quarterback Dave Grogen — “very versatile” — and end Mike Dalton — “a great football player” — and Buchanan’s single wing and T formations.
“After football season was over that year, I remember going inside the gym and I guess I jogged a little bit and felt like a feather,” Kaplan said. “I was in great shape. It was just fantastic. I’ll never get over that. What a difference today. I have trouble walking even.”
Kaplan grew up in Aruba and came to Scarsdale in 1945. The seven years he spent in Scarsdale made such an impact on him that, after playing at Middlebury, enlisting in the Army, serving as an M.P. in Germany in 1955, returning to finish his final year at Middlebury and getting his master’s in social work at Fordham, he and Judith raised six children in Scarsdale, including Charlie, the only one to follow in dad’s footsteps and play football for the Raiders.
Kaplan is “very proud” of his military service. “I still have those friends, too. They’re great guys.”
Kaplan and Judith moved to Georgia in 1998, a year after Kaplan retired as a school social worker. Two years later he got his first cancer diagnosis. The 16 years have been a long road for Kaplan, who is getting weaker by the day as tumors have taken over his body. He also had both hips replaced.
“It really took a lot out of me, so many surgeries, but the Lord has been good to me,” Kaplan said. “He’s kept me alive all these years. I have a tumor here we’re trying to reduce by a special treatment. I have an oncologist back in Emory in Atlanta and he’s run out of things he can do for me. I have a 10 percent chance of a cure with one of these treatments, but he hasn’t started them yet.
“I’m lucky I’m alive. I’m lucky I’ve gotten this far; very fortunate.”
From the boy who never got to live his dreams to the man who hasn’t stopped reliving his, there is great strength to be found.
In their own way, Paulie and Kaplan are #ScarsdaleStrong.