Spierdowis remembered 50 years later

This October marks 50 years since Albion Central School’s Spierdowis Field was originally dedicated to honor Coach Michael Spierdowis in 1973.

According to coach’s daughter Nancy Canham, Spierdowis “knew right from the start [coaching] is what he wanted to do.”

“Dad always wanted to be a coach,” Canham explained. “When he was 13 he was setting pins in a bowling alley as an after-school job, then he was a lifeguard in the summer. Working in athletics was his dream.”

After graduating from Ithaca College, Spierdowis moved to Albion, NY in 1930 to be a physical education teacher.

Canham said that, once he arrived, her father quickly took up teaching a variety of sports as a physical education teacher and became a mentor to both his players and his students.
“Everyone my age had a class taught by my father and the only job he ever had was working in Albion,” Canham said. “He impacted them, but the students impacted him just as greatly. He was more than just a coach.”

Reflecting on his 39-year tenure, Canham remembers tracking football game stats on the sidelines and hearing her dad coaching practice from their backyard.

“We lived by the original football field, when the current high school was where the middle school is now,” Canham explained. “We could hear him running drills and could always tell when practice was over and when Dad was coming home.”

Coach made waves fast both on the gridiron and on the court, virtually building Albion’s basketball program from the ground up.

“Basketball was basically unknown [here] until Dad started,” Canham said.

A newspaper article from 1936 documents Spierdowis leading both the Purple Eagles football and basketball teams to league championships that year.

Never really having an “off season,” Spierdowis could be found working as a Park Director, a lifeguard, or teaching swimming and diving lessons throughout the summer breaks.

“To say I’m proud of my father, it doesn’t quite do it justice,” Canham said. “I’ve always been proud of him. Getting the field dedicated, it’s one of those life events you base time around, ‘Oh well this happened before/ after the dedication…’.”

Coach made a lasting impact on the community he loved, drilling into his athletes that there is more to a sport than winning.

“We’d wish him luck as he’d head out to a game,” Canham said. “Dad always just said ‘I hope nobody gets hurt.’”

It was in that warm, familial spirit Canham claims Spierdowis coined the phrase we all know today: “Once a Purple Eagle. Always a Purple Eagle.”

As the field’s upgrades were completed, as part of the District’s Capital Improvement Project, Spierdowis Field was rededicated on Friday, September 15, 2023 to honor the memory of Coach Michael Spierdowis. During the ceremony, Spierdowis’ great-granddaughter, Sarah Allen Dumrese, and his great-great grandsons, participated in the honorary coin toss.

“My father would be so happy, the family is very grateful,” Canham said regarding the rededication of the field. “Albion has always been more than just a district, its home, its family. My dad didn’t just love his job, he loved the people.”