Paul Glover passed away Tuesday at age 86 his West Hartford home.
By Ronni Newton
Nearly everyone who played soccer in West Hartford during the past four decades had a chance to cross paths with Paul Glover, and even if they didn’t know it, their enjoyment of the game was impacted by something he had done.
Glover died of cancer on Tuesday morning at his West Hartford home, surrounded by his family. He had recently been hospitalized, but was released on Saturday and went home with hospice care.
Glover’s contributions to soccer in West Hartford are countless – as a coach, a volunteer, a board member of various organizations, and a benefactor.
“He personified civic engagement,” said West Hartford Director of Leisure and Social Services Helen Rubino-Turco, who worked with Glover for 20 years and considered him as much more than a friend. Civic engagement isn’t a lost art, she said, “but it’s a wonderful way to describe him.”
Glover began coaching in the West Hartford Girls Soccer League nearly 40 years ago, and coached both the recreational and travel divisions. He spent decades as a coach and division coordinator of the West Hartford Girls Soccer League (WHGSL) Junior Division, and although he was no longer a head coach, when he turned 86 last fall, he was still on the sidelines as an assistant coach alongside his daughter, Kim Glover-Polo. Their team won the championship.
WHGSL President Ed Espinal said that Glover was recently honored as Connecticut Junior Soccer Association (CJSA) Coach of the Year, and on Jan. 26, 2018, attended and was recognized at the CJSA annual dinner with a Region 1 Special Recognition Award as a recreational coach. He was also previously recognized by the March of Dimes as a “Women in Sports” hero.
“When I first got into the program, 17 or 18 years ago, he was a mentor of mine, someone I always looked up to and respected,” Espinal said Tuesday.
“He was the man behind the scenes,” Espinal said, responsible for the town acquiring the Goodrich Fields, launching a spring season for girls soccer, launching the girls’ travel division, and coaching in the West Hartford Women’s Soccer Club for many years beginning in 1995 when the organization was founded.
Glover remained a member of the WHGSL Board, and always attended meetings and had something to say. “He remained sharp as sharp could be, until the end,” Espinal said.
In the late 1990s, Glover, at the time the vice president for marketing and business development at Goodrich, worked to negotiate an agreement with his employer for the West Hartford soccer leagues – girls, boys, and women – to use eight acres of its property at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and South Quaker Lane as soccer fields.
In 2002, the Town of West Hartford purchased the land for $1.5 million, and Field of Dreams raised approximately $600,000 to renovate the fields, according to Rubino-Turco, who served as chair of the nonprofit Field of Dreams, which also created soccer fields at Eisenhower Park and Whiting Lane School..
Glover also served on the board of Field of Dreams.
“He made this happen,” Espinal said.
On May 31, 2016, the Goodrich Fields were renamed the “Paul Glover Soccer Complex” in honor of his contributions. When the Town Council approved the naming in 2015, they noted that it was unprecedented to name something in honor of a living person. Rubino-Turco noted at the time that Glover should be credited with leading “transformational change” for his volunteer work that began as agreeing to coach a soccer team for his own daughter but led to the formation of a girls’ soccer league, a women’s soccer league, and an entire field complex.
“In 2015, I was honored to be part of a group to dedicate a soccer complex in Paul’s honor,” Rubino-Turco said Tuesday, an official sign of the community’s gratitude to someone who never asked to be thanked.
“He was a community advocate without an ego,” Rubino-Turco said. “Most would want their name on a plaque,” she said, but that’s not who Glover was.
Glover’s skills included inspiring others to volunteer, and knowing when to use his political savvy, Rubino-Turco said. “He knew when to give great advice, very quietly.”
A copy of the resolution establishing the Glover Soccer Complex is provided below.
Field of Dreams, which has raised approximately $1 million since it was founded nearly 20 years ago, also added a concession area and restrooms to the Paul Glover Soccer Complex, a complex that is used by girls and boys of all ages as well as women in all of West Hartford’s soccer leagues.
In 2004 and 2005, my husband, Ted, had the honor of coaching in the girls Junior Division (fifth and sixth grade) alongside “Coach Paul.” One day the regular goalie was unavailable and he put my daughter in goal. She liked it and turned out to be fairly good at it, and that was the position she played through freshman year at Conard High School. Whenever Katie or I saw Paul after that, as recently as a few months ago, he’d always ask how his “favorite goalie” was doing. I’m sure he coached scores of goalies over the years, but he never forgot and always made us feel special.
“He’s going to be missed,” Espinal said.
“He was a great role model, mentor, a friend,” said Espinal. “He was someone who set the bar very high.”
Glover touched hundreds of lives, Rubino-Turco said. “Good coaches have a knack of instilling confidence in their players. He had the knack of instilling confidence in our volunteers. ‘No’ wasn’t in his vocabulary.”
Glover was also a member of West Hartford’s Veterans Affairs Commission. His wife, Sylvia, died in 2010.
“He served his community, his state, and his country with honor,” Rubino-Turco said.
Calling hours are scheduled for Friday, March 16, from 1-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. at the Sheehan-Hilborn-Breen Funeral Home, 1084 New Britain Ave., West Hartford. The funeral will be held on Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m., at Sheehan-Hilborn-Breen. Glover, a Korean War veteran of the U.S. Air Corps, will be buried with military honors in Fairview Cemetery.
Memorial contributions can be made to the West Hartford Girls Soccer League, P.O. Box 270698, West Hartford, CT 06127.
Espinal said there will likely be two sessions of calling hours on Friday afternoon and evening, and a funeral service on Saturday. Check back for updates.
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