Jamestown To Honor Memory Of ‘Team Mom’ At Strider

The Jamestown Red Raiders look to rebound tonight from their season-opening loss to West Seneca East.

Hamburg provides the opposition.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Strider Field.

Might I suggest that Red Raider rooters find their seats well before that, though, because at 6:45 the team — coaches, players and staff — will have a special ceremony at midfield to honor the memory of Cheryl DiMaio, the wife of former longtime Jamestown assistant coach Joe DiMaio.

Cheryl, 70, passed away in March. The loss to the family cannot be measured. The void for the people within the football program is difficult to quantify as well. Because if anyone personified “Raider Pride” it was Cheryl.

“She was like a maternal part of the Red Raider family,” said varsity coach Tom Langworthy earlier this week. “She was like a mom to all these Red Raiders, thousands of them over the years. They all knew her.”

It was hard not to.

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I was first introduced to Cheryl more than 40 years, and I never even played football. Instead, I met her when I was an eighth-grader in Joe’s health class at Lincoln Junior High School. I liked her then and, decades later, I came to understand why people loved her.

“She opened her home (to the players), she opened the dinner table to these guys. They were like family,” Langworthy said. “Everybody had a place at the table, no matter what. I’ve heard stories that after football practice she always set a couple extra plates out just because she knew there would be some kids coming over.”

And while Cheryl didn’t put a game plan together for Friday nights or Saturday afternoons each fall, she did offer a blueprint for players, coaches and even coaches’ wives to follow.

“Where a coach gets interaction with the players, gets exposure and attention, a coach’s wife works just as hard and gets none of that,” Langworthy said. “I feel it’s a completely selfless job and you can either embrace it or it can bother you. Thankfully, Cheryl set a standard that all coaches’ wives can look at and think, ‘My husband loves doing that and I’m going to embrace it.'”

Using Cheryl’s example, Amy Langworthy has done that, according to her husband.

“We were walking to the car (after Cheryl’s funeral) and (Amy) said, ‘We’ve got to use the opportunity as coach to open the doors to the kids and show them what our family is like. … These players are family, too.”

So, tonight, Cheryl’s adoptive football family, along with her biological family, will have the opportunity to honor her memory during the pregame ceremony at the 50-yard line. Among other things, it will draw special attention to a small patch of grass just inside the gate closest to Jefferson Middle School where Cheryl always stood to greet the team before a game. On it stands a newly planted a tree in Cheryl’s honor. A large stone sits in front of it. Affixed to it is a plaque.

The plaque reads:

Love everyone

Put your family first.

Be strong, kind, tough.

Have courage.

Be accepting.

Sacrifice yourself to others.

Bleed Red and Green.

“It’s going to be something where we can always think of Cheryl when we come in that gate,” Langworthy said. “It’s really fitting. … Her legacy will be felt by the coaches’ families for many years.”

If visitors to Strider Field would like to know exactly what that legacy means in words, might I suggest they pay particular attention to the last line engraved on that plaque, that is mounted on the stone and that is shaded by the Japanese maple.

It reads: “Be a Cheryl.”

Following those three words in the game of life will result in a figurative touchdown every time.