Nanuet High School
Class of 1965
Although most Rockland sports buffs would associate his name and reputation more closely with Suffern High School, make no mistake about it: Bob Veltidi is a Nanuet kid born and bred. Growing up on Englewood Avenue as the oldest of Patsy and Lillian Veltidi’s three boys, Bob – or Robbie, as he was known then – launched his athletic career as a catcher in the Nanuet Little League and progressed though the Nanuet system to become a valued pillar of the varsity football, wrestling and baseball teams.
Friendships forged in small communities like Nanuet tend to endure, and Bob, a gregarious sort, made many lasting ones. “There were about 10 guys who I spent 13 years with together, from kindergarten through 12th grade,” he says, naming football teammates Phil Carpenter, the late Jerry Leo, Ricky Cole, Gaylord Ingham and John Forni among others. “We were all very close.” He also had a pair of wrestling teammates who joined him in 2011 as Nanuet High School Sports Hall of Fame inductees – Dick Berich and the late John Hassler, who were freshmen when Bob was a senior.
Bob was a three-year, two-way starter for the football team under Coach Mike Achille, playing center and linebacker his sophomore and junior years and spearheading the defense at middle linebacker his senior year while playing tackle on offense. As a senior he led the team in tackles, was voted best defensive player and MVP by his teammates and earned Journal-News “Player of the Week” honors for making 13 solo tackles and blocking two punts in a 14-13 victory over archrival Pearl River. He also claimed All-County honors twice from The Journal-News, at tackle and center.
“Robbie was like having a second coach on the field,” Achille said. “He understood the game at an early age and had a deep insight into the sport. He made decisions on the field that were very sound. He made the most of his ability.”
In wrestling Bob got his start at Highview School as the intramural champion in fifth and sixth grades. By the time he reached high school he was already an experienced grappler and won a varsity match at 175 pounds as a freshman after being called up from the JV. He went on to a solid three-year varsity career as a heavyweight, notching two third-place finishes and one fourth in the Rockland County PSAL tournament and winning 17 of his 21 matches as a senior. He also was a two-time runner-up in the Orange County Community College tournament.
Baseball was a natural athletic outlet for Bob since his father was heavily involved in the Nanuet Little League. Patsy Veltidi served as one of the league’s first managers, coaching the Pirates to league championships three of the first four years, and skippering the league’s first All-Star team. Bob was first-string catcher for the Pirates for four straight years and played on two league title teams, including its first championship squad in 1958, and started on the league’s first All-Star team in 1960.
He continued his All-Star caliber catching with the Nanuet Babe Ruth League Cardinals, and earned two varsity letters for the Golden Knights’ baseball team. He caught on the JV level as a frosh and on the varsity as a junior but a knee injury midway through the season sidelined him and prompted a switch to first base and pitcher his senior year. In his sophomore year he exchanged his baseball cleats for track sneakers, shot-putting for rookie coach (and Englewood Avenue neighbor) Dave Hanson’s thinclads. Bob’s best mark was an impressive 49 feet 6 inches for third place at the Nyack Jaycees meet. “I was upset I wasn’t allowed to do two sports [in the same season],” says Bob, who usually got the better of assistant coach Achille in practice shot-put competitions. “I envied the fact that the track team was the County champ [in 1965] and I was on a 5-15 baseball team.”
Bob learned at an early age the importance of giving back to the Nanuet school’s athletic community. His father played integral roles in the development of the Nanuet Little League, Black & Gold Club, Jerry Leo Memorial Scholarship fund, Nanuet Alumni Association, Little Brown Jug Game and the Nanuet-Pearl River Alumni Football Game, not to mention a pivotal involvement in the chartering of Nanuet Junior-Senior High School itself.
Taking a cue from his dad, Bob devoted many hours to the young people of the Nanuet school’s community. Throughout his high school years, he served as a coach and instructor for the Saturday Morning wrestling and basketball programs for Highview and George W. Miller elementary schoolchildren. Together with teammate and classmate Tom Fay, he originated, organized and coordinated what has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition: the Nanuet-Pearl River Alumni Football Game, which initially was called the “Beer Mug” game. Bob helped steer it through the early years from 1967 through 1970 with Fay, Tom Fay Sr. and Patsy Veltidi. “I obtained school board approval, coached, played, sold tickets, advertised, and lined the fields,” says Bob, noting that the game generated scholarship funds for college-bound Nanuet football alumni for a few years.
Bob played freshman football and wrestled at SUNY Cortland before an injury short-circuited his competitive career. After stints at RCC and a second go-round at Cortland, he transferred to Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1970 with a B.S. in health and physical education. Bob then embarked on a 33-year career (1970-2003) as a phys ed teacher, coach and administrator at Suffern High School, the last five as assistant athletic director. He was Suffern’s varsity football head coach from 1985 to 1996, leading the Mounties to six bowl appearances and securing Coach of the Year honors for Section 1 League 1A in 1986. He served as offensive coordinator from 1978 to 1984, a key cog in Suffern’s County championship years of 1979 (undefeated) and 1983, and also as freshman coach from 1970 to 1977.
In wrestling Bob was varsity assistant/upper-weight class coach under head coach Bill White from 1976 to ’87, putting a heavyweight finalist in the County and Section 1 tournaments every year. The Mounties won five County and eight Sectional crowns during Bob’s 17-year tenure with the program, including the first five as freshman coach.
Bob has served in a leadership capacity for numerous local athletic organizations. He was Section 1 Football Coaches Association president from 1988 to 1997 and vice president from 1985 to ’87. He also was Rockland County Coaches Association president for four years (1999-2003) and vice president for five years (1993-98). He officiated at the County track & field championships for 17 years (1971-88) and was widely heralded as the voice of the County wrestling tournament, having served as public address announcer and meet coordinator from 1990 to 2003.
Bob is one of a select circle of individuals whose names are practically synonymous with Rockland County athletics, such is his longstanding influence in that sphere. But his sports celebrity status jumped a peg or two when he booked a three-year gig as co-host and producer of “Air It Out Live,” a local-sports talk show on TKR Cable TV from 1997 to 1999. “We had different guests each week. We gave results and predictions on the games,” he says. “I did so well [in predictions] they started calling me Jimmy the Greek.”
Among his other notable accomplishments, Bob was a founder of the Suffern High School Sports Hall of Fame and an originator, coach and coordinator of the Suffern Alumni Football Game; is a member of the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame board of directors; is a recipient of the inaugural Julie D’Agostino Award for service to the Rockland wrestling community (1999) and the Football Coaches Service Award from Section 1 (1998); and, following the lead of his late father – who was a 2005 Nanuet Hall of Famer himself in the community service category – Bob served on the Jerry Leo Memorial Scholarship committee.
In 2003 Bob retired from the Suffern School District and moved 22 miles north to Greenwood Lake to enjoy his love of fishing. While living in Greenwood Lake Bob remained active on the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame committee serving as the chairman of the Selection subcommittee and the emcee of the induction banquet. Bob’s love for Suffern sports kept bringing him back to Rockland to follow the football and wrestling teams. You could find him at every home football game and all of the wrestling matches.
In retirement Bob, who’s 71, has authored two books: “Life at the End of a Rod, a Fisherman’s Journey,” and his latest book, “The Double Digit Gang,” a story geared to adolescent boys about six friends growing up in a small town and playing sports together. In 2015 Bob and his wife of 49-plus years, Judy, also a retired teacher, moved back to Suffern to be closer to their grandchildren. Now that he is back in Suffern Bob has become a volunteer coach of the heavyweights on the wrestling team and is the Information Director for the Suffern wrestling program. He has an e-mail list of more than 400 former and current members of the Suffern wrestling family and reports all the team’s results.
Bob and Judy have two children: Sally, 40, the director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Eastchester in Westchester County, and Douglas, 38, an account executive for Sterling National Bank. Douglas is married to Kristen, a special education teacher in New York City, and they have two children: Katherine Jeanne, 4, and Patrick Joseph, 1. Bob still enjoys fishing and Suffern sports but the two best days of the week are Monday and Wednesday when he and Judy get to care for Katherine and Patrick all day.
With this induction Bob has hit the “trifecta” – the Nanuet Sports Hall of Fame, the Suffern Sports Hall of Fame, and now the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame. He joins his uncle, Vic Veltidi, who was enshrined in the Rockland Hall of Fame in 2012.
Congratulations Bob “Robbie” Veltidi on your well-deserved induction into the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame!