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Joseph Holland Lifetime Achievement Award

If you have attended a scholastic track & field, swimming, volleyball or girls’ basketball contest in Rockland County in the past 25 years, chances are you saw Margaret “Babs” Stead in action officiating at one or more of those competitions. You see, Babs doesn’t have an offseason as an official. In the fall, it’s volleyball and girls’ swimming. In the winter, it’s indoor track, boys’ swimming and, until recently, girls’ basketball. In the spring, it’s outdoor track. Her longevity is mighty impressive: 45 years and counting in both track (boys and girls, winter and spring) and swimming, 29 years and still going in volleyball, and a 25-year tenure as basketball referee. Add it all up and the credentials are impeccable – good enough, in fact, to earn her the Joseph Holland Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame. Babs is the 11th recipient of the award since its inception in 2003, and the first female to be so honored. The award is named after Hall of Fame founder Joe Holland.

Trusted Arbiter of Multiple Sports

Babs played basketball in CYO as a youth and at Aquinas High School in the Bronx, and was a natural to continue her association with the sport as a referee. She officiated high school and college games in New York City with many male and female referees. One of those officials, Meg Feerick, had moved to Rockland County, as had Babs and her husband, Guy Stead. Meg suggested that Babs and Guy join her as a track & field official in Rockland, and that is how they got started in that sport in the mid-1970s. Around the same time, Ned and Lila McEwan, longtime track and swimming officials in Rockland, recruited Babs and Guy to try their hand at officiating swimming. “I knew nothing about swimming,” Babs said, “but I learned pretty quickly. We paid the most attention to safety, because accidents can happen in swimming.”

When the Steads’ daughter, Peggy, decided to play volleyball for North Rockland, Babs and Guy added that sport to their officiating repertoire. “I love that game,” Babs said. “It’s very strategic, a thinking-man’s game. It’s the hardest sport to officiate. You make thousands of decisions in a regular volleyball match. You can’t relax for a moment.”

Taking A Lead Role

Babs has assumed leadership positions in multiple sports. In volleyball, she is serving her 12th year as president of the Rockland County chapter, and has worked the state tournament. She and Guy were honored in 2015 as inductees into the Section 1 Volleyball Hall of Fame. In swimming, Babs is in her 11th year as president of the Rockland County officials association. She has also coached CYO girls’ basketball in the Bronx and at St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Garnerville.

Babs also officiates at club volleyball tournaments year round. She fondly recalls daughter Peggy’s years of participation in high school volleyball, with trips to the New York State finals under Coach Mike Carroll, and travel with her club team to the Junior Olympics and other competitions in such places as Austin, Texas, Albuquerque, N.M., and New Orleans. Virtually all of the North Rockland players on Peggy’s teams received scholarships to play in college, including Peggy’s scholarship to LIU-C.W. Post. Peggy is now an English teacher at North Rockland High School.

Once A Teacher, Always A Teacher

Babs retired in 2010 after a 34-year teaching career at St. Gregory’s. She was eighth-grade homeroom teacher and taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade social studies. “It was the saddest day when I had to retire from St. Greg’s,” she said. “I loved the kids I taught; it was a lot of fun.” Although she no longer teaches, she still applies a teacher’s perspective to the athletic competitions she judges, citing the “tremendous sportsmanship” and striving for success that the athletes demonstrate. “We should celebrate that effort,” she said.

Babs has earned three post-secondary degrees: an associate’s degree from Rockland Community College, a bachelor’s degree in social science from St. Thomas Aquinas College, and a master’s degree in social science from William Paterson College. She is a few credits shy of a second master’s, in Spanish, having taken courses at RCC and STAC.

Keep On Keeping On

Although she is a lifelong asthmatic, Babs has not allowed her diminished lung function to stop her from pursuing the activities she loves. At age 82 – she’ll turn 83 next month –   she continues to proudly serve the youth of Rockland County. “I’m amazed that I’m still reffing as much as I am,” she said. “It’s still a lot of fun. It keeps you sharp.”

Aside, from the volleyball hall of fame honor, Babs and Guy were bestowed with the Dick Teetsel Memorial Award in 2003 for their meritorious service to Rockland County track, and they both received the 25-Year Service Award from the prestigious Loucks Games track & field meet in White Plains.

Babs recently moved to Sloatsburg after having lived in Hillburn for almost 17 years and Garnerville for 31 years. Besides daughter Peggy, 45, Babs has a son, Frank, 55, in North Carolina; a stepson, Guy, 54, in Chester, N.Y.; and a stepdaughter, Leah, 50, in Tennessee. Peggy has a daughter, Julia, 13, while Frank has a son, James, 20, and Leah has two sons, Blake, 23, and Garrison, 20.

As noted, Guy Stead officiated alongside Babs in track, swimming and volleyball, and also refereed basketball, primarily girls and CYO. Guy, a retired lieutenant with the Ramapo Police Department, passed away in 2015.