The acknowledgement of this year’s Old-Timers’ Special Award is long overdue. Wilbur “Web” Wanamaker has had a huge impact on his school, community, and country. Web entered Nyack High School in the fall of 1938 after making his mark at the Upper Nyack Elementary School both in athletics and academics. As a freshman, Web earned a varsity letter on Nyack’s championship swimming team and a certificate of award for baseball. It was in his sophomore year that Web began to shine on the athletic fields; he lettered in football, baseball, and in swimming. Web’s junior year brought him countywide recognition, as he was selected honorable mention All-County in baseball, second-team All-County as halfback on the football team, and again lettering in swimming.
In the fall of 1941, while the country was approaching war, Web entered his senior year. His leadership qualities were widely recognized by his classmates as Web was elected senior class president as well as co-captain of the football and swimming teams. As a member of the Hi-Y Club, Web volunteered at the YMCA and helped organize the “Y” dances, water carnivals, and exhibitions of sports and games at the Annual “Y” Jamboree. On the athletic fields Web was selected first-team All-County in football and baseball, while receiving his fourth varsity letter in swimming. Web led the Nyack baseball team in batting with a .316 average while batting in the cleanup position of fourth. On the gridiron, not only was Web a high- scoring halfback, but also the team’s punter and kick returner. Web Wanamaker still holds the Rockland County swimming record in the no-longer-contested 40-yard freestyle with a time of 21 seconds. In his spare time, Web managed to letter in track and deliver the commencement speech at graduation. An excerpt from that 1942 commencement speech by Web appeared in The Journal News: “This American generation of high school graduates is the most favored of the world’s young people, not having been raised in hatred, bigotry, and restraint.”
After a stellar high school career in which Web touched all aspects of the high school community, he turned down a football scholarship to Alfred University to serve his country during World War II. While waiting to turn 18 years old and serve our nation as a member of “The Greatest Generation,” Web returned to Nyack in the fall as a post-graduate and lettered in football for the fourth consecutive year, and served as their co-captain for the second year in a row. In January of 1943 Web enlisted in the Army Air Corps and proudly served his country until 1946. He was a Private First Class of the 322nd Bomb Group of the 449th Squadron in the European theater of operations His dream was to become a pilot, but that was never realized due to an old shoulder injury incurred while playing football.
After the war, Web continued to serve his country as an active life member of the American Legion Post 310, and a member of
the Empire Hook and Ladder Fire Company, serving as its treasurer for 45 years. Never content to settle for less, Web
earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and two master’s degrees for Columbia University, taking classes at night and working full time as a policeman, teacher, lifeguard and counselor by day to support his growing family.
In 1956 Wilbur “Web” Wanamaker was hired to be a teacher and coach at the Haverstraw-Stony Point (later North Rockland) High School and worked there until he retired in 1981. According to Hall of Famer and former North Rockland Athletic Director Ralph Cordisco, “He was a wonderful coach who was very well liked by his players and students. He was very conscientious about his work in teaching and coaching football, wrestling, and tennis. In fact he coached the most successful boys’ tennis team in our school’s history, which finished second in the RCPSAL League in 1960. Wilbur Wanamaker was as good of a coach as I’ve ever had because of his athletic and academic background.”
Upon returning home from World War II, Web met the love of his life, Beatrice VanOstrand. Together they raised five children: Wilbur Jr., Donald, Edward, Nancy, and Thomas who all became excellent students and athletes. He encouraged his children to participate in a variety of YMCA activities, including swimming, which he and his wife Bea taught. Web was a certified Senior Life Saver, and, as well as his own children, he taught many children in the community to swim. Wilbur wanted children to have the same benefits that he and his own children had growing up in Nyack, so he joined the Board of Directors to help promote the YMCA. Even after retiring from teaching in 1981, Web stayed active serving as the Upper Nyack Village Clerk and continued serving as Deacon for The First Reformed Church of Nyack. Chuck Maze, the President/CEO of the Rockland County YMCA, describes Wilbur “Web” Wanamaker in the following way: “Not only was he an accomplished all-around athlete, but he was the kind of inspiring leader who brought out the best in his teammates and children that he taught to swim at the YMCA. Wilbur Wanamaker led by his example and was dedicated to helping all people develop physically, mentally and spiritually.”