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A New Herrick Home for Mabery Courts

Wed, 07/03/2024 - 11:25
Four generations of the Mabery family were at East Hampton Village’s Herrick Park Saturday morning as two village-built basketball courts opposite the East Hampton Middle School were dedicated in Roy Lee Mabery’s name.
Durell Godfrey

The late Roy Lee Mabery, a gifted athlete of high character who drowned 52 years ago at Little Albert’s Beach in Amagansett, was remembered reverently at East Hampton Village’s Herrick Park Saturday morning as two new village-built basketball courts were dedicated to him. 

Mabery’s untimely death at the age of 18, after having cramped up while swimming with friends, stunned East Hampton. In welcoming people to the blue and green courts’ “new home” near Newtown Lane, Village Mayor Jerry Larsen said it had been gratifying to see hundreds of adults and children playing on them. Assuredly, he said, Roy Mabery would not be forgotten.

The crowd of about 150 included four generations of the Mabery family headed by his father, Gilbert Sr. Among other family members in attendance were two of Roy Mabery’s three sisters, Debora Myrick and Joyce Mabery, a brother, John, two nieces, Jennifer Stephens and Amanda Hayes, and two 9-year-old great-nephews, Kolin Madison and Aiden Mabry-Zilg. 

William Hartwell and Ed Petrie Jr. spoke movingly of their teammate (Hartwell said he wouldn’t have played basketball at Lincoln University if his best friend hadn’t urged him to do so), as did Mark McKee. Reading from the back cover of the 1973 program that accompanied the first dedication of courts in Mabery’s name elsewhere in the park, McKee recited A.E. Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young.”

“Every day at college I would think about Roy . . . I’m thinking about him right now,” said Hartwell. During an August 2007 rededication ceremony following the refurbishment of the former courts, which had fallen into disrepair, Hartwell had asked that the youngsters who attended think of Roy, and thank him, when they played.

“It is not often that an athlete’s content of character matches their athletic ability, but that was Roy Mabery,” said Hugh King, East Hampton’s village historian. 

Reading from Mabery’s East Hampton High School Hall of Fame plaque, King said, “He was a phenomenal athlete who excelled as a varsity basketball and football player. . . . He once ran 49 yards for a touchdown and gained 112 yards on 13 carries. . . . Roy was the Lakers basketball camp’s outstanding player of the year (1972). He was proferred two college scholarships, one from Princeton University and another from Rollins College. . . . The Roy Mabery Award is given out annually by East Hampton High School to an athlete who excels in defense in basketball, who epitomizes teamwork and encourages his fellow players.”

As he blessed the courts, the Rev. Michael Jackson of Triune Baptist Church in Sag Harbor said that Roy Mabery had been and would continue to be an inspiration, that his remembrance would inspire people to be friendly and kind to one another. 

It was, he said, a dedication in which memory, love, and inspiration met. 

When he asked that Roy’s father, who was in a wheelchair, be acknowledged, there was much applause.

“He was a lightning rod for our East Hampton family’s young people,” said East Hampton Village’s former mayor, Paul Rickenbach. “Don’t think that he didn’t make a difference — he did. I can’t believe that it was 52 years ago that he made the transition. . . .”

The community, at the instance of the late Ed Petrie Sr., who had been Roy Mabery’s Biddy and high school coach, rallied to raise the money needed to build the memorial courts during the months following his death, said Scott Rubenstein, who as a youth had looked up to Mabery. “Everybody got together . . . we sold T-shirts, ads, everything we needed to do.”

The front page of the 1973 program quotes Pete Carril, the men’s basketball coach at Princeton at the time, as saying in a letter to the editor of The East Hampton Star that Roy Mabery “was the embodiment of everything that is good in the world — strong, hard-working, concerned, friendly, and honest in effort. . . . I’ll never forget him, nor can anyone who knew him. Print this if you want; what good can come out of it except what everyone already knows — that Roy was very fine and now is a memory of what was very fine.”

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