Dom Quinto Jr. pored over stacks of his late father's sports photos and scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings at the kitchen table of his fiancee's house in Shelton on Thursday afternoon. The floor of an adjoining room was covered with boxes filled with video cassettes of old high school football games and team pictures. Memories of popular Masuk football coach Dom Quinto Sr. have to be packed up before his son goes back to Florida on Saturday.
On Oct. 18, Dom Quinto Sr. died at the age of 83. He leaves behind his son and daughter, Donna, two grandchildren and a legacy of bringing youth sports to Monroe.
Quinto helped to start and incorporate the Monroe Lions Pop Warner Football League in 1966 and to start up youth softball and basketball leagues in town. He was in charge of maintaining Wolfe Park and coached the Masuk Panthers to two State Championship games.
Quinto also served two stints as the town's interim Parks & Recreation director.
Throughout his coaching career and time heading the maintenance at Wolfe Park, Quinto's son was always working by his side. Dom Jr. smiled while looking at an old Christmas postcard to his father. The sender wrote, "It's about time they named something after you."
The football field at Wolfe Park is named after Dom Quinto Sr.
Two Steps at a Time
Dom Jr. held a 1957 issue of The Bridgeport Post in his hands. A photo of a baseball team on the cover included John Giampaolo, who went on to be the Masuk High School athletic director for a long run, when students called him "Mr. G." On an inside page, was a photo of Dom Sr. accepting a championship trophy on behalf of his fast-pitch softball team.
"We both grew up in Bridgeport," Giampaolo said during a telephone interview Thursday. "Dom was older than me. We both came from the same roots with hard working Italian parents."
Dom Sr. grew up on the second floor of a three-family house on Thompson Street in Bridgeport. Dom Jr. remembers a story of how his dad had to go out to refill the range oil stove one frigid winter when his father was sick.
"He was seven-years-old and he had to take two seven-gallon cans filled with range oil home," Dom Jr. said. "He took two steps and put it down. Two steps and put it down. It took him a long time, but he had to do it or he would have froze."
After that, Dom Jr. said his father did push ups and would do chin ups whenever he could find a bar to hang from to build up his strength.
"Remember how big his forearms were?" Dom Jr. asked, adding that one friend had nicknamed him Popeye.
Quinto later got into the oil burner business, first working at Michael Hoffman Fuel Company in Bridgeport for 19 years, then starting his own company as president of Quinto's Oil Burner Service.
Beware of the Lions' Den
As head coach of the Lions, Quinto led teams of seventh and eighth graders to five consecutive undefeated seasons, five league titles, and 9 division titles in 10 years, culminating with a win in the Walt Disney World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., in 1978.
To get there, Dom Jr. said the Lions first had to get past a team from Aliquippa in Beaver County, Pa. A team from a youth football conference boasting NFL legends like Joe Namath, Mike Ditka, Jim Kelly and Tony Dorsett.
Pop Warner had a weigh in to ensure no players exceeded the maximum weight, which could lead to a competitive disadvantage or to injuries of smaller kids. But Dom Jr. said the Pennsylvania coach was so confident that his team would win that he told Dom's father, "I don't even want to weigh your team."
"My dad said, 'Just appease them. Let them get on the scale,'" Dom Jr. recalled.
Then at an awards banquet the night before the game, Aliquippa gave Monroe a trophy as a friendly gesture and the coaches told Quinto Sr. to enjoy it, because they were winning the game on Sunday.
The Lions won the game 20-13.
"After the game, the Aliquippa coach said, 'I knew we were playing the Lions, but I didn't know we were going into the lions' den,'" Dom Jr. recalled with a laugh.
During the train ride to the World Bowl in Orlando, Dom Jr. said, "Everyone said, 'Have a good time, because you're never gonna beat the Florida team.'"
The final score? Monroe 43, Deland 6.
Boots Made for Walking ... and Walking
When Quinto and his late wife Phyllis raised their two children, Dom Jr. remembers how far his father was willing to go to make them happy.
"On my sister's birthday in February there was a bad snowstorm and she wanted a pair of white go-go boots because of Nancy Sinatra's song 'These Boots Were Made for Walkin','" Dom Jr. said.
Dom Sr. drove his family to the Trumbull Mall, but they didn't have his daughter's size, then to two more stores in Bridgeport with the same result. He braved the snow to Stratford, then to a store in Fairfield ...
"By nighttime she had her boots from a store in Westport," Dom Jr. said with a grin. "He would do anything for us."
'Quite a Good Run'
The success of Dom Quinto Sr.'s Pop Warner teams led to his being chosen to coach at Joe Namath Football Camp in 1979. Then he was an assistant football coach at Masuk for five years.
In his first year as head coach at Masuk, Quinto inherited a 1-9 team. Under his leadership the Panthers got hot, winning 9 games in a row to finish 9-1 in his first season.
In Quinto's seven years as head coach, Masuk had 49 wins, 18 losses and 3 ties.
The Panthers made it all the way to the State Championship Game in 1985, losing to Hillhouse 16-6. Masuk made it back the next season before being throttled by East Catholic 43-3.
"They had quite a good run," Giampaolo recalled. "We worked many years together and we got along. We were close friends and Dom Jr. did a good job too. He was right by his side all the time. We worked together like a big happy family. We all worked together for the good of the kids."
Dom Jr. was an assistant coach at Masuk. He said his father always told him, "It's most gratifying to further a student athlete's education through football."
"He helped kids get scholarships," Dom Jr. said. "One kid flunked off the team for a season and dad helped him to get a scholarship — and he's a school teacher now."
Giampaolo remembers Dom Sr. as a good family man with a good sense of humor, but said he was "strictly business" when it came to coaching.
"He wanted to get the most out of his kids' abilities, for them to follow the rules, to have a good program with good academics and for his players to be good citizens off the field," Giampaolo said. "He ran a tight ship, but the kids knew he wanted to get the most out of them and that he cared about them."
During Quinto's funeral, five of the six pallbearers were former football players of his, including Darren Toth, Greg Gagner, Kris Luk, John Lawson and Mark Christo.
"He loved all sports," Dom Jr. said of his father. "But football was his main sport. He loved football. He was a Giants fan."
As an employee of Hoffman Fuel, it was Dom Quinto Sr. who started up the company's fast-pitch softball team and served as player/manager and the pitcher. One season, he tore cartilage in his knee and had to miss six weeks of work. There was no sick pay back then, so Dom Jr. said the city of Bridgeport held a benefit dinner in his father's honor to get him through a hard financial time.
Dom Jr. has the front page newspaper article about the benefit dinner.
"He never bragged," he said of his father. "He didn't show me that article until I was 30-years-old and I was seven when it happened.
"He was a positive influence and he showed everyone if you work hard, you can accomplish anything. He was always my father first. I'm very proud of him and all the accomplishments he had. He instilled the work ethic and values that I have."