- April 18, 2018
The West Orange High School community is mourning the loss of a beloved school icon in the passing of former Athletic Director John Boston.
Early morning Friday, Feb. 21, the news broke that Boston — who had been battling prostate cancer — had died at the age of 72. For those close to him, it felt like Boston should have had little more time, but they still appreciate the memory of a man who had a positive influence on the community.
“First of all, he was very caring and would do anything for any of his students that he had as a coach — he would take them on college visits, or just anything he could do to help them be better with their lives,” said Cheryl Boston, John’s wife. “He was a true Warrior as far as West Orange High School went — anything for the school, he did.”
If there was one person who really represented his school well, it was John Boston, Cheryl Boston said.
John Boston first arrived to West Orange High School in 1985 and taught math, served as the head boys cross-country coach and as an assistant on the boys basketball team. It was that year when John Boston and former longtime coach Bill Chambers first met — the two became best friends almost instantly.
“We were in pre-planning (and) just kind of hit it off, because we’re both from Ohio — I was from Toledo and he was from Lorain,” Chambers said. “We had our problems, because I’m a Michigan fan and he was a big Ohio State fan.”
Not only was John Boston a huge fan of The Ohio State — John Boston would always emphasize the “The” in conversations — but he also was a passionate fan of the game of basketball. He played basketball — as well as baseball and football — at Avon High School before playing the sport at Malone College (now Malone University) in Canton, Ohio.
After graduating and being drafted into the Army, John Boston began his career in coaching at a few schools throughout his home state before making his way down to Florida where he found the opening at West Orange.
A few years following his arrival, John Boston took over as the head coach of the boys basketball team where he coached his son, Chris, for three years before being handed the title of athletic director in 1993. The change of position didn’t come easy, as John Boston was wanting to coach his son for his final season at the school.
“One of his biggest joys was coaching his son,” Cheryl Boston said. “When it came time for him to become the athletic director, Chris told him, ‘I’ll be fine, just go ahead and do it’ — he was sort of torn as to whether he wanted to step down from coaching to become the athletic director.”
John Boston was inducted into the Metro Conference Hall of Fame in 1999 before retiring in 2013. The stories and memories throughout the years still play through the minds of the people who knew him best — including Phyllis Brown Boston.
Though she isn’t related to the Bostons, Phyllis Brown Boston has long seen John Boston as a best friend and confidant, and it actually was John Boston who hired her onboard in 1997 to serve partly as a cheer coach. John Boston was a mentor who taught her everything she knew about sports, she said.
She no longer coaches, Phyllis Brown Boston still works at the school, where she serves a multipurpose role — mentoring students and assisting the principal.
“First of all, he was very caring and would do anything for any of his students that he had as a coach — he would take them on college visits, or just anything he could do to help them be better with their lives. He was a true Warrior as far as West Orange High School went — anything for the school, he did.”
— Cheryl Boston, John’s wife.
“He’s the biggest-, kindest-hearted person,” Phyllis Brown Boston said. “If you asked him for a favor, if it was within his means, that man was going to make sure it happened for you — and that’s students as well as adults. He was the genuine deal … he was all about the kids and trying to make them successful — he spent so many hours here, and it was unbelievable.”
The hours that John Boston dedicated to the school — which included some days that started at 6 a.m. and didn’t end until 11:30 p.m. — were a testament to his love for those around him.
And his reach went beyond athletics, too, as John Boston was a big proponent of the agriculture program at the school. Throughout his adult life, John Boston had a love for his cattle and horses and shared a ranch with Rick Stotler — another Ohio native — who served as an ag teacher at the school from 1980 to 2006.
“He really got me more involved with the cattle end of it, and we kind of owe the whole animal program to the fact that he got me interested in cattle,” Stotler said. “He was always working with us and was involved with the ag kids — anything they needed or we needed, he would (help with).”
And there’s another — non-official — movement of remembering the late John Boston: Many in the community wish to have the school rename the gym on the West Orange campus after John Boston, Stotler said. It would be a fitting tribute to a man who loved his school and basketball.
“He would love that, if that could happen,” Cheryl Boston said. “I know my son and I would be so proud of that. I know he touched a lot of lives — there’s no words that describe the feeling you get when you see what people really think about him.”