By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — It’s a sure bet that during his 35 years with the Division of Public Works, Kenneth Wedge never uttered the phrase, “That’s not my job.”
Wedge, who is retiring as foreman, often went above and beyond his job description, according to coaches and others involved in the town’s athletics program. Wedge’s duties included preparing the fields so athletes could play on them.
In 2002, for example, most Thanksgiving Day football games were canceled because of a snowstorm. In North Andover, however, “that cancellation didn’t happen,” Scarlet Knights coach John Rafferty said.
Wedge worked through the night clearing the snow from Walsh Stadium – because he thought it would have been a shame if the young people and the rest of the community had to miss out on the game, Rafferty said.
Last night, the selectmen honored Wedge with a certificate of appreciation. Rosemary Connelly Smedile, the chairwoman of the board and a niece of Wedge, made the presentation, which she called “near and dear to my heart.”
The town’s sports community also expressed appreciation to the man who has always “gone above and beyond to make sure the fields look wonderful,” in the words of Charles Gray, who spoke on behalf of the North Andover Boosters Club. Gray displayed a plaque that honors Wedge’s years of work and will be displayed at McEvoy Park after it gets a substantial upgrade next year.
Rafferty presented Wedge with a game jersey, inscribed with the number 35 - for the number of years of his employment. Terry Holland, representing the Fields Committee, gave Wedge a varsity letter.
“Thank you all,” said Wedge, who has the reputation of being more of a doer than a talker.
Rafferty told The Eagle-Tribune that Wedge is a guy that “people seldom see,” but he always “went out of his way” to make sure the fields were ready for action.
Holland recalled how a youth sports team expected to play on a field at the high school, but because of a scheduling conflict, was unable to do so.
No problem, Wedge said. He prepared a field on Sharpners Pond Road and the kids were able to play their game at that location, Holland said. Then there were the extra things, such as inscribing the names and numbers of the girls’ softball team on the field; or doing the same for the senior football players when they played their last game for NAHS.
“We couldn’t do it without a guy like Kenny,” Holland said.
Wedge, whose retirement will become official Jan. 27, when he turns 65, said he’s not yet sure what he’ll do in his post-DPW life. He hinted he might be up for doing volunteer work.
Last night’s tribute, he said, surprised him. He was accompanied by his wife Donna, a secretary in the Conservation Department. They are the parents of North Andover police Officer Jason Wedge.