CLARK, NJ – The Clark community is mourning former longtime Arthur L. Johnson High School Athletic Director Lou Peragallo, who died earlier this month at age 92.
“Mr. Peragallo was an unbelievable man,” current Athletic Director Gus Kalikas told TAPinto Clark. “Mr. Peragallo was the AD when I was a student here as well. He was the best.”
Peragallo began his long career at ALJ in 1956 and became the school’s athletic director in 1960. He served as AD for 32 years until his retirement in 1992.
Shortly after Peragallo retired, the gymnasium at ALJ was renamed in his honor. Kalikas described the naming ceremony, which took place in the 1992-1993 basketball season.
“It was at halftime of a game against St. Patrick’s,” Kalikas said, “Kevin Boyle was the coach at St. Pats and he was okay with the fact that we had an extra-long halftime. He was also winning by about 40 points. The cheerleaders did a special cheer for Mr. Peragallo as a part of the ceremony.”
Kalikas said Peragallo’s impact on the district remained strong even after he stepped down.
“Even when I returned to the district as a coach first and then as an AD, he would call me to either congratulate the Crusaders on a big win or talk me off the ledge after a tough loss,” Kalikas said. “My first year as head football coach we lost a bunch of games by a touchdown or less...he would always call me to tell me to stay the course and that we were doing the right things...he knew what to say and more importantly, exactly when to say it.”
Peragallo’s legacy, Kalikas said, will live on in the district for years to come.
“Regardless of what I do as Athletic Director for the remainder of my career, Mr. Peragallo will always be the greatest Athletic Director the school has ever had,” he said. “He personifies the statement ‘Bleeds Crusader Blue’ and as good of an administrator as he was, he was a better person. It was a sad day in Crusader Nation when he passed.”
Board of Education member Henry Varriano offered his remembrances of Peragallo during a recent board meeting.
“Lou was truly a class-act,” Varriano said. “His students and colleagues, many came back to speak to him over the years. He was the first faculty member inducted into the ALJ Hall of Fame. And I believe he’ll truly be missed.”
“I don’t think there’s any teachers here anymore that would have known him, but many people in town, of course, will remember him,” he added.
In his comments, Varriano mentioned a side-street near ALJ that is named Peragallo way. Varriano said Peragallo’s son referred to this at Peragallo’s funeral.
“His son said, the only thing that was missing from the name of the street was the word ‘The.’ Because ‘The Peragallo Way’ was to be a kind and compassionate human being, as well as a teacher and coach. And everybody that had any contact with him, I believe, truly admired him.”
Peragallo’s legacy will also live on through a new scholarship.
“The family is going to start a scholarship in his name,” Kalikas said. He said checks can be made out to ALJ Booster Club. Those interested in donating to the scholarship fund can send checks to Arthur L. Johnson High School, ATTN: Gus Kalikas, 365 Westfield Avenue, Clark, NJ 07066.