Francis J. Kiernan Sr., 107, Beloved Coach
Francis J. Kiernan Sr., known better as Coach or Fran — a World War II veteran and longtime East Hampton High School athletic director and championship-winning coach — died at home in Boynton Beach, Fla., on April 13. He was 107.
His 1952 football team, which won the Little Six Conference Championship, remains the only football team to have gone undefeated and untied in Bonac history, which dates back to 1923.
At a celebration in his honor at the South Fork Country Club in Amagansett in 2002, the anniversary of the ’52 championship, his former players remembered him as not only a beloved coach, but as having shaped their lives.
Coach — even his son, F.J., called him that — would open the gym at 7 every morning before school and would make sure as many people participated as possible, taking 60 players on two buses to away games and assigning different captains and co-captains each week so that everyone got a chance to lead.
“We were very lucky to have him in our lives at that time,” Fred Yardley, a running back on that championship team, told The Star in 2010, when his former coach turned 100. “You never heard him swear, you never saw him lay his hands on anyone. Yet he commanded our respect.”
He was named Suffolk County’s coach of the year in 1952.
The late editor Everett T. Rattray, who played football for Coach Kiernan, wrote in a column, “The Coach hardly ever frowned, though, even when attempting to figure out how to utilize in the same squad one of the McMahon boys, at say 220 pounds, and one of the smaller members of the Blowe family, at perhaps 90. He kept right on beaming, even when the only boy on the team capable of throwing a football over 30 or 40 feet tossed one straight to an opponent.”
Mr. Kiernan was born was on Aug. 28, 1910, in Allentown, Pa. He was a graduate of West Chester University and earned a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He taught at Sacred Heart Academy in the city’s east Liberty section before serving in World War II.
A member of the 3rd Armored Division, he took part in the invasion of Normandy. He was in the infantry that landed 14 days after D-Day.
After the war, he came to East Hampton to teach and coach football, basketball, and baseball. He also trained boys in gym classes to compete in East End track meets, though there was no track team at the time.
He lived on Meadow Way until about 10 years ago, when he moved permanently to Florida.
Asked once why he chose the eastern end of Long Island, where he knew no one, he said, “I knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Pittsburgh!”
He coached until 1960, when he became the school athletic director. He retired in 1974. He also served for a time as president of Section XI.
For over 40 years, he ran the East Hampton Boys Club summer camp, starting with 12 boys in 1947 and eventually having to cut it off at 100. They swam at Albert’s Landing, used the playground at Herrick Park for baseball and the Neighborhood House on rainy days.
He was also East Hampton’s first Little League team coach and coached Babe Ruth ball, as well as initiating summer basketball programs.
His first wife, Eleanor, died in 1976. He remarried and is survived by his wife, also named Fran. They had just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.
Also surviving is his son F.J. Kiernan of Southold, four stepchildren, Jean Rosenow of Boynton Beach, Pam Smith of Washington State, Karen Brien of San Diego, and Gregory Yohem of Boynton Beach. Two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren also survive.
A private military ceremony will be held in Florida this summer.