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When people talk about Fort Lupton High School Bluedevils basketball there is one name that comes to mind, Joseph Lee Amato.
For 47 years he was a coach, mentor, role-mode, and father figure for …
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For 47 years he was a coach, mentor, role-mode, and father figure for middle- and high-school students in Fort Lupton until he and his wife, Sandra Jean Amato, passed in May.
That is why members of the community, including former players and families, gathered at the high-school gymnasium in a foundation game in honor of Coach Amato against Erie High School Jan. 3.“Like I told the boys. I know it feels bad when you take a loss playing a basketball game, but this was not about a basketball game,” said Jim Roedel, Fort Lupton High School boys basketball head coach, who played under Coach Amato and coached with him for 14 years. “This was about honoring a legacy of a man that dedicated his life to Bluedevil basketball and this community.” The evening of remembrance started with the JV squads for Erie and Fort Lupton playing a fast-paced game in which the Tigers were always on top and didn’t look back. Following that game, Roedel led an emotional ceremony where he talked about Amato’s legacy on and off the court. He called former players onto the court and retired the No. 45 jersey in Amato's honor; that was the number he wore in his playing years. His jersey, the only one in Fort Lupton High School history that has been retired, was presented to the family. “I was not expecting that, I didn’t know what they were going to do. Hearing that they were going to retire his jersey is special because obviously there are none that are retired from Fort Lupton. Them doing that, I feel, was a really kind gesture and special,” mentioned Brian Shaw, Amato's nephew, a former player and four-time World’s Strongest Man. “It’s incredible. I believe that there is two from the looks of it. Looks like the white is staying with the home team and the blue is going to be with family,” said an emotional Julie Emeterio, Amato's niece. "He was the most giving, loving human being that I have ever been impacted by, and to know that he meant that for more than just me and to see the school dedicating that memory to live on well past any of us is incredibly moving and touching.” During the game, Amato was honored in multiple ways. The Bluedevils wore a basketball patch on the upper left-hand side of their uniforms with the name ‘Amato’ stitched onto it. His name was also written on the court in front of an empty seat with a clipboard on it, the seat that Amato occupied for 47 years. “For an entire year he let me just be who I was as a coach. Here is a guy who has 40 years of experience sitting on the sideline with me right?, and just letting me live through my mistakes. So he is there to mentor me as a young coach even after he mentored me as a player. That was just the type of person he was,” said Roedel. In his 47-year coaching career, Amato had an overall winning record of 629 wins and 513 losses. His legacy was remembered through basketball Jan. 3, but for the people he impacted the most, his legacy was more than just basketball. They are lessons that were learned on and off the court that will live on for many years to come. “Every person that left this program in my 14 years if you asked them who their favorite coach was, it wasn’t me and it never would be and I understood that," Roedel said. "It was going to be Amato. It was just because he related to kids and taught them things about life that was unbelievable."“He kind of, in a lot of ways, was like a second father figure to me. And that was a great relationship to have. His work ethic and the way that he approached life was infectious, and it spread to so many people and it spread to me for sure. I took the lessons I learned from him and things more so that I saw him do than I heard him say. The way that he approached his life, I took from that. His work ethic, I tried to carry that on in my own life,” said Shaw.
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