On a desk in an office within the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard sits an old baseball glove.
It’s been there for years, and it often is a conversation piece. People visiting Jeff Letterii’s office will inquire about its significance and he’ll explain that it is a Rawlings Roberto Clemente model glove, given to him when he first began playing baseball as a kid.
The chat can sometimes drift into his affinity for Clemente, and the legacy he left as a baseball legend and philanthropist.
The next time Letterii looks at that glove, though, his first thought probably will be of the person who gave it to him — another man who was known for his connection to baseball and generosity.
“I’m proud as hell of him,” Jeff Letterii said of his father, Dominic Letterii, a longtime Dutchess County youth baseball coach and administrator. “When I hear all the wonderful things people say about him, and how he impacted lives, it makes me so proud.”
Dominic Letterii, a beloved figure and a fixture for more than half a century in local baseball, died on Saturday at age 93.
The Poughkeepsie native fractured his hip in a fall last month and his health quickly deteriorated, his son said. Dominic Letterii died with his wife of 67 years, Marie, by his side. He is survived by his seven children and their spouses, along with several grand and great-grandchildren.
A burial mass was held Wednesday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Poughkeepsie, and he was entombed at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.
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“Dom is one of the more legendary figures in local youth sports,” said Brian Laffin, a Poughkeepsie native who now coaches basketball at Millbrook High School. “He ran a sporting goods store and sponsored a lot of teams in the City of Poughkeepsie over the years. He would make sure kids who were in need of equipment would get it. He was very charitable, and I think that’s what people will most remember.”
Dominic Letterii, nicknamed “Major,” worked for 38 years at IBM and ran Letterii Sporting Goods for 25 years. But his labor of love was Little League Baseball, where he served as a volunteer for more than 50 years.
After coaching, he became the City of Poughkeepsie Little League president and then spent more than 40 years as district administrator for District 17, which includes Wappingers, Poughkeepsie and Fishkill. That lengthy and distinguished career earned him induction into the Dutchess County Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.
What made him beloved, though, was his willingness to share — be it his time, money or an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. There also was a pleasant disposition, which left a lasting impression on those who knew him.
Laffin’s father was friends with Letterii, and they often ran into “Major” at Spratt Park. Later, he and Laffin would cross paths often at Poughkeepsie High School, where Laffin coached basketball and Letterii served as manager for the baseball team. There also were run-ins at the Italian Center in Poughkeepsie.
Whenever they interacted, Laffin said, the elder offered kind words.
“He was a man of integrity, good humor and good will,” Jeff Letterii said. “Family was always first for him, but he cared about people in the community and was passionate about teaching kids. That’s why he was so dedicated to youth sports.”
Jeff, 56, has lived in Hawaii since 2000, working with the Department of Defense in Pearl Harbor. But he and his six siblings speak often to friends around their hometown, and they’ve heard plenty about their dad.
“Everybody I speak to tells me what a great person he was and what he did for the community or for them personally,” Jeff Letterii said. “It makes you feel good, knowing he did a lot of good and a lot of people cared for him.”
Dominic, when health permitted, traveled each year to Hawaii to visit Jeff, his wife and their children.
The two last spoke in early November, before the injury. The conversation was like many others they’ve had following the World Series each year: “What the Yankees need and who they should go after in the offseason.”
“Major” was a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees and he grew up idolizing Lou Gehrig, who starred during his childhood in the 1930s. Being left-handed, he admired the power-hitting lefty.
“When I think about it, Gehrig had the reputation of being reliable, just doing the job well and consistently,” Jeff said. “He didn’t seek attention or accolades, just did it out of duty. I saw that in my dad.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Longtime baseball coach and administrator Letterii remembered fondly