NORTH ADAMS -- In 1931, a young, innocent North Adams boy wanted to see the Drury-Adams football game. So he told his mother he was going to the game and left with a friend. It wasn't until after he had fled on foot that his mother learned the game was at Renfrew Field in Adams -- more than five miles away.
Eighty-one years later, on his 90th birthday, Gene Wein, who was 9-and-a-half-years-old at the time, rattled off the score without hesitation. His beloved Blue Devils won 32-6.
That was just the beginning of what would become his life and why he has been dubbed Drury's No. 1 fan for decades. He never missed a football or basketball game while in high school in the 30s and missed only a handful of games over the next 60 years. Forgive him, he was serving in World War II for three years.
"Ever since I got out of the Army in 1946, I started going to Drury games," he said in his home on Tuesday afternoon.
For 60-plus years it was assumed Wein would be sitting front row at mid-court because he was always there. The first game he missed after the war was on his 69th birthday. He had a heart attack and the doctor wouldn't let him go. Instead, he asked his daughter, Paulette, to go to the game, take notes and report back to him.
He grew to be apart of the teams, year in and year out. When they lost, he lost.
"When you lost, it was tough," he said. "It took a few days to get over it."
But no matter how hard the loss hit him, he never let it impact his comments to players after the game. That's what coaches John Franzoni and Jack Racette remember about Wein from their days on the court in the early 80s and every game since then.
"He's been there for so long, after the game he was always cordial, win or lose," Racette said. "He always had good things to say about the kids.
"It was just always nice to hear because sometimes you get caught up in that ‘you got beat,' and there's always an excuse for it. He just kept it really positive."
While he attends any and all Drury sporting events, he made his mark with the basketball teams, sitting court-side for each one. That led to an honor that will carry on long after he can no longer see them in person. In the mid-1990s, then-mayor John Barrett III created and named a basketball tournament for both genders after Wein.
"Nobody who's played in sports in the last 70 years at Drury High School doesn't know who Gene Wein is," Barrett said. "He was synonymous with athletics at Drury High School, and what better way to recognize him than by naming a tournament after him?"
This past December, at 89 years old, Wein was again court-side for the tournament and then front and center to award the trophy. On Tuesday night, the girls' varsity team presented him with a birthday cake as they always do. This one had a little extra with it, as the Blue Devils rallied for a 47-45 come-from-behind victory over North Division rival Wahconah.
The basketball teams are no strangers when it comes to showing their appreciation for all he has done.
For decades, Wein served as master of ceremonies at each end-of-the-year banquet, only recently stepping down because his voice had weakened too much. Perhaps that's why athletes who are 70-plus years younger than he is still seek him out during basketball games, shake his hand and offer their gratitude or a happy birthday, as boys' basketball players Jake Tietgens and Nolan Bird did during Tuesday's girls' game.
"He means everything. As a player, I like playing for the support," Tietgens said. "He's just such a great guy. He's dedicated to every game, and we love him."
Being around Drury basketball for as long as he has, Wein has seen generations come through the program. In the 1960s, he befriended coach Eddie Lamarre and because he was already attending the away games, Lamarre's kids would pile into Wein's car for the trip. Wein watched Eddie's son's Pete and Dave play, and now watches Pete's daughter Morgan, who was one of two Blue Devils to present him with a birthday cake after their win Tuesday night.
"He was friends with my dad, and now he watches his granddaughter play," Peter said. "It's a tribute to his longevity and a his dedication to the program.
"I guess that gives you an idea of how long he's been in the program."
Seeing Wein courtside has a bigger impact on Morgan.
"My grandpa never got to see me play," she said. "So its kind of like just being there is like my grandpa's eyes are watching."
If there's one prevailing theme about Wein, it's this: He has always been there and will do what ever it takes to keep coming.