Ernie Thebado, the assistant director of the Watertown Department of Recreation, recently reached the 10 year mark working for the Town, and prior to that he had another 20 years working at the Watertown Boys & Girls Club.
During his three decades in Town he made some strong and lasting connections. His career, however, did not begin in Watertown.
“It all started with the Marlborough Boys and Girls Club,” Thebado said. “It was a stone’s thrown from my home.”
Thebado and his brothers were into sports, and they spent ever afternoon at the Club when he was growing up.
“The people who worked at the Boys & Girls Club, I put them on such a pedestal,” Thebado said. “I said, if anyone could feel like I do with these guys, that would be a great job.”
When he was in college, Thebado worked as a counselor and at the front desk at the Marlborough Boys & Girls Club. After graduating he got a full time position as assistant recreation director. Four years later he followed a former colleague from Marlborough to the club in Watertown.
His time at the Watertown Boys & Girls Club was good. He met his wife, who was also working at the Club, and he moved to Belmont. They got married and had two children, Carolyn, who is now a middle schooler, and Colin, who attends elementary school.
“I knew that I wanted to stay in Watertown,” Thebado said. “It is a special place for me. I came from Marlborough, and as an outsider people have been great to me. The families and people I met have been awesome.”
At the Boys & Girls Club, Thebado worked for many years with director Allen Gallagher. After 20 years at the club, the Club’s board chipped in and paid for his family to go to Disney World.
Shortly afterward, the Town created the first assistant director position in the Recreation Department and Thebado got the job. For the first year and a half Thebado worked under Recreation Director Tom Sullivan, who was a fountain of knowledge, having grown up in Watertown and worked without an assistant for most of his time as director.
“We got the ball rolling, and when Peter (Centola) took over he put it in fifth gear and took it to another level,” Thebado said.
Recently, the Recreation Department added another full-time position, when Jim Coutoumas was hired as Recreation Supervisor. This has taken responsibility off the shoulders of the Recreation staff, but Thebado still has a busy schedule.
Recently, the winter recreation programs began, and Thebado was there to run the Little Shooters basketball program, floor hockey and the PreK Indoor Sports class.
During his time in the Department, Watertown Recreation has also added some new programs that do not revolve around team sports, such as kayaking, snowshoeing and yoga.
Thebado has been in Watertown long enough that he now gets invited to weddings of children with whom he worked when they were growing up. He even got a special honor from one of them.
When Bobby Murgo was inducted into the (Watertown High School Athletic) Hall of Fame, he invited Thebado to attend.
“He was a kid who grew up at the (Boys & Girls) Club,” Thebado said. “He blew me away. He thanked his family and then said he wanted to thank one guy who was like a father to him, and he was talking about me.”
The 30 years have flown by for Thebado, who said he did not know how much of an impact he had on children. He added, however, “I guess it makes sense, with how much I looked up to the people working at the Marlbrough Boys & Girls Club.”