From the Bench: Joan Nicewarner, Her Wayne Jamison Verbal Exchanges and Smiles Left Behind

By Jeff Toquinto on September 17, 2017 from Sports Blog via

I think I’ve said it before that there’s not much better than to be privileged to sit in the booth with Travis Jones during all Bridgeport High School football games. Working while listening to Jones work his magic on the microphone is something I wouldn’t trade right now for anything.
The use of “right now” isn’t accidental.
For a few years, early in the Connect-Bridgeport phase of my career, I wouldn’t always squeeze into the corner to do my game-day duties. Often, I would check the front room to see who was in attendance and if there were two certain individuals there, then I would often pack my belongings and head to the much more crowded, much noisier first room of the press box for home games.
One of the spectators was there almost every week the first couple of years that I worked at Connect and it is the person the field is named after – Wayne Jamison. Anyone that has been in the box over the last 20 years knew there was a good chance of running into Jamison and he still carried the mystique about him for those that didn’t now “Wayne” Jamison as opposed to “Coach” Jamison.
The other spectator in question knew him as Wayne. Mainly, however, she knew him as her neighbor for many years. And Wayne referred to her – out of earshot and with a smile on his face when he said it – as “his buddy.”
The “buddy” was Marna Nicewarner. Her real name was Elizabeth Joan Nicewarner and she was the wife of the late Sonny Nicewarner, a long-time educator and coach in Bridgeport, and the mother of BHS grads Phil and Scott Nicewarner and matriarch to the entire clan.
I bring this up this week because Joan Nicewarner passed away a week ago from yesterday. She was 88 years old.
For those that didn’t know this woman, wow, they missed something special. I only knew her for a few years and in those years I can’t ever tell you an encounter that didn’t have me walking away from a football game at Jamison Field with a smile on my face or laughter coming out of my mouth.
A big reason for it was her interaction with Coach Jamison.
Getting those two together in the press box wasn’t just a gathering of old friends. It was comedy and first-rate level comedy at that. Even better, she was also perfectly fine as a one-person comedy show shouting “no, no, no, no” to the top of her lungs  as her voice reverberated off the wooden walls regardless of who was no matter the score, no matter the situation if someone other than Bridgeport had the ball.
Whatever was on her mind came immediately out of her mouth. Usually, it resulted in the entire press box area she was in chuckling.
Her obituary clearly stated that she was “the loudest supporter” for any of the sports her family members were involved in. I would testify to that in a court of law any day.
Back in 2012 I wrote of my “Fridays with Marna” and how she earned that special seat in the press box. It all started back in 1953 when she married Phil, known by one and all as Sonny and the two were together for 46 years; much of that time as a coach and administrator that was heavily involved with athletics in the community. He passed away in 1999.
Oddly, Phil told me years ago that his mother didn’t usually go to those games when her husband was involved.
“I don’t think she went to too many games because she didn’t like the talk in the stands. She just didn’t like that kind of stuff,” Phil Nicewarner told me several years ago. “When my brother (Scott) and I got involved, she didn’t miss a game. When my kids got involved, again, she never missed a game.”
Phil confided something else to me that most already knew. Five years ago, he said Marna never got over the passing of Sonny.
“She depended on him a lot and they did everything together and then he’s not there. She just didn’t know what to do,” Phil said.
Five years ago, at 83, she was at – and I may have this wrong – the time frame where she was making her last regular appearances in the press box. She was already limiting her appearances to games at BHS at that time. The issue was the stairs, although she always showed up at a handful of games in recent years; sitting in the audience (usually with her friend Kathy Amodio). Whenever I saw her, I immediately thought of what she provided when she and Wayne Jamison – who also is not at the home games anymore – were together in that front room of the press box.
If you didn’t like football, the show put on was worth the price of admission.
“They go back a long, long way. It hasn’t been just with football … Wayne lived behind us. Our backyards touched. They’ve known each other for such a long time,” Phil said in 2012. “Wayne thought so much of my dad that after he passed Wayne has helped watch over her to a degree. He’s made sure she was okay.”
It should be noted as touching as that is, that it paled in comparison to watching Marna Nicewarner go on the attack with Jamison and him return serve every single game that both attended. In fact, she was the only person I knew that occasionally left the coach speechless.
It was good stuff. I’m pretty sure it was simply a reflection of two very good friends.
“You have to understand to my mother he’s not the legendary Wayne Jamison. He’s Wayne from the backyard and she’s just never been intimidated by his accomplishments or felt honored to be in his presence. That’s her neighbor and friend and both of them are so much alike. When they’re together, they call a spade a spade and it can sure make things interesting,” Phil said in 2012 with a nice burst of laughter.
Elizabeth Joan “Marna” Nicewarner was more than just a neighbor and a friend. I’m certain she was a good mother, grandmother and great grandmother and much more. And I’m certain those fortunate enough to be on her periphery are aware she did more than just brighten our days (which is a gift in itself).
For all she did for her family and closest of friends, it’s those laughs that I’ll always remember. It made my little corner of the world a happier place each time I was around her.
Now, she’s back with Sonny and I’m certain she’s going to let him know how she gave it to their good friend and neighbor Wayne Jamison and I’m certain she’ll tell those stories with all the love she did while here on earth. Even better, she’s now got all of eternity to speak for as loud as she wants.
Rest in peace Marna. Thanks again for the smiles.

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