Warriors Football Club’s ‘Chief’ retires after 63 years of service

Jerry Demers (center) along with Joe DeSimone (r) and Dennis Kandell.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

A local legend known to all as ‘The Chief’ of the Warriors Football Club is stepping down after 63 years of service.

Jerome Demers, 76, has announced his retirement as head coach for the Warriors, a team he established back in his native Manhattan in 1952.

He explained that back then various blocks throughout the city formed their own street football teams and all, including the Warriors, traveled to Central Park to play.

In 1957, Demers moved to Pelham Bay and in the following year had the Warriors join the Bronx Umpires Association.

Having served 35 years as director of Parks and Recreation, Demers brought this expertise with him to run the Warrior Football Club.

Demers’ community youth based services are also best illustrated in his establishment of the very first skate park in Mullaly Park which is still in operation.

The Warriors Football Club promotes a safe and enjoyable character enriching sports program for boys and girls between five and 13-years of age. Winning is de-emphasized.

As the decades progressed, the team witnessed many ebbs and flows regarding interest in the sport.

Demers, a graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School and Fordham University, cited the 1980s as a particular low point where interest in football declined throughout the Bronx and the city due to other emerging forms of entertainment.

In 1986, the intramural program was formed which saw over 600 children active participating in the program. Demers’ late wife ran the team’s highly successful cheer leading program.

Currently, the Warriors Football Club is compromised of approximately 200 youngsters divided between eight tackle football teams and six flag football teams.

“Our primary purpose is for kids to have fun and build memories that they’ll never forget,” Demers expressed.

This year’s flag and tackle football registration will occur on Sunday, March 1 and Sunday, March 8 from 10 a.m. until noon at Pelham Bay Little League Club located at 2680 Westchester Avenue.

For more information about enrolling, visit www.bronxwarriorsfootball.org.

On Thursday, February 19, Senator Jeff Klein made a surprise visit at the Warriors Football Club’s Annual Dinner Awards Party held at Villa Barone Manor and presented ‘The Chief’ with an award recognizing his many contributions to the team and to the borough’s youth.

Demers’ successor will be Joe DeSimone who first met Demers in 1987 when his eldest daughter tried out for the Warriors’ cheer leading squad.

DeSimone said he became interested in the program’s football teams during that time and had his son join the flag football division.

“I’m truly honored that he thought to have me take over and I find it very humbling. Having been mentored by him, I’m going to do as much as he did and I see this as an opportunity to give back to the community as well as to keep the program going forward,” DeSimone said.

For 27 years, Dennis Kandell has served as a Warriors Football Club administrator and recalled when he met Demers.

“When my father passed away 30 years ago, Jay came into my life and I’m lucky to have met him. Jay is a person that you look up to and I strive to do that same level of work that he does everyday,” Kandell revealed.

James Pellicone has worked as an administrator for 25 years. In 1989, he was first introduced to Demers and the Warriors Football team after discovering his wife enrolled their son into its flag football team.

“When it comes to kids, everything that he does is done for them,” Pellicone explained.

Though Demers will no longer serve as head coach, he will still maintain an active role in supporting and visiting the teams he created.

As DeSimone takes over from Demers, the team, best described as ‘a family’, will aid him in this transition.

“We’re going to help Joe and he’s going to bring this team to the next level. Jay was superb as head coach and he is by far the most respected gentleman I know,” Kandell said.

“He’s going to be perfect in his new role running the team,” Demers said.

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