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Longtime Woodsville High School baseball and basketball coach John Bagonzi has gathered and organized his countless artifacts from a life in sports. They now adorn the museum he created in his barn. The Golden Age Museum opened this summer. (BOB HOOKWAY)

Memories on display

North Country legend shares his love of sport and being a coach

WOODSVILLE -- John Bagnozi is doing a lot of looking back these days. At age 82 and suffering from congestive heart failure, the longtime Woodsville High School coach is losing weight, facing uncertain health, and conferring with his wife, Dreamer.

But he's also been gathering and organizing the accumulated artifacts from a lifetime at all levels of sport. It's on display now for the public at what was once his barn.

This summer, the Golden Age Museum drew an opening night crowd of about 300.

"People were everywhere. A lot of my old players were here. People from throughout the years. It went over pretty well," he said.

And as Dreamer pointed out, people have learned over the years to "just drop by" the family home on Pine Street in the heart of Woodsville; no appointment necessary.

Their longtime neighbor, local auto dealer and avid sports fan Jim Walker, did so to say hello as he was on his way to Baltimore for a recent Red Sox weekend series with the Orioles. He lingered a while to examine some of the numerous artifacts that adorn the walls and recall some of the local players of years past.

The museum has a definite Woodsville High School flavor, with a focus on baseball and basketball as might be expected.

It was there, just around the corner from his home, that Bagonzi became one of the most successful New Hampshire coaches ever. Between 1959 and 1977, he oversaw 13 combined championship teams and seven runners-up. There was even a cross country title in 1972 with Bagonzi coaching. He still retains affection for many of his players.

"Ron Pierson might have been the best basketball player in the state when he was here. I'd say he was the best offensive player I ever had."

But the museum's reach extends beyond Woodsville.

Worn-out gloves and catcher's mitts — Clete Boyer and Ted Simmons models — get a second act in the Bagonzi's barn. And just because the proprietor and Sandy Koufax don't think alike on the finer points of pitching, that doesn't prevent him from displaying a Koufax-autographed baseball prominently.

Visitors can even relax on specially made museum furniture.

"See that, I took the seat out of a Chrysler LeBaron and it's the most comfortable seat I have," Bagonzi pointed out.

"I've interacted with an awful lot of people over the years, and there's a lot of stuff here. The people who have come by have seemed to enjoy all this stuff. One guy was here for three hours, and he told me he'd have to come back; he didn't have time to see everything."

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