Obituaries

Ralph Bevins, standout goalie at BU who coached at Arlington High, dies at 92

Mr. Bevins was Boston University’s first All-American goalie.
Boston University
Mr. Bevins was Boston University’s first All-American goalie.

Boston University hockey captain Ralph Bevins played the game of his life in March 1950 when the Terriers upset the University of Michigan, 4-3, in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

“He was credited with 34 saves, nearly all of the sensational variety,” the Globe said of the BU senior. “At times it was impossible to fathom how Bevins stopped the puck from entering the cage.”

Although BU lost in the finals to Colorado College, Mr. Bevins — who was known as Ike — was named tournament’s most valuable player.

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The university’s first All-American goalie, he also was a standout baseball catcher for the Terriers. He was “a player’s player and super athlete, a special, gutsy guy who always had your back,” recalled former BU pitcher Billy Tighe, about his battery mate.

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Mr. Bevins, who was inducted into the BU Athletic Hall of Fame and formerly supervised physical education for grades K-12 in Arlington, was 92 when he died of a pulmonary embolism May 8 in Largo Medical Center in Florida. He had moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1987, the year he retired from the Arlington school system, and had lived in Largo since 2015.

He was head coach of the Arlington High School football team in 1977 when it advanced to the Division 1 Super Bowl, where it lost. On the occasion of its post-season banquet, the team sent a letter to the Arlington Advocate newspaper thanking Mr. Bevins for his leadership and support.

“Ike was a man of few words, but if he said he would do something, he would follow through and he was very fair,” said Peter Lavery, a senior tailback and safety on that team. “He always kept track how you were doing in school, in other sports, and what you were doing around town — and he practiced what he preached.”

Lavery recalled that Mr. Bevins was a proponent of weight lifting and proper nutrition for his athletes, which is why “we would usually wear down our opponents in the second half.”

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Mr. Bevins would have played varsity football at BU if not for a freak accident during football practice his freshman year in 1946. A blow to the base of his spine resulted in him twice being partially and briefly paralyzed on his right side. Specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital diagnosed a blood clot on his spine, and advised him not to participate in sports again because it could be life-threatening.

“Ike heeded the advice for a while,” the Globe reported in 1950, but ultimately he decided to give up football, while continuing to play hockey and baseball. “It was breaking his heart to stand by and watch,” the Globe reported, adding that “Ike has gambled with death in every game he has played in the last four years.”

The article noted that Mr. Bevins rarely discussed the injury, and that only a half dozen close friends “know of the peril Ike has been in.”

Dick DeCaprio, a retired Arlington High hockey coach and former dean of students, had never heard that story before, but said he wasn’t surprised by Mr. Bevins’s courage and determination nearly 70 years ago. “Ike was fit and a natural athlete,” said DeCaprio, who added that Mr. Bevins “made sure our students had the best equipment, and he was a structured disciplinarian who was always reading up on the latest sports-related technology.”

DeCaprio said Mr. Bevins “looked authoritarian even when he wasn’t trying to be. He had charisma.”

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A son of Joseph J. Bevins and the former Ethel Fanning, Mr. Bevins graduated in 1943 from Arlington High, where he was a three-sport All-Scholastic. He served in the Navy during World War II and married his high school sweetheart, Priscilla Fowler, in 1946. She died in 1987.

A four-time All-East hockey player in college and BU’s team MVP in 1950, Mr. Bevins “was part of the first great BU hockey team that marked the start of the program’s winning tradition,” according to BU coaching legend Jack Parker.

A longtime Woburn resident, Mr. Bevins also graduated from Boston State College with a master’s in educational administration.

He enjoyed taking his children, Carol Sambol of Littleton and Stephen of St. Petersburg, Fla., to sporting events and following their progress as student-athletes in Woburn and beyond.

“I always looked up to him,” Sambol recalled, “and we spent many happy hours at the old Boston Arena and at the Beanpot Tournament.”

Mr. Bevins was an assistant football coach at Arlington High before succeeding his close friend Eddie Burns as head coach in 1975. He was also an instructor at a hockey school run by Burns and Melrose High coach Henry Hughes.

When Hockey East commissioner and former Harvard goaltender Joe Bertagna was making the conversion from defense to goal at Arlington High, he attended the hockey school, where Mr. Bevins gave him his first formal instruction.

“He was also my physical education teacher and he was a no-nonsense guy,” said Bertagna. “Once when we were not performing up to his standards in gym class, he told us that we had just lowered middle age to 17.”

When his son was head hockey coach at Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High in Lexington, Mr. Bevins volunteered as assistant goalie coach for three years, including the team’s run to the 1986 state Division 3 championship.

The championship team and coaching staff were later inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. When Mr. Bevins moved to Florida, he made sure his Minuteman championship jacket came with him.

In addition to his son and daughter, he leaves two grandchildren.

Mr. Bevins, who played golf until he was 90, will be remembered at a celebration of his life at 11 a.m. Aug. 13 in Badger Funeral Home in Littleton.

Stephen Bevins said his father stressed being honest and earning the respect of others. “Dad had a passion for coaching, and he was in it for the players, and not the accolades,” he said. “But most of all, if you needed a friend to talk to he was there for you.”

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.