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July 9, 2013

Esso Haines was a true Marblehead original

It was sometime in the mid-1990s, when the Marblehead High football program had started to dip and was going through a lean period, that one of the best lines I’ve ever heard was uttered.

On a sunny fall afternoon at the old Hopkins School Field, the Magicians simply couldn’t move the football. Try as they might, the hosts were stymied by their opponents and forced to punt at the end of almost every possession.

“Hey Stace! Do you like our Rockettes offense?” asked public address announcer Esso Haines as we watched the game from the press box.

Rockettes, Esso?

“Yeah, you know,” he said with his legendary chuckle. “One-two-three-kick! One-two-three-kick!”

William S. Haines — known far and wide by his childhood nickname, ‘Esso’ — passed away yesterday at his home, a little over a month shy of his 83rd birthday. To say that he loved Marblehead — particularly its athletic teams, and even more particularly its football team — would be like saying the rest of us love to breathe.

Marblehead’s No. 1 fan? Somehow, even that heralded moniker doesn’t seem to completely best describe Haines, who followed the Magicians for more than 75 years. In a bucolic seaside town where history literally envelopes you wherever you turn, Haines was a walking history book, particularly when it came to the high school’s football team.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that Haines meant as much to the Red-and-Black as the helmets, jerseys and cleats that the players wear each season — and that the feeling was mutual. Anything you wanted to know about Magicians’ football, anything the program required, anything that needed to be done in a pinch, there was Esso, ready and willing to make it happen.

With an almost perpetual smile on his face and, particularly in his later years, his beloved wife Nancy by his side during games, you got the sense that Esso would’ve been elected mayor of Marblehead if such a thing existed. He seemingly knew everyone and relished seeing friends both new and old at games, social gatherings and the like. Ask him about anything Marblehead related and his face lit up like a child that’s been told that yes, you can have ice cream for dessert.

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