Marquita Paige used to speak to her brother, Jason Paige, almost every morning.
That’s one of the things she misses the most after his death in 2010.
Still, she was in awe after hearing all the ways her brother impacted the lives of those around him Tuesday, during the dedication ceremony for the Jason C. Paige Health and Fitness Center at Peekskill High School.
“I never knew that Jason accomplished so many things,” Paige said of her brother. “Jason was into a lot of things and I’m very proud of him. He talked about some of the things he did, but he didn’t talk about a lot of it. That’s how Jason was. Home was home and business was business.”
A crowd of people showed up for the opening and dedication of the fitness center. The project took about two years to come to fruition and cost about $85,000 to complete.
Louis Panzanaro, athletic director at Peekskill schools, said one side of the of the current fitness center was used as storage space and the other side was used as a gym. The gym had equipment that was 40 years old.
“They knocked a wall out this summer, they cleaned this area out, they put up the mirrors, new ceiling, new flooring—they just got it ready to be a nice area for kids to come in and visit,” Panzanaro said.
Jason Paige, the man the room is named after, was recalled as an active member of the community who always took time out of his day to mentor and support local youth. He was hired as an attendance officer for the school district in 2006 and was eventually promoted to the position of attendance teacher.
Prior to that, he served in the US Marine Corps and as an auxiliary sergeant with the Peekskill police department. In 2001, he went on to become an officer with the New York City Police Department.
Paige died from a heart attack in 2010 at the age of 39.
Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster read a proclamation during Tuesday’s dedication ceremony.
“It’s his acumen as an attendance teacher for Peekskill High School that really made such an impact on the student around him,” Foster said. “He was an affable person and an inspired leader and, I think, helped motivate a number of high school students to really pursue their potential.”
Judith Johnson, interim superintendent of Mount Vernon schools and former superintendent of Peekskill schools, said Jason Paige was dedicated to his job at Peekskill school and that he truly cared about improving the life of others.
“The day we lost Jason, a void was created,” Johnson said. “A void that is waiting to be filled by a courageous, spirited person who was willing to fight for the rights of others, who was committed in his or her belief that knowledge is power that should be shared, that it is possible to march to the beat of a different drummer and not be part of the crowd.”
Westchester County Legislators John Testa, R-Peekskill, called the creation of the health center impressive.
“I’ve been coming into this room since September of 1972 when I walked in here as a freshman when this building opened and this was many things over the years, but never something like this,” Testa said. “This is very important for our school to have this here. It’s important because it’s a Peekskill story.”
Kevin Grehan donated a good portion of the funds used to create the health center in memory of his parents, James and Vivian Odell Grehan.
“My dad was inducted into the Peekskill sports hall of fame here two years ago and both my mom and my dad graduated from Peekskill high,” Grehan said. “They had a longtime association with Peekskill. My dad was born here, he lived here and he worked here. He worked at WLNA, the radio station, and was the first sports director there. It just felt natural for me to do something to help Peekskill.”