Neil Pocai has been a member of the Bay Path community for 42 years. A consummate tradesman, he takes great pride in his work which can be found in every building on campus. Over the years, Neil has worked for three presidents of Bay Path, and one interim president. Although Neil has a reputation as a hard worker who possesses an eagle-eye attention to detail, he has an alter ego: he is a great dancer. Read on for his story…
Tell us a bit about yourself?
“I was born in Springfield, MA, and grew up in the Forest Park section of the city. After graduating from Springfield Technical High School, I went immediately into the trades. For some time, I worked for myself and did anything people wanted including painting, wallpapering and carpentry work. I was doing some work on campus –I believe it was painting and wallpapering—and the supervisor approached me and asked me if I wanted a job here. I said ‘Yes.’ That was November 1977 and I’ve been at Bay Path ever since that time.
I started under President Elliott, then Dr. Wright, and then there was an interim president after Dr. Wright’s sudden passing, Dr. Frazier. I’ve been through a lot of eras at Bay Path.
I remember the first day I met President Leary because it was my birthday—December 1st! From the moment I met her, I knew she was going to be right for the school. I knew she was going to be good for Bay Path. I told her that I would be glad to dance with her at the Christmas party. The following year, I approached her and said, ‘It’s time to dance.’ And we went up and danced.”
You have a tradition of dancing with President Leary. You surprised a number of people with your ability on the dance floor. Where did it come from?
“A long time ago, there were dances all over the area. Every week, I went to the Holy Name Church Dance in Springfield. I didn’t have any professional training, only lots of experience. It all started with my sisters who wanted someone to dance with them at the record hops in the 50s and 60s. One sister danced very well, and we won all the contests. I was naturally quick on my feet!
I remember the first time I danced with President Leary. It was a quick dance. She’s a very good dancer by the way—she can move across the dance floor and she knows how to follow her partner. After that first dance, we danced at many of the holiday parties. We became good friends because of dancing. Of course, the students probably have memories of her dancing, too. But my own dancing career slowed down about five years ago.”
You seem to have a special tie to Bay Path…what keeps you going?
“It’s like a family here. And I treat it like a family. That’s why I have been at Bay Path for so long. It’s my second family. It’s hard to say goodbye. And I’m still working. I don’t believe in retirement. All my life, I’ve worked two jobs. I can’t stop now.”