Longtime cheerleading coach, community figure remembered

DANSVILLE — One woman dedicated most of her life to being everyone’s cheerleader, and a bittersweet hush fell over the community as they said goodbye.

Phyllis Greene passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at Noyes Memorial Hospital after an illness. At that moment a message went out to the community making them aware of the sad news.

Phyllis was a wife, mother, grandmother, coach, friend, and mentor.

Phyllis was a well known and respected cheerleading coach with her husband Larry at Dansville Central School for 21 years. They coached many teams to championship status throughout Section V and were also recognized as Coaches of the Year several times. She was a Judge for the National High School Cheerleading Teams and participated in judging the Buffalo Jills.

Phyllis was also active in the community. She was a member of the Dansville Woman’s Civic Club, the Dansville Lioness Club, the Livingston County Children’s Protective Society, the Livingston County Youth Board and the Livingston County Board of Dispute Settlement. She was also a member of the Dansville Central School Board for nine years and Constable for the Town of North Dansville. She was a member of the Frank J. Casbolt VFW Post and Daniel Goho Post #87 American Legion Ladies Auxiliaries respectively, the DAV, and Loyal Order of the Moose. In her free time, she enjoyed gardening, attending car shows with Larry and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

It didn’t take long for the community to offer up their condolences and memories of this amazing woman.

“Phyllis was an extraordinary example to our girls. For 21 years she taught life lessons and modeled the characteristics of perseverance, determination, competitiveness and forgiveness. Phyllis played a transformative role in the lives of so many young women and helped them grow into the fine people they are today,” said Paul Alioto, Dansville Central superintendent. “Phyllis served honorably on the Board of Education from 2001-2007. In this role, she acted in the best interests of all Dansville students.

“Phyllis was a proud ambassador of Dansville Schools and a fierce advocate for the sport of cheerleading. She made great sacrifices to achieve the highest aspirations for the girls and the Dansville community. Phyllis will be remembered as one of our greatest coaches. Under the leadership of Larry and Phyllis Greene the Mustang Cheerleaders won countless invitational tournaments, 12 League Championships, five Sectional Championships, one NYS Championship and one National Championship,” Alioto continued. “Phyllis shaped the hearts and minds of hundreds of girls over her coaching career. She held herself and her girls to the highest standards of character and performance. We owe a debt of gratitude to Phyllis for her life’s work and we will honor her by living up to her high expectations.”

Dansville Athletic Coordinator Robert VanScoter said that there will never be another Phyllis and Larry team.

“When you have a coach that has been around over 20 years, they have a huge impact on a lot of lives,” he said. “There have been hundreds of girls who have gone through that program, and she touched all of their lives.”

VanScoter said that coaching was something Phyllis and Larry did all year long for over two decades.

“They were coaching in the offseason, be it tumbling classes, camps, clinics, and competitions,” he said. “Before they worked for the district they were coaching the youth in the community. It is a tough loss for our department. We lost a coach and an even better person.”

VanScoter added that Larry plans on finishing the school year, but after that future coaching is uncertain.

“They did this as a team the whole time, so it would be hard for him to go on without Phyllis,” he said. “Phyllis and Larry showed up until the very end even though she was battling this illness. She was always very dedicated.

“She will be sorely missed by the entire district. We were very fortunate to have Phyllis for as long as we did. When you look at our walls you will see Phyllis. She was part of all the championships, banners, tournaments, and Section V titles. There will never be another Phyllis and Larry.”

Hornell Varsity Cheer Coach Regi Gambino said that Phyllis will always be a legend on the local cheerleading scene. 

“Phyllis was already a legend before I began coaching. She had been around for as long as I can remember,” she said. “She was an exceptional coach and an even better friend. She was a wonderful human being. I always loved the southern twang, and how she cheered everyone on.”

Gambino said that Phyllis and Larry were a dynamic duo, and no one ever wanted to face their well-coached teams.

“Phyllis was fabulous and really fun to be around. She was very well-known in Section V," she said. "The coaches of Livingston County knew her and respected her. She was the standard we all aspired to be.”

Gambino added that the phrase “Dansville tight” caught on since Phyllis’ girls were always tight and neat at every event.

“The phrase started going around that we all wanted to be ‘Dansville tight,’ and it was well-known throughout Livingston County,” she said. “We all tried to figure out how she did it. The progress of the girls throughout the season was incredible to watch. Phyllis was always a force to be reckoned with.”

Gambino said that this is a terrible loss to Section V, and the entire community of cheerleading.

“Phyllis wanted everyone to succeed. She was a cheerleader to everyone else. It is so hard to believe she is gone,” she said. “Her loss comes as a shock to the entire cheerleading community. The Livingston County coaches are all very close. There was never any animosity between us. We all were best friends.”

Gambino told a couple of stories about Phyllis that spoke to why she impacted so many people.

“The first conversation I ever had with Phyllis was in a Wegmans. I had a call coming in while I was grocery shopping from the legend, Phyllis Greene,” she recalled. “I answered the call and we talked throughout the entire shopping trip. We talked about all aspects of cheerleading. From that moment on I felt like I had known her my whole life. She drew you in with her warmth. I believe everyone has had a two-hour phone conversation with Phyllis.

“Phyllis used to have a wand she carried around at competitions, and she would wear a crown. She would touch each of the cheerleaders with the magic wand,” Gambino continued. “She would carry around a stuffed animal with all the first place ribbons she won on it. Her whole entire heart was in cheerleading. I will always love Phyllis.”

A couple of her past cheerleaders have put together a celebration of life for Phyllis on Feb. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Dansville Foursquare Church. This spaghetti dinner and basket raffle will go towards helping the family in this hard time.

Robin (Jarvis) Bienkowski and Amy Chamberlin were part of the Dansville cheer team in the early 1990s. Phyllis never stopped influencing their lives even after they graduated.

“Phyllis was the person I talked to the most besides my mother. She helped me throughout my entire life. Whenever I had a question about anything I would call Phyllis,” Bienkowski said. “She is the reason I got interested in becoming a cheer coach myself. Our generation did a massive overhaul revamping the cheerleading program in Dansville. Phyllis became my mentor and best friend.

“Phyllis always had a very busy life, but she always took your call. She would just go for everything in life. Every girl on her squad learned life lessons from her,” Bienkowski continued. “There were never any excuses with Phyllis. I was born with a back problem, and had to wear a brace until I was 19 years old. She never let that stop me from being like all the other cheerleaders. If Phyllis told you to do something, you would do it.”

Bienkowski said she is going to miss Phyllis for the rest of her life. She is going to start as a Syracuse Varsity Cheer Coach next school year, and she will never forget what her coach taught her.

“I have modeled everything I do after what I learned from Phyllis, and I even started a Spirit Club for middle schoolers,” she said. “I have coached for about five years off and on. I was just talking to Phyllis the other day about helping me be a better coach. Phyllis tried to help me get funding from the board.”

Chamberlin added that although Phyllis is gone, they will continue with the benefit as a way to celebrate her life.

“Phyllis was a huge support to the entire community. She touched everyone's life in some way. She taught you things that you hung onto throughout your life,” she said. “I have known that woman my entire life. I want to help out the family through this hard time as much as I can.”

Chamberlin said that Phyllis was a life coach for so many people, as well as a cheer coach.

“She has instilled life lessons in me that I will never forget,” she said. “We will hold onto the things we learned from Phyllis and Larry. Being part of their team was like being part of a second family.”