Edna Fraser, a former centerfielder for the Raybestos Brakettes, former Foran High School athletic director, and the woman for whom the Foran High School gym is named, died May 3 at the age of 85.
Along with her contributions to Milford education and local sports, Fraser is being heralded for what she did to help open up sports to young women athletes.
Among her achievements, she founded the girls’ interscholastic athletic program at Foran High School and was critical in the implementation of Title IX, Foran Principal Max Berkowitz wrote in an email to staff. “Clearly, she had a lasting impact on the Foran/Milford community and her legacy will live on for years to come.”
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that leveled the playing field for female athletes, guaranteeing them the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Kathy Bonetti, school spokesperson and a former Milford high school athlete, said on her Facebook page upon hearing of Fraser’s death, “We lost a legend here last night.”
When Bonetti started high school in 1974, she said she was lucky to be in the first class of female high school athletes protected and entitled by Title IX.
“This meant that beginning in my freshman year, girls’ teams were finally recognized as ‘real’ teams, and inter-district play (and municipal funding) was required, by federal law,” Bonetti said. “Much of the credit goes to women like Edna, who was a constant champion in working toward equal opportunity for women — especially in the world of sports.”
Bonetti said that today’s female high school athletes may take their ability to be on an athletic team for granted.
“But we must pause for a moment and think about what Edna did for all of us — enabling probably a hundred thousand young girls to enjoy, learn and grow in the world of sports,” Bonetti said.
Cindy DeCarlo, interim principal at John F. Kennedy School and a longtime teacher and coach, also praised Fraser for the work she did to support Title IX, describing her as a pioneer in the Title IX era.
“I hope that the girls who are participating in interscholastic sports now don’t ever take for granted the opportunities they have because of Edna’s efforts,” DeCarlo said.
Fraser always loved sports and competition, according to a published obituary.
“She attended high school and college in the late 1940s and early 1950s,” the obituary states. “At that time, schools, statewide and nationally, did not offer competitive interscholastic athletic programs for females. The gender culture while Edna was attending school was that interscholastic sports were for males — not females.”
In her career, Fraser experienced gender inequality that nurtured her drive to elevate female opportunities in sports and education.
“She became a strong and recognized advocate for the adoption and enforcement of Title IX, federal legislation which purported to pave a path leading to gender equality in athletics and education,” the obituary states. “At the urging of many of her female students, she persistently fought the prevailing gender biased culture in an effort to obtain equitable opportunities for females in athletics and other areas where gender equality was lacking.”
Fraser was a Raybestos Brakettes softball standout for 12 years from 1953 to 1965.
While she was still playing for the Brakettes, as an all-star center fielder and two-time team batting champion, she already had her eye on the future.
She enrolled at then-New Haven State Teachers’ College (now Southern Connecticut State University), got her degree in education, and was hired as a physical education teacher at Foran when it opened in the fall of 1973.
During her years with Foran, she coached volleyball, basketball and softball.
She received many awards over the years. She was named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1986) and received a Gold Key, symbolic of overall-athletic achievement, from the Connecticut Sportswriters’ Alliance in 1996.
“Edna Fraser devoted her career and lifetime to doing all that she could to ensure that female athletes have the same experiences and opportunities as their male counterparts,” said James Richetelli Jr., former mayor and today chief operations officer for Milford schools. “Edna Fraser is a Milford legend who will be missed by many but whose legacy lives on in gymnasiums, courts and fields in Milford and throughout our country.”
Burial services were to be private, but her siblings are planning a celebration of her life, according to Cody White Funeral Home.