Roger “Lee” Ayotte, age 85, passed peacefully to eternal life on March 13, 2020. Lee was born to Ovid and Harriet Ayotte on December 1, 1934 in Alpena, Michigan. He is survived by the love of his life, Betty; beloved children: Richard Dee, Vicki, Kelly (Bob) Phelan, and Elizabeth “Chip” (Paul) Pozderac; cherished grandchildren: Carly Ciancetta, Sarah (Ben) Chenevey, Jon (Camille) Pozderac, Sean (Courtney) Phelan, Kait Phelan and Matt Pozderac; three wonderful great-grandchildren: Briella, Mila and Amelia, with two more great-granddaughters on the way.
Lee was an accomplished man with a duality of talents. While he was perhaps most lauded for his competitive edge and his passion for playing and coaching basketball, he also had a softer side: that of an artist who loved creating beautiful things. He was a 1953 graduate of Alpena Catholic Central High School, and was named to the Michigan All-State Basketball Team his junior and senior years. He received a basketball scholarship from The University of Notre Dame, and played three years for the Fighting Irish before graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1957. In 1988, Lee was elected to the Alpena Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Lee enlisted in the Army and served honorably for three years. He fell in love with Betty Ickes, and the two married on March 2, 1959. After completing his military service, he taught elementary school at Ascension Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, before moving his family to Columbus, Ohio, and launching a 38-year career in the insurance industry. He retired as president of Insurance Intermediaries, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nationwide, in 1999.
In addition to his professional career, Lee always found time to volunteer and serve his community. He was PTA President for Eastmoor Elementary, Middle and High School from 1965 to 1981, as well as serving on the Parent Advisory Committee for the Columbus Superintendent of Public Schools. He was St. Catharine’s Catholic School Athletic Director for many years and coached the Parish’s CYO boys’ basketball team to five city championships, receiving Coach of the Year in 1968. In the summers, he coached in the Girls’ Police Athletic League, where his teams won three championships. In 1981, his AAU Girls’ team, named the “Fighting Irish,” won the State Championship. During his 13 years of volunteer coaching, his teams won 162 games with only 32 losses for a winning percentage of 79.5%.
It was very important to Lee to serve as a leader in his spiritual community as well. He was a member of St. John Neumann’s Parish Council and the Columbus Diocesan Child Guidance Center Board of Trustees. Lee was a member of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, serving as a Director from 1984-1987. He also spearheaded a Capital Campaign Drive called “Cherish the Children,” which raised funds to build a new school on the grounds of the St. Vincent properties on East Main Street in Columbus. Additionally, Bishop James A. Griffin presented Lee with the Diocesan Service Award.
Lee’s commitment to his community was only rivaled by his devotion to bringing joy to his friends and family. Whether he was creating the illusion of Santa Claus by donning a red suit and white beard each Christmas or creating works of art in his wood shop, Lee always aimed to bring smiles to the faces of those around him. A celebration of life service will take place at St John Neumann in Sunbury, Ohio, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the University of Notre Dame Art Department or the Catholic Youth Organization. For ND, please direct your gift to Academics and specify the Art Department in memory of Lee Ayotte. Gifts may be made online at giving.nd.edu, or by mail: University of Notre Dame, Department of Development, 1100 Grace Hall Notre Dame , Indiana 46556. If you prefer to donate to the Catholic Youth Organization they can be made online at https://columbuscatholic.org/diocesan-recreation-donations or mailed to Diocese of Columbus 197 E. Gay Street Columbus, Ohio 43215.
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