Montclair Kimberley Academy teacher, coach and marathon champion Tom Fleming died suddenly on Wednesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR KIMBERLEY ACADEMY

Montclair Kimberley Academy’s middle school will be closed Thursday due to the sudden death of coach and teacher Tom Fleming, 65, a marathon-running champion.

Fleming, a fourth-grade teacher and varsity boys and girls head coach in cross-country and track and field, suffered an apparent heart attack at a meet at Verona on Wednesday and died, the school announced.

“Due to the loss of a beloved member of our faculty, Tom Fleming, the Middle School will not be in session for students tomorrow, Thursday, April 20,” MKA said on its website Wednesday evening. “This includes all after school athletic events and activities. The Middle School will be open for faculty and staff. Primary School and Upper School will be in session tomorrow, Thursday, April 20.”

Fleming, a Bloomfield native, taught and coached at MKA for 18 years. But he earned fame as a distance runner. Fleming was a two-time New York City Marathon winner, in 1973 and 1975, when it was a four-loop course in Central Park. He was inducted into the USA Distance Running Hall of Fame and the National Road Runners Club Hall of Fame.

According to MKA’s website, Fleming boasted two second-place performances in the Boston Marathon.

The site also said that “his personal best marathon of 2:12:05 was set at the 1975 Boston Marathon, when he finished in third place, another of his six Boston Marathon ‘Top 10’ finishes. Fleming raced a strong fifth place at the 1976 Olympic Marathon trials.”

Last month Fleming was a recipient of the Mercier Club’s Monsignor Edward J. Larkin Award of Distinction.

He attended Paterson State College, now William Paterson University,  in Wayne, graduating in four years with a double-major in special education and elementary education, according to the website.

The Local has received reaction from the school and community, which we have added below.

Bob Russo, Montclair Councilmember
I mourn the loss of my long time running club friend Tom Fleming, who sold me my first set of running sneakers & Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers running shorts from his store on Bloomfield Ave in Bloomfield Center:  “Tom Flemming’s Running Room”.  I still have those shorts.  What a great coach & contributor to our community!  Montclair, Bloomfield & MKA will miss him dearly.
Todd Smith, Athletic Director, Mount Kimberely Academy
Tom was a beloved teacher, coach, mentor and friend to many and this will be gut wrenching news for the MKA community and for the running and track community as a whole throughout Essex County, New Jersey and the country.  Tom’s love for his sport, love for his athletes and love for teaching the next generation of runners was truly remarkable.  Most importantly, Tom loved the 4th graders he got to spend every day with and truly was an inspiration to all.  
 
I will miss him greatly as Tom Fleming helped me become a better coach, a better educator, a better athletic director, and most importantly a better man.