Generosity can be defined in many ways. Development professionals speak of gifts of “time, treasure, and talent.” To some, it’s about writing a check or dropping a twenty into the collection basket at Mass or sticking a buck into the coffee cup of the guy on the corner of Exeter and Boylston when he says, “Hey, nice suit.” (I appreciate a solid marketing strategy, so it works every time on me.)
The most generous person I ever met was from Swampscott. Actually, he was originally from West Lynn, but he and his wife, Margot, raised their family in Swampscott. William F. Connell.
Mr. Connell had no reason to be generous to me.The only things we had in common were that we were born in Lynn, graduated St. Mary’s and Boston College, and had a mutual friend in John S. Moran.
Moran, as was the case in so much of my career, was the key. To simply say he was my boss at The Item is a gross understatement. He was boss, mentor, and, I swear, guardian angel. He promoted me from part-time sportswriter to sports editor to news editor and established a direct path to his office upon his death in 1990. Somewhere along the way, probably 30 years ago, he introduced me to Mr. Connell. Looking back, it seems what he did was hand me off to Mr. Connell.
I inherited Moran’s office, but without him there my heart was no longer in The Item. I sought out Mr. Connell for career advice (actually, I stalked him at BC games, positioning myself in places I’d be sure to “bump into” him). He’d tell me to “Call Priscilla,” his assistant, to set up an appointment. I went to see him in his office at One International Place when I wanted advice on how to create the Lynn Business Partnership (he was president of The Vault in Boston, the varsity version of the LBP); I went to him when I wanted to start a PR company (he introduced me to Jack Connors and Tom O’Neill, who by example showed me how, and whose doors were not otherwise likely to be open to me despite our BC pedigrees); and I went to him when I wanted to buy The Item (which happened about 20 years later, with support from his daughter Monica, but that’s a long story for another day).
Mr. Connell died in 2001 – but his generosity impacted me years later. When my daughter sought admission to BC, I went back to Mr. Connors and Tom O’Neill (again with the BC connections). They did what they do, with no fanfare. “I’ll look into it,” each of them said.
I was doing what I do best – shopping at Ralph Lauren on Madison and 72nd – when my pocket vibrated. I was asked to hold for Mr. Connors. He got on the line and told me Jaclyn had been accepted to BC. When I thanked him, he said, “Bill would’ve wanted it.”
I just got a chill typing that line – and it reminded me of a saying favored by Mr. Connell: “Imagine, the likes of them doing the likes of that for the likes of me.”
You want 01907 generosity? I give you Bill Connell and John Moran.
And Tom Demakes makes three.
A few years after Mr. Connell’s death, I told Tom of his friend Mr. Connell’s kindness to me. I told him Mr. Connell was a role model of mine. To my surprise,Tom Demakes said he was his, too – and said he’d try to fill the void left by Mr. Connell in local philanthropy. Flip the pages of 01907 and you can read that Tom and his wife, Peachie, are fulfilling that pledge and more.
And the Demakeses are not alone – hence, the theme of this, the sixth edition of 01907: giving.
Swampscott, as I realize more and more, is a community of givers. It’s a community of people who care, and that’s evident as you read the stories of Mary and Joel Abramson; of Jessica Black and her family; of Susan and Jeffrey Brudnick; and of Jo Ann Simons. These individuals have done so much for our schools, hospitals, senior-living centers, nonprofit organizations and other charities. But the list doesn’t end there. You’ll no doubt be inspired by the Swampscott High students who gave up their spring vacation week to travel to the rural outskirts of Nicaragua to help a community in need.
Imagine, the likes of them doing the likes of that . . .
And this edition of 01907 offers two more of my favorite things: local sports and dessert.
Dick Jauron suggested a former teammate of his would make for an interesting story. Check out Steve Krause’s piece about Carl Kester and tell me Dick was wrong.Then there’s Rich Fahey’s story about Tom Stephens, who played for the Patriots in the 1960s. Swampscott does not lack in sports royalty.
And then there are the desserts. Homemade and those at local restaurants, there’s a reason they say “saving the best for last.”’
‘Tis the season.