Says He Lost Confidence in Former Town Manager Coyle After June 5 Presentation by Corrigan, Dykeman
In an effort to explain why then-consultant Gayle Corrigan was chosen to serve as acting town manager following former Town Manager Tom Coyle’s “separation” from the town, Town Council Vice President Sean Todd testified Tuesday that the town was in chaos and a manager needed to be hired immediately so there would be someone to fill the role of emergency management director. Coyle had previously filled that role.
Todd was called by the town’s lawyer to testify in the trial of the Town of East Greenwich versus EG firefighters and James Perry, to shed some light on what happened during the Town Council executive session June 19 when Coyle’s separation and Corrigan’s hire were approved, and immediately after that, when the council went back into open session. There is no formal record of that open session portion of the meeting. D’Agostino had taken minutes during the executive session portion of the meeting but not during the brief open session that followed.
“The reason we voted in closed session is we wanted to protect the privacy of Mr. Coyle. That’s why we have a town solicitor, because I’m not a lawyer, I’m a salesman,” Councilman Todd said Tuesday.
He said it was important to appoint someone to serve as town manager right away and that Council President Sue Cienki had already broached the idea to Corrigan, who was receptive. Todd noted his first-hand experience of the events on Sept. 11, 2001 – he lived in New Jersey at the time and said he saw the Twin Towers fall – which made him recognize the importance of never being without an EMA director.
“It was the scariest day of my life,” Todd said referring to Sept. 11. “I saw chaos in real time so I was adamantly not going to allow us to leave that session until we had someone else in charge.”
He continued, “God forbid something awful happened in town…. That’s why we named her at that point.”
Later, when cross-examined by the firefighter’s lawyer, Elizabeth Wiens, Todd admitted he was not aware the town had deputy EMA directors. (Public Works employees Wayne Pimental and Fred Gomes are the town’s two deputy EMA directors, for which they each receive a stipend.)
Beyond making sure there was an EMA director in place, Todd said he was comfortable appointing Corrigan to serve as acting town manager: “Ms. Corrigan was intimately involved in town matters at this point. We knew her history running towns. I felt it was appropriate to appoint her town manager.”
When asked if there were other candidates for the job, Todd said Cienki told him she’d mentioned the position to Public Works Director Joe Duarte and that he had not been interested.
The vote to appoint a new town manager, acting or otherwise, was not on the agenda for the June 19 meeting.
Todd said the council did not know that Coyle would be separating from the town on June 19.
Lawyer Wiens and Judge McGuirl both pressed him on this, with Wiens reading from the separation agreement itself, which several parties agree was presented to the Town Council and voted on unchanged at the June 19 meeting.
“If the Town Council did not ratify this settlement agreement, Mr. Coyle would be terminated ‘as if a termination took place,’ said Wiens, quoting from the agreement. “He was going to be gone June 18 one way or the other.”
Todd insisted the council didn’t know Coyle was leaving when they met June 19. He admitted that Coyle had wanted to keep his job.
“I think Mr. Coyle is a tremendous individual. He’s also said privately he’s not a finance guy,” Todd said.
“My belief is when he saw the presentation … knowing that the town was heading towards a fiscal mess,” said Todd said of Coyle. “My comfort level with him as our town manager after seeing that presentation was diminished.”
During testimony Tuesday, D’Agostino also sought to submit draft minutes for the June 19 meeting.
“Where are these from? Didn’t we have testimony a number of times that there are no minutes?” said Judge McGuirl, expressing frustration.
“I asked the clerk to produce open session meeting minutes from the June 19 meeting,” D’Agostino responded. “As the court is aware, I conceded on behalf of the town that no open session meeting minutes from June 19 existed. I asked the clerk to prepare – “
“I object,” said Wiens.
“I agree,” said McGuirl. “We’ve been through this Mr. D’Agostino. You can’t testify. You’re the lawyer. You’re suggesting to me that [the town clerk is] presenting these minutes? She wasn’t there. We just heard that over and over again.”
“It is the clerk’s job – “ D’Agostino started to say.
“And she should have been there to do it,” McGuirl retorted. “She wasn’t there. She didn’t do it. So, these are really your minutes that you’re just presenting.”
“She prepared them,” D’Agostino said, referring to Town Clerk Carney.
“Then you can bring her in to testify,” said the judge. “I”m not taking that testimony from you.”
D’Agostino said it was important to “close the circle” by producing these minutes.
“The fact that the meeting minutes do not exist is an OMA [Open Meetings Act] violation, but the council has the ability to cure the OMA violation,” he said.
“It may be important to the Town Council … that is not the same significance to me as testimony in this hearing,” McGuirl said.
In her cross-examination, Wiens asked Todd why the town clerk had been dismissed by Council President Cienki before the executive session meeting June 16, which contained the same single executive session agenda.
“Why didn’t she want to have the town clerk take the minutes?” Wiens asked.
“In my opinion, we think … information was getting to the employees of the town so we wanted to make sure that, due to respect for Mr. Coyle – who we all have an immense amount of respect for – we wanted the conversations to be as closed as possible with the least amount of ears listening so that the separation was as favorable for him as the town and taxpayers,” said Todd.
“You were concerned that the Town Clerk would not maintain the confidentiality of the meeting?” asked Wiens.
“That’s correct,” replied Todd.
“But then on June 19, you were mad she wasn’t there, right?” Wiens continued.
“Because it’s her duty to show up at these meetings,” replied Todd.
The judge heard additional testimony by Andrew Deutsch Tuesday afternoon before closing the trial to more testimony.
Longtime EGHS disciplinarian was both loved and loathed
By Mark Thompson
If you think the turmoil now roiling East Greenwich is unprecedented, you weren’t around when Domenic Iannazzi became the lightning rod that polarized the town for more than a decade. “Dom” Iannazzi, who taught, coached and principaled in East Greenwich from 1951 to 1978, died Monday, Oct. 9, in Providence of cancer. He was 94.
He was a black-and-white guy in an increasingly Kodachrome world. A tad different—some would say odd—Mr. Iannazzi gave strict orders to his family and friends against announcing his death, publishing an obituary, or holding a funeral or memorial service.
But that wouldn’t be fair to the man, or to the town where he spent 27 years schooling its children, in life as well as math and sports. Love him or hate him—and Mr. Iannazzi had students in both camps—his death should not pass unexamined.
Besides, he’s no longer around to give me detention.
While he may have been a lifelong bachelor, his legacy is in the hundreds of East Greenwich students he taught, coached and disciplined during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s.
I know. I was there.
His presence in town can be gleaned by how often his name surfaced in the weekly Rhode Island Pendulum newspaper over the decades: 10 times in the 1950s, 123 in the 1960s and 127 times in the 1970s—more than twice a week for 20 years.
Then he pretty much vanished from its pages, and the town.
Newcomers have no idea who he was. But it speaks to what the town was like as it grew from an insular bayside village into a bedroom community, with newcomers from far away who didn’t care for his approach, or his attitude.
Mr. Iannazzi was one of the few teachers in East Greenwich who hit the EGHS trifecta, beginning his career in town teaching at what had been the old East Greenwich Academy (Swift Community Center is all that’s left). He moved on when the Cedar Avenue high school (now Archie Cole Middle School) opened in 1956. He moved again to the current high school in 1967. He helped launch the town’s Citizen Scholarship Foundation, donated trophies to EGHS athletes and cash to EGHS scholars, supervised school dances, and served as the faculty adviser to the student council. And he coached lots of students, especially those who played football for the East Greenwich High School Avengers.
But that’s not what East Greenwich kids of a certain age remember. I met Dom Iannazzi 50 years ago this fall, and like most freshmen—who also feared sophomores, juniors and seniors—the high school’s assistant principal was the avenging Avenger. “Dom I’m-a-Nazi” we called him. He was a taciturn, difficult man, who embraced “tough love” for those under his wing. Some kids thrived; others rebelled. “He breathed fire. He ate raw freshmen for breakfast. He never slept and was stored in a closet at night,” Bruce Mastracchio, class of 1960, wrote of Mr. Iannazzi’s reputation several years ago.
“I am sure he will give them hell where ever he goes,” a former female student said after learning of his passing. “I remember seeing him make girls kneel on the floor to check the length of their skirts,” she recalls. “Luckily I didn’t have to do that.”
“I know many wanted to make him a saint, but I wasn’t one of them,” says Alan Clarke, class of 1958. “If you were one of `Uncle Iron’s’ brotherhood, the slaps you got on the back of your head were love taps. If you were not in his band of brothers, he was a big pothole on your road to adulthood.” Many students found him uncaring and and even mean. Most would “get him” after a while but sometimes, Clarke adds, it was too late to save their grade point averages. “I felt his classes were a bit too much like Army basic training, and there was time enough for that ahead,” he remembers. “He wanted something I didn’t want to give him.”
Mr. Iannazzi had grown up in Providence and Johnston, earning degrees from Providence College and Northeastern University. He started his teaching (and coaching—football and hockey) career at La Salle Academy in Providence and Johnston. In January, 1951, he was hired as a math teacher at East Greenwich High School at $2,900 a year, along with coaching the junior high baseball and basketball teams.
In the spring of 1963, 12 years after coming to East Greenwich, he was tapped to serve as assistant principal at the high school, which by then was on Cedar Avenue. At the same School Committee meeting—on April 11 of that year, a date which lives on in infamy—Lou Lepry was promoted to be assistant principal at the junior high. Both served as the schools’ disciplinarian, and I felt the wrath of each back in the day. Mr. Iannazzi was Mr. Lepry, without the charm.
It didn’t take long for Mr. Iannazzi’s iron hand to generate ire among some of the high school kids’ parents. In January 1966, 50 parents complained about high school discipline, or the lack of it, in a petition to the School Committee. “The hearing came as a result of at least two different incidents in the cafeteria, one involving disobedience towards Mr. Iannazzi and the other involving blows exchanged by the vice principal and a student,” the Pendulum reported on its Jan. 13, 1966, front page.
“Mr. Iannazzi has proved to my satisfaction that he is not capable of applying discipline,” a Middle Road resident who launched the petition told the panel before 150 townspeople. Iannazzi, with his typical deft political touch, told the committee that the high school cafeteria had become a “blackboard jungle” until he set up a “student corps” to enforce lunchtime rules there. Principal Rufus Brackley declared, “I am behind Mr. Iannazzi 100%,” but grumbled that he would have appreciated it if the concerned parents had come to him, instead of his bosses on the school board, with their complaint.
Bill Foster, the editor of the Pendulum, came to Mr. Iannazzi’s defense on the paper’s editorial page that same week:
“As a disciplinarian, Mr. Iannazzi has helped create a high school environment that is the envy of other school systems. And the delight of many parents who feel that teaching and discipline go hand in hand. In performing his work, however, Mr. Iannazzi has demonstrated many `controversial’ characteristics. One is a short temper. Another, a vocabulary which can hardly be described as that of the suave politician. And on occasion, a lack of tact has irritated parents involved in disciplinary action. Still, as we review the 15.years he has taught in our system, we can’t help but come to this conclusion. What Mr. Iannazzi has done right so far outweighs what he has done wrong. East Greenwich might do better to treat him to a testimonial than harangue him with a hearing.”
This early confrontation led the next week to the first letter from a former student to the Pendulum championing Mr. Iannazzi. “Mr. Iannazzi is by far one of the best teachers that I have ever had the privilege of encountering,” wrote Gail Graham, a 1957 EGHS graduate who received her bachelor’s degree from Pembroke College (which became part of Brown University in 1971), and a master’s from Stanford University, before becoming a high school teacher in San Francisco. “I remember him as being a strict disciplinarian, but never once as being unfair never mind `dictatorial,’” she wrote. “He expects much of his students and for this I think the students are grateful.” She suggested he might want to apply for better-paying jobs in California.
But Mr. Iannazzi was nothing if not stubborn, so he stayed put. That spat was only a warmup for what was to come. Three years later, he took a year’s sabbatical from East Greenwich High School (gym teacher and coach Nick Carcieri filled in). While he was continuing his studies at the University of Utah, he said he was stunned to receive a letter from the School Committee telling him he would be teaching math at the junior high school when he returned.
“When I entered into the Sabbatical Leave Agreement with the School Committee, I entered it in good faith. But, I wonder, did they?” he said in a letter to the Pendulum, as news of his long-distant demotion surfaced. “It is a known and public fact that I was to return to the School System in the same capacity that I was in prior to my leave. On January 20, 1969, only four months after the opening of school, I received the notification that I was being relieved of my duties as Assistant Principal. At the present time, it is almost impossible for me to do or say anything in my behalf, for I am almost 3,000 miles away.”
An avalanche of letters supporting Mr. Iannazzi tumbled into the Pendulum. One was addressed to the School Committee: “You are charged with providing the best possible education and guidance for the young people of East Greenwich, yet you are humiliating and, in effect, dismissing one of the most gifted and devoted teachers to be found anywhere,” wrote Robert Bergeron, Jr., a 1960 EGHS grad. He recalled dawdling his first two years of high school until he came to Mr. Iannazzi’s attention. He “felt I was capable of doing more and, with the support and cooperation of my parents, began to exert pressure. I resented it fiercely.”
But Bergeron’s resentment eased when Mr. Iannazzi began picking him up each school morning, along with another student, for 30 minutes of private tutoring before the school day began. “Then, in his senior year,” Bergeron remembered, “he gave up his free period every day to teach us college calculus.”
It must have worked: Bergeron graduated from Brown and went on to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Had I never known Mr. Iannazzi,” he added, “I doubt that I would be in teaching, or in mathematics.”
The following week, Jeffrey Lord conceded in another letter that he had been a “disciplinary problem” as a freshman in the class of 1968 when he first met Mr. Iannazzi. “However, I grew to love the man in my four years at EGHS,” he wrote. “I remember him once telling me: `It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have that counts.’” Lord went on to serve as president of the high school’s student council in his senior year before heading off to the University of Rhode Island. He was killed in a crash in Narragansett a year after writing that letter.
In the same edition, Charles Keyes, the School Committee chairman, weighed in. The committee had discussed reassigning Mr. Iannazzi “for some time,” given that he was “extremely well-versed in mathematics,” Keyes said. The panel was forced to demote him long-distance when they realized he had to be informed of their decision to do so “before March 1st to conform to legal interpretations of the State Board of Education regulations.”
So they sent him a letter.
The committee had planned to keep their action quiet until they met with Mr. Iannazzi personally, but he had no intention of keeping their secret. “We feel it most unfortunate for him and for the youngsters that so much publicity has been given to the subject,” Keyes added.
“The School Committee is fully aware of Mr. Iannazzi’s interest in many youngsters in town . . . of the good work he has done for them . . . of his community projects and the benefits this town has received from them . . . and of his dedication to teaching,” Keyes concluded. Nonetheless, the committee felt it had to act “to improve the overall operation of a growing school system.”
But four months later, after a three-day hearing sought by Mr. Iannazzi, the state ordered him returned to his high school job in time for the 1968-69 school year. “By their own testimony,” the Pendulum grumbled, “the School Committee revealed little first-hand evidence to back up their action.”
Mr. Iannazzi was back at work, and I can attest that his bruising battle to hang on to his job hadn’t worn him out. I remember being summoned to his office in late 1970, along with several cowering classmates. Someone had burned down the temporary, and tiny, ramshackle snack bar at the football field the night after the last game of the season (the Avengers lost to the North Kingstown Skippers, 15-0). Our class of 1971 had built the 6-by-8-foot structure to help raise money. The arsonists also torched the heavy-timber football sled that Avenger gridironers pushed around the practice field. It was that second conflagration, no doubt, that most ticked off Mr. Iannazzi.
As I reported for the high school’s underground newspaper (The Subterranea—get it?), we “were called into the office of famed disciplinarian here at EGHS. He stated his case in the following manner:
“The remnants of the destruction must be cleaned up before Weds., the 25th of Nov. OR ELSE:
“—Seniors will lose their deserved privileges until the `fourth of July (1971)’.
“—If any student planning to graduate in 1972 is found to have been involved in this dreadful act of arson he will also lose the glamour of having senior privileges next year.
“—These recommendations have already been sent to our almost-retired superintendent, Mr. Cole, and he has backed Mr. Iannazzi fully in his endeavor to suppress any more such `Tom-Foolery.’”
I have no recollection what happened in the wake of that meeting. But I’ll never forget that I thought I detected a twinkle in Mr. Iannazzi’s eye as he scolded my classmates and me.
The next time Mr. Iannazzi ran into a buzzsaw, I had long since graduated from East Greenwich High School, gone to college, and returned to East Greenwich to help Bill Foster put out the Pendulum. By the time I got back, in mid-1975, the powers-that-be were trying to push Mr. Iannazzi out of the high school once again. He favored stern discipline, but his superiors, along with the School Committee and many parents, did not.
Some students sensed the that the old paradigm that once pitted pupils against a united team of parents and school had broken. “Mr. Iannazzi will have to deal not only with a student but with his parents as well,” one told the Pendulum in December 1975. “It’s the parents who say, `What are you doing to my poor, little Golden Johnny,’ and all Mr. Iannazzi’s doing is to try and do his job.” A second agreed. “The parents just won’t believe it when they’re told that their poor, little Golden Johnny just blew up the bathroom.”
Relations between Mr. Iannazzi and his superiors frayed to the breaking point following a fire at the high school, where blame for a failure to sound the alarm bounced between him and the principal at the time.
In 1976 Mr. Iannazzi was tapped to serve as the “assistant to the superintendent for business”—basically, a glorified bean-counter. How a man who had been lauded for years as a teacher, coach and disciplinarian could be assigned to pinch pennies remains to some a mystery for the ages. “I am sure that I will miss working with the kids,” he said shortly before assuming his new position, “but I do think that perhaps it is time I had a change.”
Mr. Iannazzi was replaced by a young school administrator from Yonkers, N.Y., who was paid $19,500 in his first year for doing the job that Mr. Iannazzi had earned $18,150 during the last of his 13 years. “It sure does upset me,” said Mr. Iannazzi, never one to trim his sails as a storm brewed. “I’d be on that job for 13 years and then a new guy comes in and gets more in his first year that I did in my 13th?”
He wasn’t the only one upset. “I was told by a member of the School Committee three years ago that they were going to get Mr. Iannazzi out of the high school—by creating a position of business manager, or something,” Mike Romano, a beloved EGHS drama teacher, said at the time.
Some parents wanted Lepry to take Mr. Iannazzi’s high school post, but he declined. Lepry chose instead to fight for his job as principal at what was then known as East Greenwich Junior High School. The same forces trying to oust Mr. Iannazzi from the high school were trying to push Lepry out of his job there.
Things went downhill after Mr. Iannazzi left the high school. “The kids may have hated Dom while he was here,” one teacher told the Pendulum after he had moved on to the business office at Hanaford School, “but at least they respected him. The hate’s still there for the current administration, but there’s no respect.”
It was obviously a time of turmoil in the East Greenwich school system. Lou Lepry survived; Mr. Iannazzi didn’t.
When Mr. Iannazzi left East Greenwich for good in 1978, the School Committee decided the system no longer needed a business manager.
Mr. Iannazzi spent the final decades of his life quietly working for the federal government at Fort Knox, Ky., refereeing high school football games, and taking care of relatives as they aged, in California as well as Rhode Island. “He didn’t want anything publicized,” an old friend confided of the man’s life, and death. “But he often spoke of the students he knew in East Greenwich. He knew how strict he was with them, but felt they needed it—and he was proud of how many did so well.”
One of those was Bob Bergeron, that East Greenwich high graduate who had gone on to Brown and M.I.T. thanks to Mr. Iannazzi’s help. He ended up working for New Jersey’s Bell Labs—in math, of course—for 30 years. “Besides my parents, there is no one who had a greater influence on my life,” Bergeron said Sunday, Oct. 15. “He helped me learn how to get joy out of working hard.”
Bergeron and others say Mr. Iannazzi never expressed any bitterness at how he had been treated by the East Greenwich school system. But perhaps that was just part of his fervent lifelong desire for privacy. He spurned all honors, avoided photographs, and basically didn’t want to be remembered.
So it’s no surprise that Mr. Iannazzi didn’t go to his grave. Instead, he chose to be cremated.
That means there’s nowhere to go to thank him, or curse him, for his years in East Greenwich.
D’Agostino will ask the judge Tuesday morning to reopen the trial to put on additional evidence.
Closing arguments have been heard and post-trial briefs submitted, but Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl may allow additional testimony in the case of Town of East Greenwich versus James Perry and EG Firefighters, according to lawyer Elizabeth Wiens, who is representing Perry and the firefighters.
Town Solicitor Dave D’Agostino asked to add additional testimony after Wiens sought to amend her original complaint to add the names of specific Town Council members. Her original complaint identified Town Manager Gayle Corrigan, Town Finance Director Linda Dykeman and Town Council President Sue Cienki; Wiens sought to add the names of the four other Town Council members – Sean Todd, Mark Schwager, Nino Granatiero and Andy Deutsch.
In a session with the judge on Friday, D’Agostino said he wanted to put Town Council Vice President Sean Todd on the stand to speak about what took place during executive (closed) session meetings June 19 and July 24. In both cases, Town Clerk Leigh Carney was not present to take the minutes (in at least one of those occasions, Carney was told by Cienki she was not needed). Instead, D’Agostino took the minutes but votes said to have been taken in executive session were never recorded in the minutes. Judge McGuirl has questioned the validity of those votes based on the lack of any proof.
Following the executive session on June 19, D’Agostino announced that the Town Council had voted to accept then-Town Manager Tom Coyle’s separation agreement and to appoint then-consultant Gayle Corrigan acting town manager. During the July 24 executive session, the Town Council was said to have voted to approve Corrigan’s contract. Wiens has argued that Corrigan’s appointment was illegal.
Wiens said if Judge McGuirl allows Todd to testify, she will ask that Councilman Mark Schwager – the lone Democrat on the council and a consistent voice of dissent since June – also be allowed to testify.
A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, Oct. 16
Meditation at the Library – Come and learn about meditation and give it a try. No experience required. Free and open to all. For more information, contact Paulette Miller at email@example.com. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. East Greenwich Free Library, Peirce Street.
Tuesday, Oct. 17
EG Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours – At Red Stripe this month, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Members $5; non-members $10.
School Committee meeting – Among the items on the agenda, the committee will discuss the new website, get an update on transportation and a vote on a assistant principal for Cole Middle School. In the library at Cole starting at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 18
Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churchs and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.Learn more and check out the full schedule here: Lunch On The Hill Info Sheet.
Volunteer Crossing Guard Training – The training starts at 3:15 at Hanaford Elementary. To learn more about this new program, click here.
Planning Board meeting – On the agenda is a final plan approval application by the developer of Whispering Woods, a 13-lot subdivision at the end of Larkspur Road (off South Road) that received preliminary plan approval from the town in 2007. The board meets in Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 19
EGSD Transportation Subcommittee meeting – The panel meets in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at 111 Peirce Street. 9 a.m.
PARCC/Survey Works Forum – Parents are invited to a community discussion about the school district’s PARCC test and SurveyWorks data. In the library at Cole Middle School from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 21
West Bay Open Studios – This is the ninth year several West Bay artists have banded together for two days of open studios. Visit one studio or visit a bunch of them. It’s free and you get to see and even buy some amazing artwork. Studios will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a map of all the studios, go to westbayopenstudios.com.
Sunday, Oct. 22
West Bay Open Studios – This is the ninth year several West Bay artists have banded together for two days of open studios. Visit one studio or visit a bunch of them. It’s free and you get to see and even buy some amazing artwork. Studios will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a map of all the studios, go to westbayopenstudios.com.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
Recycling is ON this week.
Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.
“I was 8 years old and running with a dime in my hand. To the drugstore to pick up the paper for my old man.” – Bruce Springsteen
I was almost 8 years old when it happened. I remember some scenes vividly. My grandmother in the crowd clenched fist in the air and screaming as they brought in the suspect. The crowd acting almost like a lynch mob.
But on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 1950, none of that was known just yet. The Providence Journal headline yelled: “Five Known Dead In East Greenwich” (funny thing – one of the dead, the wife, was pregnant, but they didn’t include the baby as someone who died, even after the fact. It would be different today.) “Sixth Feared Lost; 3 Victims Are Children! Blaze Puts Phone Out Of Action, Delaying Alarm In Lonely Section!”
My father responded along with a host of volunteers from the East Greenwich Fire District to the call on Carr’s Pond Road. He had his camera and filmed the goings on at the “pig farm,” as it was called. I still have the film somewhere though most of what you see are shadows and fire.
The firemen recovered five bodies: Fred Dusza, 39, his pregnant wife, Beatrice, 31, and their three children, Beatrice, 11; Kathryn, 8; and Gail, 3 1/2. Missing in the count was the body of the boarder, Edward Reynolds, 27.
There was evidence that the fire started in the cellar, then quickly spread through the 2-story, 7-room house that Dusza had built himself. When a neighbor discovered it, the house was already an inferno. Just after 4 a.m., the light from the Dusza phone came on at the switchboard in the Greenwich exchange, but the operator got no response. The whole party-line phone system in the area was shorted out.
Another neighbor drove the 4 miles into town and raised the alarm. When the firemen got there the house was pretty much in ruins. Catholic priest Father Metsy was there to give last rites, as was Dr. Taggart, serving as medical examiner, and Police Chief Charles Johnson, all observing the firemen work under the direction of Captain Herbert Wilson.
The fire appeared to have started under strange circumstance because Leon Gendron, father of Mrs. Dusza, said the house had no heat or cooking fire.
Mr. Dusza was a hard-luck soul, who had lost an eye in one accident, fingers from his hand in another, had at least other two accidents, and had lost his piggery (farm) in another town to bankruptcy. And his house was once struck by lightning.
The first body was found at 8 a.m. Subsequently the firemen found four more. Despite intensive searching, the volunteers could not find the body of the itinerant boarder, Edwin Reynolds, 27, who was staying with the Dusza family and doing odd jobs there so he could be close to his estranged wife and children, who lived just up the road from the Dusza pig farm.
“I’m thrilled to be holding the event at the Odeum,” said Kall. “They’ve done such a great job with the refurbishment and being able to be at the local theater is so cool. To see it on the marque – I’m so excited!”
A number of local businesses have jumped on board to participate, including Rasa, Feast, Safehouse, Sweet Twist, Besos, Dave’s Marketplace, Panera Bread, Silver Spoon Bakery, and Robin b. clothing store and Cyclebar PVD.
The net proceeds from the event will go to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
Kall started down this path 15 years ago, with the radio talk show “Reading with Robin.” Today, she and her daughter, Emily Homonoff (EGHS Class of 2009) are working together on a variety of author-related events, including the very popular Point Street Reading Series, a monthly gathering at Bayberry Beer Hall, in which authors present readings, tell stories or even play an instrument. As many as 150 to 175 people show up to these events, proving Emily Homonoff right. She urged her mother to initiate the series.
“Everyone gets 15 minutes – a lot of cool stuff happens,” said Kall.
They hold a number of more traditional author events year-round. And, instead of radio, Kall has switched to podcasting – you can find “Reading with Robin” on iTunes and other podcast apps.
“We’ve tapped into something and people are responding to it. The more people who are interested, the more events I can do.”
To attract and accommodate residential students, NEIT also built a new student center attached to the main campus building, with a larger dining area and lots of spaces for students to gather and hang out. The school spent about $65 million on the dorm, upgrades to the main building as well as a couple outdoor basketball courts and soccer fields.
“East Greenwich has the opportunity to become a really engaged college town,” said NEIT’s Lynn Fawthrop, vice president of enrollment management & marketing. “It’s a real opportunity for the businesses in town – college students are great consumers.”
The new dorm can hold 400 students. Fawthrop said residential students are being phased in. The residence director lives at the dorm with her husband and young child, as does another staff member. In addition, there are resident assistants, students who get free room and board in exchange for providing the first line of response for dorm residents in need.
Fawthrop said the first two weekends have been uneventful but acknowledged that issues may arise.
“Not unlike every other college that has residence halls, there is the potential I guess,” she said. “We’ve been open two weekends and we’ve had no issues. We have pretty stringent expectations for them. And we keep them busy. Our students are in class a lot because we have 10-week quarters. To finish in 18 months for an associates degree or three years for a bachelor’s, our students are pretty focused academically.”
The building is outfitted with fire alarms that will be able to tell the EG Fire Department exactly where there’s a fire. Fire Chief Russell McGillivray said firefighters are spending time at the university right now getting familiar with
the new dorm and student center. He said firefighters from Warwick and West Warwick will be visiting later this month, since they will probably have to respond there on occasion too.
“We need to make sure it’s not too big of a drain on town services,” McGillivray said. For small things, prank fire alarms for instance, “I’m hoping a little self-policing will stop that stuff before we have to respond.”
“At this point, we don’t anticipate any major disruption of town services,” said Police Chief Steven Brown. “We already go there quite often … for motor vehicle accidents, just minor stuff.”
Both McGillivray and Brown praised the school for hiring veteran public safety officials.
Brown said his biggest question is the potential for more pedestrian traffic on the already busy Division Street and South County Trail. What is a large group of students decide they want to go to a movie, he said. Does that become a problem?
Many have provided enormous sacrifices to make America a special place. Their efforts have helped ensure that we are indeed ‘the land of the free’.
Today we are faced with challenges that are forcing us to confront deep-seated issues like race, power and opportunity. This poem, Taking a Knee, is not intended to be anti-American. In fact, it is intended to be a prayer for our coming together. God Bless America and all of her people. Also, a special thanks to those who have served in our military. Without them we would be a far different country.
Taking A Knee
All across this nation It is time to take a stand Kneel for your brothers and sisters Who share this sacred land Kneel for their freedom Kneel for their choice Let’s seek to heal deep wounds By actions and our voice
Every single city block Each home and person’s heart Take a knee to show all souls That we’re never far apart Kneel for their freedom Kneel for their choice Let’s seek to heal deep wounds By actions and our voice
The heroes of the ages Who fought to make us free Set the tone for all time With this land for you and me Kneel for their freedom Kneel for their choice Let’s seek to heal deep wounds By actions and our voice
All in this together We can challenge any harm The country is a better place When friends walk arm in arm Kneel for their freedom Kneel for their choice Let’s seek to heal deep wounds By actions and our voice
America is special for its ability to change and embrace new ideas. We are presently challenged with questions about what direction this nation needs to go. These questions are healthy and avoiding them robs us of solutions. Let’s face our weaknesses. Let’s acknowledge our need to reflect. When we do so new chapters can be written. Ones, which will make future generations proud.
Respecting our flag means more than standing for the National Anthem. It is also about respecting Veteran’s, creating opportunities for all, and showing the world that the voice of the people matters. Those who took a knee or locked arms care about the country. Those who stood with hands over their hearts do as well. Let’s recognize what we all want – to be a part of our country’s dream.
Monday morning quarterbacks abound. Hindsight can make for genius. The N.F.L. protests and the nation’s response indicate that there is a need for dialogue as well as action. Trivializing the situation ignores some legitimate issues. Whatever your thoughts and feelings are on this matter Taking A Knee symbolically refers to remembering the impetus behind the act. While resorting to ‘sides’, it’s often forgotten that we are in this together. America is already great. Let’s help make it even greater.
Sadly, the Red Sox season is over, but for a bunch of kids from the East Greenwich Little League Challenger baseball team, 2017 will always be a special year. That’s because it’s the year they got to take some swings at home plate at Fenway Park.
It started when team coach Howard Faunce learned that CVS and the Red Sox offer a program for Challenger teams. The Little League Challenger Division was created so young people with physical and/or developmental disabilities could play baseball with the help of peer buddies. John Sullivan got EGLL to add a Challenger team in East Greenwich in 2014. Faunce sent in a letter outlining the program and saying the team would love to participate. That’s all it took. They contacted Faunce and said, Come to Fenway.
Here’s where I need to make a confession: My son James is an EGLL Challenger athlete. When we heard about the Fenway opportunity, I figured we would be one of many teams at the park that day. Instead, it turns out we were the only team. First the athletes did a little batting practice inside. I figured, well, that’s it. Nope. Then they took everyone out to the field, athletes, buddies and awed parents alike. The kids sat in the dugout, then everyone checked out the Green Monster and then it was time for on-field batting practice. One by one, the athletes were guided to home plate for a chance to swing at a few pitches. Afterwards, it was time for lunch in the dugout where the Red Sox would be hanging out just a few hours later. Following lunch, there was a tour of Fenway.
Everyone got tickets to the game that night (8/16) – Red Sox versus Cardinals (a sweet game, ending with Mookie Betts’s walk-off home run in the 9th) – and included early admission to catch the Red Sox batting practice. It was an
“It means everything to see the smiles, the opportunity for these great kids, the buddies and the athletes, to be here for this,” said Faunce. “It’s an amazing fulfilling experience for me. The best part of it for me is just watching the kids play together.”
11:00 a.m.– Police arrested a Pawtucket man, 38, on a bench warrant. Police had stopped him for failing to stop at a stop sign. Officers ran a registration check on the car and it showed the driver had an outstanding warrant. The man was taken into custody and then taken to Superior Court in Providence.
Tuesday, Sept. 26: Vandalism to Car/ Road Rage
4:50 p.m. – An East Greenwich resident told police that while he was driving southbound on Main Street past Mainstreet Coffee, a man on a motorcycle pulled up next to his driver’s side window and punched the side mirror, breaking it off, then drove off. The EG resident told police that the motorcyclist was driving erratically and was swearing and screaming at him after cutting him off. The estimated value of the mirror is $200.
Wednesday, Sept. 27: Domestic Disturbance
12:25 a.m. – Police arrested an East Greenwich woman, 20, for domestic violence after her and three other women had an argument. The argument escalated and turned physical when the EG woman grabbed and slapped one of the other women. She was placed into custody and transported to the EGPD where she waited for the bail commissioner.
Dog in Hot Car
11:50 a.m. – Police were called to the area of Main Street near Union Street for a call about a dog that was in a vehicle and was in distress. When police showed up they found the dog on the back seat floor panting hard, the outdoor temperature was 82 degrees. Police were able to open the vehicle and get the dog out and they took the dog to North Kingstown Animal Hospital where they administered IV fluids.
Saturday, Sept. 30: Drunk Driving
12:19 a.m. – Police arrested a North Kingstown man, 19, for driving while intoxicated after he ran into a pole on Frenchtown Road. When police officers arrived on scene they found that the man appeared drunk. After failing field sobriety tests, the man was taken into custody. Police gave him a District Court summons.
Sunday, Oct. 1: Hit and Run Accident with Horse
7:30 a.m. – An East Greenwich resident reported to police that while she was putting her horse into the back of a horse trailer on Middle Road, a car driving by hit the horse on the leg and the driver’s side door of the trailer. The driver kept going; the woman took down the driver’s license plate. The horse’s leg was bleeding; the owner wasn’t sure how serious the injury was to the horse.