EGHS Wall of Honor Celebrates Community

From left, Diane McDonald (with a granddaughter), Matt Plain, John Chandler, Bernice Pescosolido, and Guy Asadorian – the 2018 inductees of the EGHS Wall of Honor.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Bernice Pescosolido had to leave East Greenwich before she could understand the its power.

“The most important thing that EG High School and the Town of East Greenwich and – I have to say – the state of Rhode Island provides for people … is a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” said Pescosolido.

“I’m so proud to be from East Greenwich because we really were this working class community,” she said. “I had no idea that what we were was so special and so different. I’ve come to understand and believe that.”

Pescosolido graduated from the high school in 1970 and is a distinguished professor of sociology at Indiana University. (You can read more about Pescosolido and the other four inductees here.)

John Chandler, Class of 1966, lived in East Greenwich a mere five years. He spent four of them at EGHS and it made its mark. He made his mark too, serving as class president for two years, among other distinctions.

Chandler, who had an illustrious career in information technology, almost didn’t finish high school in East Greenwich. His family, after moving to EG from California before his 8th grade year, moved to Oklahoma the summer before his senior year.

He ended up staying with the Forscht family for that final year of high school.

Chandler’s life has been elsewhere ever since 1966 but Chandler’s love of EGHS came through loud and clear Wednesday.

“I feel like I’ve come  home,” he said before launching into his prepared remarks.

“I’ve been the fortunate beneficiary of an enormous amount of support from this community and love from my family for my entire life,” said Matt Plain, the youngest of the night’s honorees. He graduated in 1994.

Plain, a member of the EG School Committee, made his love of the EG schools clear, recalling all those who taught or guided him in elementary school, including the school custodian.

“Who could forget Bobby Taylor, keeping our school clean and safe for everybody to enjoy,” Plain said.

Plain started out as a teacher himself. A lawyer now, he continues to work on education issues.

Diane McDonald spoke about how she got to live out her childhood dream, riding horses and then owning her own stable (Dapper Dan). For McDonald, the daughter of teachers (her father, Norman Monks, taught and coached in East Greenwich for decades), being a horsewoman was not a given. But it was something she always wanted to do, she said.

If she could tell young people anything, she said, it would be to “follow your passion. Don’t settle for a job that’s just a job.”

Guy Asadorian, Class of 1982, spoke lovingly of this town he’s never left.

“It’s that whole deep sense of community that, really, gave me the foundation to try and be successful as an adult,” he said. Asadorian works in financial services.

“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in this town and I’m 100 percent certain that it’s that connection that I have to the community that’s really motivated me to want to give back.”

There was a sixth person honored Wednesday night, if not officially. That was Dominic Iannazzi, who died in 2017. Iannazzi was a teacher, school administrator and coach in East Greenwich from the 1950s into the late 1970s. He wanted no fanfare upon his death but Wall of Honor organizer Bruce Mastracchio recounted a couple Iannazzi stories and that seemed to prompt others.

John Chandler said before he was able to find a permanent home for his senior year (his family had moved out of state), Iannazzi actually took him in for six weeks.

Bernice Pescosolido recounted how she’d tried hard to stay off Iannazzi’s radar since her brothers were definitely ON his radar.

“I just thought if Mr. Iannazzi knew my name I would automatically be given detention,” she said.

Diane McDonald DID get detention.

She’d asked if she could take a day off school to compete in a horse show. Iannazzi said no, but she went anyway. When McDonald turned up at school the next day with a note, Iannazzi held up the newspaper announcing that she’d won a trophy at the horse show. He gave her two days detention.

If you know of someone from EGHS you think should be put on the Wall of Honor, contact Bruce Mastracchio at thebrooker23@yahoo.com.


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Springtime and Baseball!

A few ballplayers from the OLM team, circa 1954.

By Bruce Mastracchio

A big part of growing up in old East Greenwich – we played baseball a lot. Not as much as we played basketball, which we played year round, but a lot more than football, which we reserved for the fall (except for Muckleball).

As soon as Spring sprung we were outside for baseball. We played regular baseball. We played special games like stickball, streetball, stoop ball, hit the bat, rotation and relievio.

We made our own balls of paper and tape and played in small, backyard ‘parks’ where a 90 foot “smash” could be a home run. Some of us played it in garages, where hitting a hung up garbage can cover was a double and our bats were broomsticks and axe handles.

The main point is that we played. Each neighborhood had its team, and, thanks to Butch, who was a real organizer, we formed the Dedford League.

This trip down The Lane is dedicated to those teams, both “Above and Below the Hill,” the ScallopTown Raiders, Marlborough Street Marauders, South Marlborough Crusaders, Dedford Street Lions, Rector Street Jack Rabbits and the Hamilton Rip Shirts. And, of course, to Butch (Raymond ” Butch ” Moffitt), for all his work.


I can’t remember a day of my youth when I was not involved in some game, either with other like-minded guys, or working on skills against the barn behind my home. After school, on weekends, on vacations. If you drove around EG back then you’d see a bunch of kids on at least one, and maybe all, of the fields in town engaged in some form of athletic activity.

The author tags out an opponent.

NO adults. NO real organization. It was the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Little League did not reach us until 1953.

Without adults it was a heck of a lot of fun. One neighborhood would challenge another, set up a date, time and place, and the game was on.

ScallopTown played their games on a cinder field next to the lumber yard. It is a site for boat storage now, right across from the EG Yacht Club. Dedford Street used the Quaker Lot, which now serves a parking lot for the EG School Department. The Rip Shirts used Proulx Field on Route 2 (complete with cow flop bases). Marlborough Street used Eldredge, The Crusaders used OLM Field and the Jack Rabbits used Academy Field.

Though it was loose knit, we took our games seriously. Then Butch came on the scene. Slightly older than the rest of us, he captained the Dedford Street bunch to which I belonged. We were a Spanky and Our Gang conglomeration, which did a lot of Spanky-type activities together.

Author Bruce Mastracchio’s Little League picture at age 12, when he played for the Volunteers, sponsored by the EG Fire District.

Butch, with his myriad of ideas, brought some order to the loose-knit league. He was sought of the precursor to Little League. He had us get matching sweatshirts, which with the use of markers, crayons and paint, were transformed into Dedford Street Lion uniforms.

He drew up schedules and made cardboard scoreboards. He kept statistics. He arranged games with other neighborhoods. He coached and assigned us to our positions. He kept league standings.

Butch was a manager, promoter, statistician and player all rolled into one.

I suppose, if they had let him, he would have reported our scores to the newspaper. He may have even tried that, but, of course, they were really not interested in our kid games. (Funny though, a few years later, our Little League games were well covered complete with 8×10 glossy pictures pasted up in store windows in town).

It was a Charlie Brown existence before that bald-head ever set foot on the scene. We even had girls on our teams, in baseball anyway. I guess, you could say, we got a jump on women’s lib.

For our Dedford Lions, home park was The Quaker Lot. Left field had a wire fence and was quite a poke, maybe 370 feet or more. Right field was bounded by a stone wall, and was a short stroke of 180 feet or so, which prompted many of us, and our opponents, to bat left-handed so that we might launch one “outta there”!

We played game after game, and, if we weren’t going against another team, we split up and played against ourselves. If we didn’t have enough players we would play Rotation or Rollo or Hit the Bat.

There was nothing we wouldn’t try and in those lazy, hazy times the days were long and our lives seemed like they were going to last forever (I constantly use the saying, which I coined of, “28 hour days and 8 day weeks”).

If we only knew!

As the Whittakers once said, “Nostalgia is like an anesthetic; you experience NO pain, only a beautiful haze. When you grow older, what matters is not the way it was, BUT the way you remember it ! “

Another great tag out.

Remember, old friend, our kid games? How we whiled away the hours with World Series baseball, in your garage on Duke Street? The can cover was a double, and you were always the hated Yankees, while I, the Red Sox, who played from 1920 to 1958, all on the same team.

The pitcher had to duck behind a plywood screen, or lose his head when Mantle or Williams “tagged” one for a homer.

OUR Louisville Slugger was an axe handle pilfered from a father’s work truck, and we played by the hour, never really settling which team was best, though we were always sure which one really was, deep in the tabernacles of our soul.

Remember how people passing by would laugh at us in our bliss, or, maybe even smile, but have their memories jogged back to other years, another time, when they were us!

Writer’s Note: There you have it. Another tale from “Old EG,” the place of those 28 hour days and 8 day weeks! How we wish we could have them back. Please, pretty please. I would not trade one of those days for 10 days of the present or ALL the tea in China (can you even say that now?).

So to all of you out there who experienced, or know, or understand. May God bless you all and may you have your dreams. With all the love I can muster and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (you have to read the book).

(Photographs courtesy of the author.)

 

Praise for Public Works Department

Dear Editor,

When things go wrong, I, most likely, will be one of the first to complain. On the flip side, however, when things go right I feel it is equally important to make sure that the people doing the right thing be recognized.

Just recently I had occasion to call the Town of East Greenwich Department of Public Works for help with a problem. In a short time, they responded and did a great job to ensure that the predicted heavy rain would have a path to go on come this Thursday and Friday.

I want to thank Bill Pagliarini for the excellent job he did and for Audrey and Mary at DPW Headquarters for their help.

It was a page out of old town EG here in 2017. Great job all!

Sincerely,
Bruce R. Mastracchio

 

Our Father Who Art In EG

The original Our Lady of Mercy church was on Main Street.

By Bruce Mastracchio

Growing up Catholic is quite an experience at any rate. I make fun of my Episcopal friends and friends of other religious persuasions, along with my Catholic experiences, but, when you really study it, growing up on the knee of Mother Church is an experience beyond experiences. If she gets you before age seven, she has you for life. Even if you quit going to Mass it seems that something from those Catechism days pops up in your life again and again.

Most Catholics who have varying opinions of this experience, do, though, have one thing in common. They usually hold a mental picture, or a real one, of their favorite priest. Usually it is someone like Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” or Spencer Tracy in “Boys Town.”

Recently, though, the Church and its priests have come under attack and the memories of current day Catholics and some from parishes with a darker side in their past, may not be so good. They should have let priests marry and that would have gone part way to solving some of the problems. That subject gave root to one of my greatest lines and will be revisited later in this piece.

We were lucky in East Greenwich in those mockingbird years of the mid-fifties. We had Father Joe and The Barn!

Neither will ever be forgotten, even though they are now gone from our midst, but not our minds or memories. They will always have an apartment there to be visited from time to time. The visits will always be good.

This column is dedicated to The Barn Gang: To Lu and Flute, Deacon and Bubba Joe, Big Hop & Lil’ Hop, Young Gun and Bird and especially to Karen & Gail, Linda, Elaine, Claire and Sandy, so that they may never forget. . . . 

Father Joe came on the scene in 1955. He was your not so typical, typical Irish-Catholic priest, stepping in at over 6 feet and 260 lbs. He was imposing, to say the least, and had an impact immediately, if not sooner. He got our attention and he got it fast. He also gave us memories. Memories that still last.

There are all kinds of priests. In those days, it seemed, most of them were content to do their jobs. Some were overly religious. Some were more like regular guys. Some were teetotalers. Some liked their booze, uh, holy wine. And some were bean counters. Most stuck to the dogma of our religion, and those bothered me the most. They would stick by the book. Even when the book was wrong.

In general, they were all looked at as stern, unbending, and not really in touch with the people. Especially, the pastors.

When Father Joe came on the scene all that changed. He touched our lives, and us, in more ways then one. But, NO, not THAT one!

He was a People’s Priest, the likes of which we have not seen since.

The Mass became his particular vehicle. We had never seen a priest stop in the middle of the mystical Latin service and threaten parishioners who were trying to leave Mass early so they could get a head start on the coffee and donuts down at the local cafe, or get early tee time at their country club.

He also left the pulpit and roamed the aisles giving us the gospel, or what for, or whatever, or whatever was needed. A little of that old, good-time, roll up your sleeves religion.

He seemed to be everywhere. He showed up at people’s houses to visit the sick, or just visit, or maybe to sample some of Mom’s coffee and apple pie. He came to the ball games and even played softball in the local town league. He went to wakes and funerals and dinners. You might look up from reading a magazine at the local variety store, and he’s be standing there. He was everywhere. That magazine had better have been about sports or Norman Rockwell or else!

It was awesome as kids to watch him play softball, He played for OLM in the local league. To some of the parishioners, this was sacrilegious. But we kids loved it. We had never seen a Catholic priest play softball before, and this guy not only played, he knocked the stuffing out of the ball.

Ironically, many of his home runs landed across the street outside the ballpark and ended up in the Protestant cemetery. One time, in winning a bet from us kids, he  got down on his knees at the Little League Park and knocked balls over the flagpole.

Sort of ” praying home runs ” so to speak.

He was a hands on priest, even if that meant putting hands on Deacon and TabCat, who had the audacity (and stupidity) to get into a fistfight during the middle of our CYO meeting one Monday evening.

He rolled up his sleeves and gave us a practical look at religion. One we have never seen, before or since. Whether it was a physical lesson, like the one Deacon and TabCat got, or a practical one in the form of a lecture, or just an old fashioned talk, Father Joe usually got the job done and in a way that stuck in your mind, your soul or your body!

“Don’t get the Big Guy mad” sort of became our password.

Yet, we knew he cared. In more ways than one. Today, when priests go on vacation, be it normal or the “collars off” type, they usually go alone, with another priest or with family, or maybe someone else. When Father Joe went, he took us!

He had a farmhouse at his disposal in New Hampshire near Echo Lake. He would fill his station wagon with gas and food, and then with the altar boys, basketball team or the baseball team. Then off we’d go for a week of fun at a place that was like our own private camp.

As I said the farm was near Echo Lake, The Flume, The Tramway and the Old Man in the Mountain at Franconia Notch. We had a ball and those trips made an indelible impression on many a boy, most of whom had never been out of East Greenwich, never mind Rhode Island.

We had apple fights, milked cows, dared one another to touch the electric fence, swam in freezing cold lakes, met the tenants, who were Hungarian Freedom Fighters who had stared down and shot at the Russians, and at night rolled up in our blankets and sleeping bags filled with a day of adventure and happenings. We slept well and hard.

We lived more of this life that we had come to know and love. It was idyllic. It was fulfilling. It opened our eyes to other ways.

One time Father Joe took six of us down to Philadelphia to appear on American Bandstand with Dick Clark. We had won dance contests at the church-sponsored dance and the trip was our prize. It was his treat to us for winning. We saw things that, once again, were new to us. Guys putting on rouge and lipstick so they would look better on TV. How different the real thing was to what we saw on TV. Grafitti on the records you saw behind Dick Clark’s podium on the show. The smallness of the set.

But, we were up close and personal with Dick Clark. We danced our time away. We had a hell of a time, thanks to a heaven of a priest.

Still, the best thing Father Joe gave us, aside from the present of himself and his time, was The Barn!

It was just an old horse barn located behind OLM when that church was on Main Street. If it were here today it would be approximately where Back to Basics is.

Word had it that the local teenagers needed a place to go in East G. A place to occupy them and keep them off the streets.

Father Joe had an idea and he got John and Jerry and Joe and a bunch of the male parishioners to turn that idea into a reality. The men donated time, tools and physical effort and they made a priest’s vision come to life!

For us it was our own magical, mystical, mystery show.

What had once been an old horse and buggy barn got converted, just like water to wine, from a dusty, cluttered, unused edifice into The Barn, a monument in our memory

What had once been an old horse and buggy barn got converted, just like water to wine, from a dusty, cluttered, unused edifice into The Barn, a monument in our memory!

After the workmen were done with it (all volunteer labor), it held a dance floor with jukebox, a card playing area, a ping pong room, a pool room, a games room and a TV room. Outside there were two basketball courts, one full court and the other half court.

When Father Joe put his mind to it, he got ‘er done, as they say today. A lot of equipment was donated. After all, who could refuse a priest? Especially one, who stood 6 feet and 260 pounds. No one! Kind of like a religious Godfather, if you get my drift.

He made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. And, they didn’t!

He was not Bing Crosby (a dark figure in real life) or Spencer Tracy, or Barry Fitzgerald, but he was a lot more real. We never wailed that plaintive cry, especially the one I heard from my own kids that there was “nothing to do in East Greenwich. It’s so boring!”

We had a lot to do and a place to do it in! If the streets, the cove, the woods or the farm didn’t provide us with diversions, there was always The Barn!

Father Joe left EG in 1962. He, like others, eventually left the priesthood (their loss). He married and is living happily somewhere on the planet. As a priest he knew all the answers (as a marriage counselor). Now he is finding out the questions. He gave me cause to use two of my best, and in one case, prophetic lines:

He wanted me to be a priest. I answered, “Father, if they let priests marry, I’ll be a priest tomorrow.” (Uttered  in 1959.)

On asking me about marriage I told him: “Father, when you were 33 you knew all the answers. Now you don’t even know the questions.” Of course, he loved me for my wit and wisdom. He, and the church, should have listened.

The Barn burned down in 1961. One of the guys bunked school, snuck into the Barn and fell asleep in the TV lounge with a cigarette burning “tween his fingers.”

He survived. The Barn did not.

It was never rebuilt.

Now it only exists in those corners of our mind that are reserved for good memories, good times and good friends. Trips down shadowy mental hallways to those bright spots that bring us joy and pleasure.

Even that is better than never having it at all.

I do hope, good friends, that this tale has helped you to open that doorway that opens on that hallway, that leads to the corners of your mind when the times were good, as were your friends.

With Much Love and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Bruce

This Was the Town That Made America Famous, Part 2

By Bruce Mastracchio

Adolph, one of the firefighters who got blown out of the Dunn house.

This is the second part of a two-part article about the East Greenwich Fire District back when it was a volunteer organization. You can find Part 1 here.

Another group of Charlie’s great photos were taken at a fire up on Kenyon Avenue near Division, where an explosion on the scene injured five firemen, including Fritz Johnson, an inductee into the EG Athletic Hall of Fame. It was a heat explosion. Gases built up inside the house and when the firefighter broke through the door the release of pressure blew all five men down the stairs of the Dunn House onto Kenyon Avenue. The only thing that saved them from being severely burned was the fact that they were wearing all their equipment and Scott air packs. They were burned in all unprotected areas and a couple spent some time in the hospital.

Remember, these men weren’t doing this for pay. They were all volunteers. They all felt it was their duty and that they were doing their community a service. That service could have cost them their lives.

Fritz laid out.

EG had a reputation as one of the most finely trained volunteer groups anywhere, and, under the direction of Chief Fred Miller (you can read about him here), they took pride in their ability to fight fires and answer any rescue call for help. They did it in a professional way and found satisfaction in the doing. Most, I guess, never gave a lot of consideration to the danger, or, if they did, they hid it well. The service opened up a window on a lot of pain and suffering but, outwardly at least, most firefighters appeared unaffected.

Of course, there were other perks, too, of being a volunteer. Most got a uniform and got to march in the local parades. Musters and Firemen’s Olympic-type competitions were fun get togethers where firefighting skills, competition and camaraderie were the bonding and binding things of young men. You also got to travel to places like Goffstown, N.H.; Newburyport, Mass.; and Marblehead and a lot of other small New England towns to compete in the musters and carnival.

It gave you a chance to compare, contrast and compete for bragging rights. At least for a year. Many times EGVFD was the best with their pumper and the big boys pumping could send that stream “a ways” down the paper.

This edition of Rems ( Reminiscences ) was dedicated to all those devoted men of my youth. To Chief Miller, one of the most selfless men I ever knew, and Don and Frank, George and Jim, Leigh and Bill. To Joe and Dick, Harry, Bob, Elmer and Lawson. To all those firefighters who made Station One such a special place to be.

And, mostly to my father, Gaeton, gone 61 years now, the best fire truck driver ever. Perhaps, this Rems will stir up the past a little for you all. The ghosts, the stories, the memories.

The Past … “and something’s burning somewhere. Does anybody care?”

Writer’s Note: I have some pictures that go with this story and some others that were in EG Magazine. You old Townies would be interested in them. If I can get ahold of some of Charlie Booth’s gory ones, I will send them along. As soon as I get my wife to reeducate me on using the scanner I will get them out to you. I am sure you will like them.

With as much love as I can muster for you all AND In the Spirit of Crazy Horse….

To read Part 1, click here.

This Was the Town That Made America Famous, Part 1

By Bruce Mastracchio   

Yes, this was the Town that made America famous; the local Fire Department stocked with short-haired Volunteers, and on Saturday night when they showed movies, the lawyer and the youngest teens saw their dreams on the movie screen, BUT something’s burning somewhere. Does anybody care?
– Harry Chapin

It was back in that more innocent time I like to write about. Before accruing Washingtons and Lincolns and Grants became more of an agenda than paying attention to your fellow man.

The local Fire Department was stocked with short-haired volunteers, me and my buds among them. On hearing that song by Harry Chapin, I thought he might have had East Greenwich in mind when he wrote it.

The EG firemen marching down Division street during a parade.

Volunteer activity was heavy in those days and gave that group an elitist feeling. A good feeling. A different feeling. It hasn’t been felt in a long time. Getting paid for doing something doesn’t make something good necessarily.

For whatever the reason, many EG boys joined the EGFD at the age of 15 in the Juniors program. Some joined to help others. To do a good turn. Some joined for the excitement and adventure. Some had a goal of making firefighting an occupation. Maybe a combination of all of those reasons. Back then being an EGFD volunteer meant something.

In the early days the station on Main Street was unmanned. Calls came into the local telephone operator (my mother was one as were two of my aunts). She would then press a button that would activate the siren. The horn came later.

Volunteers would either rush to the station, or call the operator and she would give them the location of the fire. If a firefighter worked for a local business, or, was a Junior fireman going to school, he was allowed to leave to fight the fire under an agreement worked out between the business community, the school and the fire department.

Later on a system was developed that allowed the siren signal to go off followed by a series of blasts on a horn placed on the roof of Station 1 on Main Street, that gave the approximate location of the fire. Every firefighter had a book to refer to. Some had the system memorized. If the first blast was solitary it meant the fire was above Main Street. Two initial blasts meant below Main. Three was for Cowesett. Four was Frenchtown. Five for Potowomut.

For instance, 2-1-2-6 was a fire at the Italian-American Club on Duke Street. 1-2-4-2 was Eldredge School. 3-1-1 was Spencer Avenue. 4-1-1-2 was The Grange in Frenchtown. 5-2-2-1 was Rocky Hill School. On top of that there were special signals such as 2, which was the test blast every day a noon (Sundays at 1 p.m.); 4-4 was fresh water drowning; 5-5 meant a riot; 6-3 was Goddard Park; 7 was an out-of-district drowning.

The young volunteers took pride in their position, especially if it meant they got out of school to go fight a big brush fire. This happened a few times, both during the days of the old East Greenwich Academy and when EG High School was on Cedar Avenue (where Cole Middle School is now). Of course, being a Junior also meant a lot of training under the watchful and critical eyes of the older men, in particular George King and Joe Lawrence. They could be tough on you.

Some of the more memorable fires were the Pig Farm fire, which was lit by a man who murdered a whole family (read about the Dusza-Reynolds case here); the Main Street fire at Odd Fellows Hall; the Efco Manufacturing fire; the Benny’s fire (read about that here); the Bleachery fire; a couple of shanty town fires and plenty of woods fires. Of course, the older guys could go on for hours about their “fights,” but the above mentioned are ones that stick in my mind the most.

Being near Quonset Point, and in the path of leave and liberty weekends for the young sailors and marines stationed there, meant a lot of late night and weekend rescue calls. In those days there were a lot of accidents, some horrific, and as young teenagers we were exposed to blood, gore and death that some people had to go to war to see. Crushed cars, battered and bloody servicemen, even, one time, a headless Navy guy hit by a train – these were fairly routine sights for boys serving as volunteers for the EGFD. One time we even got to assist when Mr. King (who died in 2015 at age 92) delivered a baby. On a couple of other occasions we had to dive under water at Goddard and Sandy Point to recover drowning victims.

Almost every one of these escapades was captured on film and a journey through Charlie Booth’s photo album would be an eye opener to a lot of people. Mr. Booth was the unofficial-official photographer for the EGFD and he was always on hand. To me his photos deserved an award. They were on-the-scene records of fires, accidents, rescues, drownings and the like. No one who has seen them can ever forget his shots of the four North Kingstown football players who were chasing their girlfriends and got hit by a train at the Cowesett crossing (one of the reasons for the bridge you see there today).

It should be mandatory viewing for every prom going teenager. I used to use them when I taught school in California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to show how a little “fooling around,” and a second’s wrong decision, can lead to death and destruction.

End of Part One. In Part Two, Bruce will talk about the Dunn Fire and Musters and thank the men who made EGFD the best volunteer company in the state.

 

Murder in a Small Town – The Dusza-Reynolds Story, Part 1

The Dusza family is buried in the East Greenwich Cemetery on First Avenue.

 Editor’s Note: This is a true story.

“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.

It was then that questions started to surface.

End Part One

– Bruce Mastracchio

Avenger College Notes: September 2017 Edition

East Greenwich High School Athletic Director Chris Cobain is not only happy with the recent success of the athletic program at EGHS (he was named AD of the Year last year), but he is also happy with the fact that athletes from the school are going on to play in college.

Some of those who have gone on and are participating on the college playing fields are:

Lauren Swanson at Northeastern University, who has a personal best in the weight throw at 53’9.75″; in the hammer at 166’2″. She is 6th All Time at NU in the Hammer and 9th All Time in the Indoor Weight throw. She also notched the highest Freshman finish at the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Championships.

Summer Murray at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, who had an Indoor career best in the weight throw at the Mount Union Invitational with a toss of 13.72 meters. Ms. Murray also throws in the outdoor season shining in the shot put, hammer and discus.

Tommy Sommers, who runs three seasons at American University in D.C. In Cross Country he had a season’s best of 16:39.4 in the 5000 m at the DCYC Invitational. Indoors he ran a 4:13.33 at the Navy Invite, took a 5th in the mile at the Father Diamond Meet, and a 4th in the 3000 at the Last Chance Meet with a time of 8:44.37. Outdoors his top performance was a 4th at the Maryland Invitational.

Britt Estes enters his Senior year at Brown as a member of that school’s football team. He is a kicker and punter, who saw action last year and hopes to contribute this fall. He also led the JV gridders in scoring.

Matt Sylvia is a freshman wide receiver candidate for the potent Salve Regina Seahawks. Word is the former Avenger standout may garner some playing time in his initial year at the Newport school.

Katie Swanson is a member of the Union College lacrosse team. The former Avenger star is looking to make a contribution in her second year for the Dutchmen stickers.

Courtney McMullen is on the Field Hockey roster at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The former Avenger star and Ucci Award winner is looking to duplicate the success of her sister Kaley.

Kaley McMullen, daughter of EGHS coach Deb McMullen, walked on at Fairfield University in Connecticut and appeared in all 21 games in 2016, starting 15. She scored three goals and had four assists.

Jackson Cronin, another Ucci Award winner, is starting his Freshman year at George Washington University in the D.C. area. Like Sommer he most likely will be running cross country, indoor and outdoor track.

Graham Chapski – Bentley University senior in cross country and track. Part of Falcon’s top five. Fifth among BU runners at NCAA Division II Regionals, with a 26.23.4 times. Personal best was a 26:20.7 for year. Helped set a record in 4×800 relay at 2016 New Englands as unit went 7:40. 52. Graham ran all three seasons for the Falcons, cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

John Hare – Haverford College fencing freshman, Hare had a best 19-3 record at the Vassar Invitational. Went 12-0 during the MACFA weekend tournament, and was 11-3 as the “Fords sabre squad won the MACFA title. He finished 2nd in the individual competition.

Eric Lauro – A senior, is a member of the Union College football team.

Margaret McCaffreyA sophomore at RIC is a member of both the cross country and track teams. She ran a 20:49.0 at the Pop Crowell Invitational and a 20:13.63 at the Little East X-C Championships.

Sarah Basler – Another EG runner on the Rhode Island College roster, Sarah, a freshman, clocked a best of 23:11.84 at the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational. Mr. Cobain encourages anyone who has a relative or friend performing at the next level to contact him at (401) 398-1562 or email thebrooker23@yahoo.com, and give the student’s name, college and sport being played.

Mr. Cobain encourages anyone who has a relative or friend performing at the next level to contact him at (401) 398-1562 or email thebrooker23@yahoo.com, and give the student’s name, college and sport being played.

– Bruce Mastracchio

EGHS Wall of Honor Ceremony: Memories, Inside Jokes, a Tear or Two

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Town Councilman Mark Schwager offers commendations from the council to the 2015 EGHS Wall of Honor inductees.

The East Greenwich High School Wall of Honor Ceremony is hitting its stride, with a record 144 people in attendance Wednesday night, the eighth such ceremony. It helped that one of the inductees was current physical education teacher and field hockey coach Deb McMullen – athletes in their teens, 20s and 30s turned out to celebrate the popular coach.

“Looking around, I kind of wish we had some sticks so we could go out to play. We have a ton of talent here,” McMullen said her current and former field hockey players.

Former Rhode Island First Lady Sue Carcieri was inducted and many of her large family – including former Gov. Don Carcieri (and 2013 Wall of Honor inductee) –were there to cheer their mother and grandmother. Mrs. Carcieri spoke most poignantly of the hardships her family endured after the untimely death of her father.

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2015 EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Sue Carcieri with her husband, former Gov. Don Carcieri.

“Not everybody starts out with everything handed to them,” Carcieri said. She recounted how she was able to attend URI because the school gave her a full scholarship – $1,000 a year!

Find Carcieri’s speech here.

Longtime St. Luke’s Music Director Priscilla Rigg, who retired just in January after 50 years, rounded out the female half of the inductee class of 2015.

“I think, gentlemen, that I’m the first musician to be inducted,” Rigg noted.

Find Rigg’s speech here.

McMullen, for her part, spoke of being able to work and live in East Greenwich.

“So, obviously, East Greenwich is an incredibly special place,” she said. “I grew up here. I went to school and graduated here. I had a vision to teach here … and it worked out, I was able to secure that job at Cole. And now we’re raising our family here.”

Find McMullen’s speech here.

Deb McMullen with her family.
Deb McMullen with her family.

Fred Brown and Otto Olson, deceased, were represented by family members Paul Brown and Eric Olson, who both spoke of how both Olson and Brown served their community not for praise, but because it was the right thing to do.

Find Paul Brown’s speech here and Eric Olson’s speech here.

In addition to the five inductees, Steve and Christine Bartlett were given the Wall of Honor Appreciation Award for their service to the town, most especially through their leadership of the Interfaith Food Pantry. Their daughter, Karen Seitz, accepted the award on their behalf.

Find Karen Seitz’s speech here.

If you have someone you’d like to nominate, contact founder Bruce Mastracchio at thebrooker23@yahoo.com or EGHS Wall of Honor committee head Bob Houghtaling at rhoughtaling2@verizon.net.

EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Priscilla Adams Rigg.
EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Priscilla Adams Rigg.
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Four of recipient Otto Olson’s children.
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Family members of recipient Fred Brown.
Karen Seitz, here with Town Councilman Mark Schwager, accepted the Appreciation Award on behalf of her parents, Steve and Christine Bartlett, during the April 15 EGHS Wall of Honor ceremony.
Karen Seitz, here with Town Councilman Mark Schwager, accepted the Appreciation Award on behalf of her parents, Steve and Christine Bartlett, during the April 15 EGHS Wall of Honor ceremony.

5 Named to EGHS Wall of Honor, Including Carcieri, McMullen & Rigg

wall of honorOf the five graduates named to the East Greenwich High School Wall of Honor for 2015, one is the former First Lady of Rhode Island; one is perhaps the winningest coach in EGHS history; one has been music director at St. Luke’s Church for 50 years; one was a 1894 graduate of the EG Academy; and one, chosen as Most Dependable by his EG Academy classmates in 1941, went on to serve as Town Council president, town treasurer, and tax collector.

The EGHS Wall of Honor celebrates graduates of both the East Greenwich Academy and East Greenwich High School in a ceremony in the spring. The ceremony takes place Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at EGHS.

Here are the 2015 honorees:

Fred I. Brown graduated from East Greenwich Academy in 1894 and Wesleyan University in 1898. He established the Brown-Howland Company in six cities. In 1929 he joined Bostitch. While he was there, Bostitch grew to a world-wide leader in its field. Brown was then named sales manager for Bostitch and all its associated companies. He served them for 20 years retiring as vice president and sales manager for the company.

Otto Olson graduated from East Greenwich Academy in 1941, named Most Dependable by his classmates. He was an Eagle Scout for Troop 2 E.G. Olson served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-45 as an aviation metalsmith and after the service attended from Bryant College, graduating in 1953. After graduation, he joined the East Greenwich Savings and Loan. When EG Savings & Loan became Old Colony Co-op Bank, Olson was named branch manager. He later became an assistant vice president for Old Colony. Olson served as Town Council president; Town Treasurer and Tax Collector and was a member of the Republican Town Committee. He was a recipient of the American Savings and Loan Achievement Award and the J.C. Penney Achievement Award. In retirement, he won blue ribbons for his salt collections at State Fairs around New England.

Priscilla Adams-Rigg graduated from East Greenwich High School in 1947. Her first job was providing music for Quidnessett Baptist Church. Later she became Director of Music for Naval Chapel at Quonset Point. She has been music and choir director at St. Luke’s for 50 years. Among her many achievements, Rigg initiated the chamber music series “Music on The Hill,” brought the Royal School of Church Music program to St. Luke’s, and directors an ecumenical bell choir. She has taught countless children how to sing over the years and still today runs a vibrant children’s music program.

Suzanne Owren Carcieri will join her husband, former Gov. Donald Carcieri, on the wall. A 1960 graduate of East Greenwich High School, Carcieri  won the title of Miss East Greenwich that same year. She attended URI on a full four-year state scholarship, graduating in 1965. Carcieri was involved in many activities as she raised her children, among which were the Christian Family Movement, East Greenwich Academy Players, Our Lady of Mercy Choir, the Indian Education Center. In 1970 she earned her Masters degree in health education from Rhode Island College. In 2002, she became the First Lady of Rhode Island, where she participated in many programs including Statewide Wellness, the Celebrate Rhode Island Ball, the R.I. Science & Engineering Fair, the Task Force to Prevent Substance Abuse and State Schools Reading Program. Carcieri has been presented with The American Heart Association Gold Heart Award and the University of Rhode Island Distinguished Alumni Award.

Debra Sylvia McMullen, 1983 EGHS grad, is, arguably, the most successful coach in Avenger sports history. Her field hockey teams have won five state titles and 8 division championships. Her Girls Basketball teams were state finalists twice and quarter-finalists once. She has also served as Athletic Director at EGHS and started both field hockey and basketball camps for local athletes. As a student at EGHS, McMullen played field hockey, basketball and softball, winning State and Division honors in all three. In 1983 she was The Crimson “Athlete of the Year.” She has won numerous state honors for her coaching both in field hockey and basketball and in 1995 was the second woman to be inducted into the East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame. Her successful coaching has helped her athletes to get recognized and recruited by colleges, many of them Division One schools.

The Wall of Honor Committee is always looking for possible honorees. If you know of an East Greenwich graduate who has gone on to greater success in life and feel they would be worthy of consideration, please contact Bob Houghtaling, committee chair at 230-2246, or Bruce Mastracchio, nominating chair at 885-3160.