Role model Umemba steps up for the kids of Chelsea
By Cary Shuman
Kyle Umemba has modeled on runways around the world, but his real work as a [role] model is here in Chelsea.
Umemba is one half of the co-founding team with Cesar Castro of the Let It Fly Basketball Tournament that will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Jordan Boys and Girls Boys Club on Willow Street. The fourth annual basketball extravaganza brings to Chelsea some of the best talent in the area.
Umemba, 25, was once one of those aspiring players who carved out an impressive basketball career at prestigious Buckingham Browne and Nichols in Cambridge. A product of the Chelsea Youth Basketball League (CYBL) and an AAU standout, the 6-foot-3-inch guard/forward caught the attention of college coaches.
He thought of walking on at Division 1 George Washington but chose to focus on academics. He graduated with a degree in finance and currently works as a consultant for Price Waterhouse Coopers – in addition to his celebrity appearances as a fashion model in New York, London and Milan for major designers.
“It’s a good balance,” said Kyle.
This month, Kyle is busy working with Cesar on the finishing touches for what has become the most anticipated summer youth tournament in the area.
What was the inspiration for Let It Fly?
“We saw that there was a lack of basketball leagues for the kids,” said Umemba. “We wanted to help out the players and also Chelsea graduates.”
And Umemba and Castro have done that in a big way, presenting $500 scholarships to 11 graduates of Chelsea High School and the Phoenix Charter School.
The unsung hero of the Let It Fly Basketball Tournament is none other than Joan Cromwell, Kyle’s mother and the president of the Chelsea Black Community (CBC).
“Without CBC and Joan Cromwell, this tournament would not be possible,” credited Castro.
Joan’s company, Brown Sugar Catering, is the official
caterer for the tournament.
Kyle Umemba was asked whether he considers himself a role model for Chelsea kids.
“I don’t really look for that – if my actions determine that, so be it, but I’d rather just have some type of positive effect on people,” said Umemba.
Former hoop star Castro mentors players as a coach at CHS
By Cary Shuman
Cesar Castro could dribble, drive, shoot, and pass – but what he did best in his four years on the basketball court for Chelsea High School was: score.
Twelve-hundred-and-fifty-two-points worth, which makes him the second-leading scorer for boys in school history behind the legendary Craig Walker. He was the Commonwealth Athletic Conference MVP and led Chelsea to the conference title in his senior year (2010).
The 6-foot-guard is still very much active in the game. He is an assistant coach on Judah Jackson’s staff at Chelsea High School. Interestingly, the Red Devils won the CAC championship this season.
“It feels good to win a championship as a coach and a player,” said Castro, who went on to become an All-Region player at Bunker Hill Community College.
He is a paraprofessional aide at the Wright Middle School in Chelsea and is close to receiving his bachelor’s degree from Salem State University.
Because of daily interaction with Chelsea students in the schools and in the CHS basketball program, Castro, 27, saw the need for a summer tournament that could unite the community and bring some excitement to young players.
And he’s not resting on the past success of the Let It Fly Tournament that filled the gym to capacity last year with a succession of exciting games. There are free refreshments, musical entertainment by DJ Max Max, and Raffles.
“We’re going to start something new this year with a middle school division with four teams,” said Castro. “And we still have an eight-team high school division. It should be another great tournament.”
Teams from Lynn, Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea will compete in the older division. Some of the top prep school players in New England will be playing in the tournament.
“It’s a one-and-one format so they have to come ready to play,” said Castro. “There’s no time for feeling it out. The players were talking about this tournament on social media back in December so they’ll be ready to compete.”
Castro said he and Umemba were members of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea while growing up in the city.
“We want to thank [Executive Director] Gina Centrella, Jonathan Perez, and John Perez for all their cooperation and allowing us to hold our tournament there,” said Castro. “That’s our home and we thank them a lot.”
Castro also thanked Chelsea Police officers Sammy Mojica, David Batchelor Jr., and Keith Sweeney, and Chelsea firefighter Jonathan Morilli for their assistance at the event, along with City Councillors Damali Vidot and Jamir Rodriguez, who have been big supporters of Let It Fly.
The question of being a role model for Chelsea youths was posed to Castro.
“It’s not my intention to be a role model,” said Castro. “I just try to be genuine. And when I grew up, I truly appreciated someone pointing me in the right direction and that’s what I try to do in the schools and in the basketball program.”
A member of the prosecution team that handles cases in Chelsea and Revere was honored with a prestigious award named after a former school teacher, Suffolk prosecutor, and Boston City Council member, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
Assistant District Attorney Priscilla Guerrero received the Brian J. Honan Award for Excellence in the Courtroom and Commitment to the Communities We Serve at a ceremony held last month at Suffolk University. The award is presented annually to a lawyer who pursues a criminal justice mission that balances outstanding legal work with community advocacy above and beyond the call of duty. Honan, who died suddenly in 2002, worked alongside Conley as an assistant district attorney in the 1990s before taking a seat representing Allston/Brighton on the Boston City Council.
“Priscilla is a mentor to high school and college students and a resource for her colleagues,” Conley said. “But perhaps most important of all, she shows a high-functioning moral and ethical compass that makes us all very proud.”
Guerrero started in the DA’s office as an intern before being hired in 2011 as a member of the Community Relations staff, where she helped organize Conley’s annual Soccer and Basketball for Peace tournaments, recruited volunteers for the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood clean-up project, and received special recognition from the Boston City Council for her efforts. She co-founded the weekly Reading Day event at the Joseph Lee K-8 School in Dorchester, which brings prosecutors, police officers, and other criminal justice officials into the classroom to read to young children – a program that got a widely-circulated mention on Twitter from the children’s author Cynthia Levinson earlier this year.
When Guerrero made up her mind to attend Suffolk Law School, she did it while working full-time and still managed to graduate a semester early. Taking a new role in the office as a paralegal, she helped brief and moot a series of cases heading to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and as an Assistant DA she argued them – including a serious domestic violence stabbing conviction that was ultimately affirmed by the court.
Though currently assigned as a line prosecutor in Chelsea District Court, Guerrero continues her role as an active ambassador for the DA’s office at the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, Taste of Chelsea, and Basketball and Soccer events. In 2016, when she was named one of El Mundo Boston’s Latino 30 Under 30, she used her platform to promote the prosecutor’s job as an important and satisfying one that benefits the entire community. And on the day she received the Honan award, she organized a pot-luck breakfast celebration at the Lee School for the school year’s final Reading Day program.
“Priscilla has spent seven years building bridges with the people our office serves,” Conley said. “She’s focused especially on the kids and teens who count on us for safe neighborhoods. She’s a leader in and out of the courtroom and I’m very proud of everything she’s accomplished as a prosecutor and community advocate.”
Historically, there’s been very little to do on a summer night in Chelsea, and that’s been the problem.
Now, in its third summer, The Movement has been the cure to hapless wandering for local youth.
Instead, they hoop it up.
Coordinated by Councilors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot, along with Isidra Quinonez and Danny Mojica, The Movement keeps Chelsea kids age 13-20 busy on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.
“I think it’s just a great environment because a lot of the younger kids play with the older kids and they can see them on the street outside of the league and say ‘hi,’” said Rodriguez. “A lot of friendships start because of The Movement. It develops kind of a mentor situation because a lot of these kids don’t have an older brother and this helps that too. It’s kind of an unintended consequence, but it’s one of the best things about it.
“The kids love hanging out and playing ball,” he continued.
Vidot said it helps to bring youth together in a relaxed, but supervised, environment.
“On Saturday morning, they don’t hand out, but they come to play,” she said. “After playing all day long, they will not want to go out to the streets when they get home. They’ll stay in and take it easy. On Friday night, they don’t want to stay out because they have to be here on Saturday morning. You have the 13-year-old playing with the 20-year-old, so it helps them become better players. It also builds community. It’s not like a lot of other youth leagues where you have to sign in and sign out. It’s street ball. They can be themselves.”
The Movement came out of a desperate situation, where the community was reeling in the spring of 2016 after the shooting death of Pablo Villeda during an early morning teen party on Washington Avenue. The shooting also injured numerous other young people, and it showed that the youth who are not “at-risk” needed some activities as well.
That’s when The Movement came together.
Now, the league has several hundred young people playing against one another all summer. Typically, the games are played at Highland Park, but a renovation project there may force them to move to the Williams School.
The Movement will begin play in early July, and it had its annual kick-off at Chelsea High last weekend – with the Battle of the Classes and Police vs. Fire basketball games.
“Basketball is the entertainment,” said Rodriguez, “but it’s the environment that has become very important.”
Swampscott resident Ian Thomsen, one of the nation’s leading sportswriters for the past three decades, will be in Winthrop on April 19 to talk about his new book, “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between Lebron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk That Saved the NBA.”
Thomas will be speaking about the book and his illustrious career and signing autographs during a special appearance at the Cottage Park Yacht Club.
Thomsen, considered a giant in the writing profession (and not only because he stands a towering 6 feet, 6 inches tall), has a strong affinity for Winthrop. His wife, Maureen (Ford), and well-known Winthrop resident Kathleen Doherty are sisters. He is a proud uncle to Kathleen’s four, talented daughters, who excelled in sports at Winthrop High School. Thomsen has visited the town on many occasions and enjoys many of the restaurants here, especially Alia Ristorante.
Thomsen’s book, which focuses on the NBA’s 2010-11 season following LeBron James’s nationally televised “Decision” to play for the Miami Heat, is drawing rave reviews in advance of its April 17 release. His friend, Jackie MacMullan, with whom he interned at the Boston Globe, gave the book a “thumbs-up” during an appearance on ESPN’s “Around The Horn” this week.
It’s easy to see why Thomsen’s book would instantly become a “must-read” for fans of the world’s greatest basketball league. Following his graduation from Northwestern, which sits at the top of the list of college journalism programs in the country alongside Columbia and Missouri, Thomsen began working at the Globe where he covered three NBA finals of Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson. He was also courtside in Barcelona for the original Dream Team’s gold medal-winning performance in the Summer Olympics.
Thomsen said the book focuses on the 2010-11 NBA season that began with NBA prodigy LeBron James telling Jim Gray on “The Decision” that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and going to “take my talents to South Beach (Miami).”
“At that time it looked like the NBA was really in trouble,” said Thomsen. “So LeBron was supposed to be the savior for the league, the next Michael Jordan, and over the course of several years, culminating with that show, he turned himself into the villain. He was the most hated athlete in America after that show, combined with the following day in Miami when he did that rally and pronounced that he would win five…six titles for Miami.”
The NBA was heading toward a lockout at that time, and there was talk of a shutdown of the league following the season due to a dispute between the owners and the NBA Players Union.
“That’s why I did the book – it was about that season and what was it really about,” said Thomsen. “Is this a game of making money and drawing audiences? Was is a business? Or was it something more valuable than a business? And that’s how the publisher came up with the title, “The Soul of Basketball” because it’s really trying to find out what the soul of the game is. It’s something more than money and fame.”
Thomsen’s conclusion: “That basketball becomes the sport of the American dream and that the biggest names in basketball are driven by something more valuable than money and fame.”
The NBA player who helped Thomsen figure out that basketball is the sport of the American dream was 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki, who has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career for the Dallas Mavericks.
“Dirk’s the hero of the book,” said Thomsen. “He’s an immigrant [from Germany] and he changed the game. He’s the first 7-footer to shoot three-pointers. He was drawn here by the ideals of basketball. He was never a commercial guy. He showed by winning the NBA championship in 2011 that it’s a dream for anyone around the world to play the American game, come to the greatest league in the world, and beat everybody at the game. He lived out his version of the American Dream and helps us come up with an identity for our sport.”
In compiling interviews for the book, Thomsen used his sterling reputation among the NBA community to gain inside access to players. Thomsen had a longtime connection to Nowitzki’s basketball mentor, Holger Geschwindner, about whom he had written a feature during his tenure as a writer for Sports Illustrated.
“He taught Dirk how to shoot the basketball – he invented a shooting stroke for Dirk and they practiced every day: footwork, balance, the proper angle and trajectory, keep your mouth open while you’re shooting, every last detail,” related Thomsen.
In addition to Nowitzki, the other main characters in the book are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Doc Rivers.
“Kobe was really good for the book,” said Thomsen. “I joined Sports illustrated at the end of 1997, and I was assigned to do a story about Kobe and the Lakers. He was 19 years old, and we went to an outdoor restaurant in Santa Monica and we talked for four hours. The story made the cover. I think that relationship helped convince Kobe to talk to me for this book.”
Asked about the notorious Sports Illustrated cover jinx, Thomsen replied, “Kobe turned out okay.”
No less a brilliant sports columnist than Winthrop resident Leigh Montville, formerly of the Boston Globe and Sports illustrated, is praising Thomsen’s book.
Writes Montville on the book’s jacket, “Travel back to the 2010 season, when LeBron and his two amigos arrived in Miami, when Dirk asserted himself in Dallas, when the league went through an economic and social convulsion. Marinate to see all the repercussions. Thomsen tells the tale with the deft prose and snappy anecdotes and brings us all up to speed on what might come next.”
Winthrop fans will have the opportunity to meet the author in person and talk some basketball with him next week.
And that’s going to be hoop heaven for those who have followed the game.
St. Mary’s High School sophomore guard Christina Nowicki played in the Boverini Basketball Tournament in Lynn with a heavy heart, having lost her grandmother, Beverly Nowicki, who died on Dec. 27 after a long and courageous battle against illnesses.
Christina and her sister, Mia, a St. Mary’s 2017 graduate, a freshman at Assumption College and an All-Scholastic softball pitcher, each delivered beautiful remarks in memory of their beloved grandmother at the funeral Dec. 29 at the Welsh Funeral Home in Chelsea. Grandson John Paul Nowicki was also present at the memorial observance.
Paul Nowicki gave a heartfelt eulogy about his mother, who was a registered nurse and director of the Cottage Manor and On Broadway Nursing Homes in Chelsea.
Paul remembered how residents of the nursing home would often comment to him about the tremendous care his mother and her staff provided to the residents.
“It was overwhelming how much good she brought to everyone else,” related Paul.
Mrs. Nowicki and her husband, retired Chelsea firefighter Fred Nowicki, provided tremendous support and encouragement to Paul and his brother, Scott throughout their lives. Paul is undisputedly one of the greatest athletes in Chelsea history. He was a three-sport performer and two-sport All-Scholastic at Matignon High School and went on to earn a spot in the Division 1 Clemson University football program. Mr. and Mrs. Nowicki were at all their sons’ games beginning in Chelsea Little League and Chelsea Youth Hockey, humbly remaining in the background as Paul brought countless memories with his exploits on the field and in the rink, and the many individual awards he received.
“Scott and I always said that Mom was our foundation,” said Paul. “Dad was the provider and the protector and mom was the foundation. Mom was everything to Scott and me and it is something that will never be replaced. In good times and bad times, mom was always there for both of us.’’
Speaking to his father, Paul noted, “As Mia and Christina said, your love for my mom, how you treated mom, how you provided for mom, how you protected mom – it inspires us every day and will continue to inspire us every day.”
Paul was elected as an alderman and city councillor in Chelsea and it was mother, a popular resident of the city and the daughter of Police Capt. Robert Renfrew, who organized those successful political campaigns.
Paul told the gathering how the doors of the family home were always open to family and friends, thanks to the warmth and kindness of his gracious mother, who made everyone feel welcomed at the Nowicki residence.
“It was always an open door at the house and there was no better time than Christmastime – mom and dad would host both sides of the family and then around 5 o’clock the doors would open and in come all the friends and those are the times I remember,” said Paul. “You realized you were a part of something bigger.”
Addressing his many friends, Paul said, “No matter when you came in to our lives, my mother always loved you guys because you were loyal to Scott and me and that meant a lot to us because my mom respected and liked you so much an that Scott and I made good decisions with our friends.”
In Beverly Nowicki, Chelsea has lost one of its most popular and well-known citizens. The children of Paul and Tracy Nowicki and the grandchildren of Fred Nowicki and Beverly Nowicki are carrying on the family’s legacy with their excellence in athletics, combined with their exemplary character, cordiality, and kindness.
Minerva Cruz sets the ball during The Movement’s championship women’s volleyball game on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Highland Park. The day long celebration featured the top basketball and volleyball teams from the season facing off against one another. Cruz’s team took first place, and the Red Team won the basketball championships. The Movement celebrated its first year of play Saturday, and plans on bigger and better things for next summer.
John R. Magazzu, a lifelong resident of Chelsea, passed away Monday morning, July 18 at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 80 years old.
Born in Chelsea, the son of the late Domenick and Loretta (DeFloria) Magazzu, throughout his working career John owned several dry cleaning stores within the local Chelsea and Everett area. He retired in the early 1990’s following his son’s illness. John enjoyed his retirement by socializing and visiting with friends for coffee and good company. He was a car enthusiast, helping his friends and relatives with registry paperwork, purchasing vehicles and car maintenance and detailing. He will be sadly missed by all who loved him.
John was the husband of the late Lorraine M. (Savignano) Magazzu, father of the late John D. Magazzu and dear friend of Lisa Santarpio and her daughter, Alycia Santarpio, both of Chelsea. He is also lovingly survived by many cousins and friends.
Funeral services will be conducted in the Carafa Family Funeral Home 389 Washington Ave. Chelsea on Friday, July 22 at 11 a.m. Visiting hours will precede the service from 9 to 11 a.m. Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend. Entombment will follow the service in the Sheffield Mausoleum Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett.
In lieu of flowers, donations in John’s memory may be made to: American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478
Oklahoma City, OK 73123 or on-line at: www.cancer.org
Former Blinstrub’s waitress and coach of St. Rose Girls Basketball Team in the 50’s
Marie E. (Fay) O’Regan passed away Thursday afternoon, July 14, while receiving supportive care at the Lighthouse Nursing Care Center in Revere after a recent decline in health resulting from a mild stroke she suffered several weeks earlier. She was 91 years old.
Born in Cambridge, the daughter of the late John A. and Mildred L. (Hayes) Fay, she was raised in Chelsea and attended St. Rose parochial and high schools. She was married to Harold J. O’Regan and together they made their home in Everett where Marie has resided for the past 55 years.
Marie worked as a waitress for many years at Blinstrub’s serving some of Boston’s famous and infamous citizens. In the mid 1950’s Marie returned to her alma mater coaching the St Rose Girls Basketball team. She was widowed in 1973 with the passing of her beloved husband. Marie retired and remained at home caring for her mother and raising her young son. A strong and nurturing soul, she is remembered as always being there, caring for family and friends alike.
In addition to her parents and husband, Marie was also preceded in death by three brothers: the late John E. Fay, William F. Fay and Robert C. Fay. She is survived by her devoted son and daughter in law, John F. Browning and his wife, Michelle of Everett. She was the cherished grandmother of Gianna Browning; dear sister of Nancy J. Glennon of Amherst NH, Albert J. Fay of Peabody, Donna J. Girard of Wareham and is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements were by the Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Home, Chelsea. Interment was at Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett.
John Francis Morton
Retired Chelsea City Yard Foreman, third longest active member of
Chelsea City Square Association
John Francis Morton passed away Tuesday, July 12 at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after a short decline in health and advanced age. He was 91 years old.
Born and raised in Chelsea, he was one of five children born to the late John W. Morton and Anastasia E. (Dunn) Morton. John began his schooling at the Shurtleff School in Chelsea and later graduated from Chelsea High School. He enlisted in the US Navy during World War II, was honorably discharged in 1946 and returned to Chelsea. He was employed for many years with the City of Chelsea D.P.W. where he held the position of City Yard Foreman. He retired many years ago. He was a lifelong parishioner and communicant at St. Rose Church in Chelsea where he volunteered for many years as a weekly church usher. John was a member of the Cary Square Assoc. in Chelsea where he was the third longest active member and the oldest non-charter member of the club. John also frequently worked as club bartender. In addition to his beloved parents, John was also preceded in death by his siblings; Joseph W., Edward E. and Lawrence G. Morton and Gladys M. Cappiello. He is survived by several nieces and nephews and by many more grand and great-grand nieces and nephews.
In keeping with John’s wishes and desires, funeral services were strictly private. Friends are encouraged to remember John in their own private ways. Arrangements were entrusted to the Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Home, Chelsea.
Frank DePatto and the position of Chelsea High School director of athletics were a perfect fit for 28 years.
DePatto was a Chelsea guy, the CHS class of 1957 president and a student-athlete. He had been a lifelong advocate for Chelsea sports, from the time he had sponsored and coached a team in the local summer basketball league to the countless Chelsea High School games he had attended as a fan.
DePatto succeeded Saul Nechtem as head of the entire CHS athletic program in 1988. No one had to tell DePatto how prestigious it was to be at the helm of a high school athletic program in the vaunted Greater Boston League. And no one had to tell DePatto about the legendary figure he was succeeding as director of athletics.
In fact, it was Frank DePatto who recommended that the gymnasium inside the new Chelsea High School be named the “Saul Nechtem Gymnasium,” which it was.
DePatto’s superb reign as the leader of Chelsea High boys and girls sports ended on July 1 when he retired from the position.
“After 28 years as the AD at my alma mater, there are many people to thank, especially State Senator and School Committee member, the late Andrew P. Quigley and School Committee member, the late Morris Seigal – they were my mentors,” said DePatto. I also want to thank the many superintendents and principals who supported me along the way.
“It has a been a pleasure to serve the youth of the city of Chelsea, a city I truly love.”
One of DePatto’s closest friends and supporters through the years was former city manager Jay Ash, who played college basketball at Clark University. Ash is the State Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.
“I’m proud that I’ve been one of Jay Ash’s mentors,” he said.
DePatto said his first immersion in to the fabric of the Chelsea sports community came when he organized and sponsored a very successful men’s and women’s summer basketball league. He coached the Chelsea Record and Salon 312 teams in the men’s league that drew sizable crowds to the old Merritt Park courts. One of the opposing teams, Charles Lee Disposal, featured none other than Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, a former CHS hoop player, at point guard.
DePatto also coached semi-professional basketball with many college stars on the roster including Jay Ash, Rudy Williams, Jerry Scott, Stu Primus, Danny O’Callaghan, John Miller, and Eddie Thurman.
From summer basketball, DePatto made the jump to the Chelsea High athletic program as its director in 1988.
“Replacing the great Saul Nechtem upon his retirement – it was a job made from heaven,” said DePatto.
Very early in his tenure DePatto made a monumental decision: he recommended that the Chelsea-Everett Thanksgiving football series be discontinued after the 1989 contest in which Everett prevailed by a dominating 32-0 score. Chelsea hasn’t played Everett in football since that blowout.
“Everett was always just too good with many more skilled players than Chelsea and the score mostly always favored Everett,” related DePatto about his decision to end the century-old rivalry. “As someone who played in the Chelsea-Everett game in the mid-1950s, it was a hard decision to make, especially when we drew 10,000-12,000 fans for some of the Thanksgiving games. Times were changing and it was time to move on.”
DePatto hired Joe Gaff as head football coach in 1993 and two years later he led the Red Devils to their only Super Bowl championship, defeating Old Colony for the title.
Around the same time DePatto brought Ramona Foster on board as the new Chelsea High girls basketball coach and Foster “turned the program around.”
DePatto made it a point during his directorship to recognize those individuals who contributed much to CHS athletics. It was DePatto who recommended that the press box at Chelsea Memorial Stadium be named in memory of the late Arnold Goodman, a beloved teacher, player and coach.
DePatto helped launch the Stop & Shop High School Basketball Tournament, bringing the best teams in New England to Chelsea. Teaming up with Leo Papile of the BABC and philanthropist Herbie Kupersmith, DePatto raised more than $55,000 for Chelsea scholarships. Teams from as far away as Hawaii and Florida played in the tournament “and we were the talk of the basketball universe for 15 years.”
When Boston hosted the NBA Summer League, the Philadelphia (76ers) and Indiana (Pacers) teams held their practices at Chelsea High.
DePatto said his proudest accomplishment was sending many CHS athletes on to compete at the college level. DePatto was instrumental in former soccer star Michael Bustamante’s matriculation at Boston University. Bustamante later continued his career for the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer (MLS), a professional league in the United States.
DePatto always stood up for Chelsea High athletes, once packing the Aldermanic Chambers for a School Committee meeting at City Hall to help change a rule that brought Chelsea’s academic eligibility requirements for athletes in line with MIAA requirements.
He re-instituted the indoor and outdoor track programs that are now producing championship teams. He organized the first Chelsea High Annual Awards Assembly 26 years ago. He also launched the girls soccer program.
During his time as AD, DePatto returned to the sidelines as an assistant coach on Jack Niven’s boys basketball staff. He served as the head coach for three seasons before Jay Seigal succeeded him.
Last year, DePatto was selected to represent the Commonwealth Athletic Conference at the National Athletic Directors Conference. He received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding service at Chelsea High.
“I made many friends as athletic director – a job that I loved,” said DePatto. “I am a former player, a former coach, and now a former AD, and I will always be –a No. 1 fan of the Red Devils. I’m proud to have followed Saul Nechtem and a great line of coaches and athletic directors.”
DePatto made it a point to wish new director of athletics Amanda Alpert “success in her endeavors.”
“I’m going to miss Chelsea greatly,” said DePatto, who finished out the 2015-16 school year at the request of Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque, who wanted him to be part of the transition process. “There will be a void in my life. This job truly has been a labor of love.”
In talking with Chelsea High School (CHS) Valedictorian Sara Beqo about her career at the high school, it readily becomes clear that sports have made a strong impression on her life, and will continue to do so throughout the rest of her life.
Beqo will graduate at the top of the Class of 2015 this coming Sunday, June 7, as part of annual commencement exercises in the gymnasium at Chelsea High School.
Beqo has played basketball at CHS all four years, but said she has really excelled in the track program – being a captain this year and running her strongest event in the 800 meters.
“Running is the most bittersweet thing,” she said. “There are days when I am out swinging my arms and running and wondering why I’m doing it. In the end, it’s always worth it…In track, it’s a sport, but it’s man versus man and man versus self at the same time. It’s a mind game. It’s the same as in the classroom. In academics, you’re getting on the line and competing with others, you just don’t see it the same way.”
Beqo found out on Tuesday morning that she was the top of the class, as the competition in the classroom was tough with this year’s crop of students. She said she was very excited and her parents, Alfred and Zane Beqo of Cary Avenue, were ecstatic.
Beqo, 18, and her two older sisters, CHS alumna Anelsa and Belinda Beqo, came to the United States from Albania when Sara Beqo was only three. They settled in Chelsea and never moved away, with Beqo attending the Sokolowski School, the Clark Avenue Middle School and CHS.
Beqo said as of now she is working on her graduation speech, trying to find just the right amount of humor and seriousness, but her future plans involve going on to Boston University.
“I am going to BU in the fall to study athletic training,” she said. “I want to be the person who would provide individual care on the bench and in pre-game and post-game. Hopefully, I’d start small with that and move up to doing that for a professional team. That’s the goal.”
She said she is very excited about BU, and that it was her dream school.
“BU was just perfect for me,” she said. “I always wanted to go there. I also wanted to go to Duke, but I didn’t get in. BU, however, was my dream school because it was always perfect for me. So, it was a dream come true.”
She will get assistance from the Chelsea High Scholarship, as well as a partial scholarship from the Yawkey Foundation.
However, the MGH Youth Scholars program will pick up the rest of the balance, and that program has been a fixture in her life since she was a sophomore.
“They provide help when your in school and mentor you and prepare you for college,” she said. “They also help you during and after college as well. They’ve been a presence in my life for several years, as well as other kids from Revere and Charlestown and East Boston.”
Beqo said she believes she is ready for a school like BU. She said it is humbling being the best student in your school, and then going to college with a whole class of students from all over the world who were also the best in their school.
“I always go back to sports and track,” she said. “You have regular track meets and you run against a few people and it’s over. Then when you go to state relays, there are so many people and everyone knows what they’re doing. It hits you that you might be good, but so is everyone else. Every runner is strong. You have to know what you can do and not be discouraged. When I went to BU for a visit, everyone was as prepared as I was.”
The difference, she said, has been the CHS experience and teachers.
“The help is what makes the difference,” she said. “It takes a village to raise a child and I have experienced that here and have had terrific teachers. If I didn’t have the help I got from my teachers and coaches, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
CHS Valedictorian Sara Beqo will head to Boston University next fall to pursue a career in athletic training.
In particular, she pointed out basketball coach Perry Brandalise and Track coaches Amanda Alpert and Rebecca Hayes – as well as former coach Kim Huffer.
“I’ve been with my basketball coach since 8th grade and they’ve all sculpted me in so many ways,” she said. “The coaches here are amazing.”
We were so proud to take part in Suffolk County District Daniel F. Conley 7th Annual Basketball For Peace Tournament at the UMass Boston Clark Athletic Center.
DA Conley and his staff once again accomplished the mission of this wonderful event: to bring Boston’s young people together for a day of safe, healthy, team-oriented fun and give youth, parents, and community leaders an opportunity to meet the prosecutors, victim advocates, community outreach staff, and other professionals in the DA’s office.
From the moment the youths entered the gymnasium at UMass, they knew they were part of a truly special and well-organized event. The basketball games were played competitively and with sportsmanship and were officiated by professional referees. There was a real sense of camaraderie among the players and coaches on the teams who hailed from all parts of Suffolk County.
DA Conley and his staff made a great event even greater by inviting Leon Powe, the former Boston Celtics star, to serve as the guest speaker. Powe certainly enlightened the youths with his story of not taking his studies seriously enough as a youth to his becoming a serious-minded student and one of the best high school basketball players in the country and matriculating at the highly regarded University of California-Berkeley. Powe’s success at Cal led to the realization of his dream of playing in the NBA.
UMass Vice Chancellor Charlie Titus, one of the most prominent and respected names in all of college athletics, was a deserving recipient of a lifetime achievement award and you could tell how much this recognition by DA Conley meant to the legendary basketball coach and college administrator. The other honorees on this day were also grateful to DA Conley and his staff for being recognized as role models.
DA Conley oversees the busiest district attorney’s office in the Commonwealth. He is a credit to Stonehill College and Suffolk University Law School. For the district attorney to continue the great tradition that this basketball tournament has become speaks well of his noble declaration that “the most important part of my job is serving the people of Suffolk County.”
Keep up the great work, Suffolk County DA Daniel Conley.