They came from all walks of life, bowlers and business people, friends and family, people of all faiths and backgrounds – and what they all had in common was this: to have known Kathleen “Kathy” (Pawlak) Finklestein was to have known an extraordinary human being.
Kathleen “Kathy” Finklestein
Many, like Joe Surette, who came with his wife, Cathy Walata, to the Welsh Funeral Home to say good-bye, said just so with their words and actions.
“She was truly one of the nicest people I ever met in my life,” said Surette. “We are all so saddened by her passing.”
Kathleen “Kathy” Finklestein died on April 10 after experiencing a sudden and overwhelming advance of cancer that had struck this brave and seemingly indestructible woman four years ago. She was 62 years old.
The daughter of the late Chester P. and Carole M. (Lombardozzi) Pawlak, Kathy grew up in the family home on Broadway. She was an excellent student who attended St. Stanislaus Parochial School on Chestnut Street, Shurtleff Junior High School, and Chelsea High School, Class of 1973.
During her high school years, she started dating another “All-A” student with a similarly warm personality and generousness, Neal Finklestein. They were married in 1979 and shared 39 years of happiness together. As Kathy’s sister, Chrissy Pawlak, told the large assemblage at the Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Revere, “It was at Chelsea High School where she hit the jackpot of all jackpots, she started dating Neal. Everyone should have a Neal in their lives.”
Many knew Kathy from the candlepin bowling scene. She helped her wonderful father, “Chet,” run Chelsea Square Alleys, a place where the Pawlak family made everyone feel welcomed and safe.
Kathy became an outstanding bowler and she and her sister, Chrissy, reached the top tier of the sport when they appeared on the Channel 5 “Candlepin Doubles” professional bowling show. She also won a mixed doubles championship in the old Chelsea Record Bowling Tournament, leading the way with a record-setting, five-string score of 610.
Hall of Famer Richie “Hawk” Halas, one of so many bowlers who paid their respects to Kathy, said of his fellow professional, “As great a bowler as she was, she was an even better person.”
Known for her keen organizational skills, Kathy directed candlepin bowling leagues in Chelsea and Malden, providing bowlers with a fun night of competition and camaraderie each week.
Chelsea business owners became admirers of Kathy Finklestein and her incredible work ethic through her efforts at the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. Programs such as the Pot-O-Gold Dinner and the Brighter Holidays Committee Awards presentations brought so much enjoyment to Chamber members because Kathy put her maximum effort in to every endeavor she undertook.
Allan I. Alpert, past president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, said Kathy, who owned Chelsea Secretarial Services, was a tremendous asset to the organization.
“Kathy was very active as an outstanding member of the Chamber of Commerce as our secretary, and when we didn’t have an executive director, she pretty much filled the role on a voluntary basis, and would not take any compensation from the Chamber that she loved so dearly,” said Alpert. “She is really going to be missed.”
Peter Zaksheski, also a past president of the Chamber, said of Kathy, “You could not have a truer friend and confidante than Kathy. When I was Chamber president, if I were good, Kathy was the reason. She was the backbone. She was such a great person.”
The Rev. Richard A. Uftring presided over the funeral Mass at the church. He knew Kathy personally through her being a faithful parishioner and a Eucharistic Minister and her membership in the Church Crochet Club.
“Kathy lived her faith, she loved her family – this is her family of friends,” said the Rev. Uftring.
Kathy’s cousin, Judy Covino, and sister, Chrissy Pawlak, each delivered beautiful words of remembrance.
“Kathy was all about giving and she gave it all to her involvement in the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce where you would find her on the planning committees for the Pot-O-Gold, the Christmas Holiday Children’s Holiday Party, and of course my favorite, the annual trip to Foxwoods or Mohegan,” said Covino.
“She was a great behind-the-scenes person who never took the credit. The success of so many fundraisers were the results of her tireless efforts.”
Covino noted how Kathy and Neal loved going to the Boston Garden to cheer on the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. “She also attended many Red Sox games, including Big Papi’s last game.”
Covino told how Kathy would assist others as the family caregiver.
“If you look up caregiver in the dictionary, Kathy’s picture would be right beside it. She was always there for everybody.”
Chrissy Pawlak said as time went on, “Kathy became my first and forever best friend. Following her through life was easy, even though those were really big shoes to follow. My sister was the smartest person I will ever know academically and in life.”
Chrissy recalled how much Kathy and Neal enjoyed being with their family and friends at gatherings and on trips. “I know Kathy loved every minute of it. She took over the holiday traditions, keeping everybody together at her house. The summertime was her favorite where the backyard and the pool were open and the barbecue was going.”
Chrissy perfectly articulated what everyone, including their good friend, Jimmy Manzo, will know forever, “Kathy really was a beautiful person and a blessing to the world. She was the first one to step up to help anyone. She loved doing a lot of things for a lot of people. She will always be my hero. Give mom and dad hugs and kisses. I will forever be proud to be Kathy’s sister and you, Kathy, truly were the wind beneath our wings.”
The Chelsea City Council passed a unique pilot program by a vote of 8-2 on Monday night that would allow qualifying students at Chelsea High an opportunity to finish their Associate’s Degree after high school on the City’s dime.
The program is a partnership with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and was championed by City Manager Tom Ambrosino this year in his State of the City. It is seen by him and the School Department as a logical extension of the dual enrollment program at the high school that allows students there to take college level courses at BHCC.
The problem with the program in Chelsea, Ambrosino and others said, is that many students after graduation don’t have the financial resources to continue on and finish the Associate’s Degree they have been working towards.
The pilot program would use $150,000 in the first year, and would be open to students who have completed 12 credits while still in high school within the dual enrollment program. They also must remain Chelsea residents while receiving the benefit.
If a student applies for and gets a Pell Grant, BHCC will provide a subsidy as well and will waive tuition for the student as part of their end of the bargain.
“I had concerns at first, but I did some digging and it’s a good program,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “I will be supporting this.”
“Many of the students in dual enrollment can’t complete their degree by the time they graduate high school, and they just don’t have the resources to complete it afterward,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think now is a great time to invest in our young people.”
But not everyone was on board, and some who voted for it had concerns as well.
Councillor Luis Tejada ended up voting for the matter, but said he was challenged by it.
“My challenge is with the money going to just Bunker Hill,” he said. “What I have a bigger problem with is you take care of your household first before you take care of your extended family. If you take care of everyone else before your household, you will tank…We have a $3 million deficit in our school system and Free Cash should be devoted to that first…If there is excess cash, maybe it should be devoted to the public schools.”
The chief detractor, however, was Councillor Bob Bishop, chair of the Finance Committee. Bishop said it’s a good program, but shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayers.
“To me, it’s a big problem because we’re using taxpayer money on something we’re not required to spend it on,” he said.
“This $150,000 is a pilot program and next year it could possibly be a lot more money,” he said. “I don’t understand how we can get involved in the business of paying for college for a select few…I suspect this is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. This is $150,000, but it will be $500,000.”
Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed with Bishop, saying it should be funded by private money and not taxpayer dollars.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda said it was about investing in the future of students in the modern era.
“The school education system we have is outdated,” he said. “Everyone knows you need more than a 12th grade education in this economy. You need advanced courses beyond high school. As a City, we have to prepare them. It only makes sense to prepare them for today. Unlike 30 or 40 years ago, a college education is required for that.”
Councillors Judith Garcia was absent for the vote, but had vocally supported the matter in previous meetings.
On a related note, the Council voted 10-0 without much discussion to approve a $50,000 program to help City Hall employees pay for courses to advance their education. That program was also proposed by Ambrosino and championed by the Council.
Last summer two friends were chatting about how expensive college tuition is these days and the impending mounds of debt their collective six kids were most likely going to be faced with.
The conversation continued and one of the moms shared that she happened to be in the audience when Major Nippy Betz gave his TEDx talk a year prior and she was lucky to get to speak with him afterwards. She recalled having her mind blown open about the hidden world of scholarships and how if you cast a wide net, and are disciplined (just like fishing), you can reel in a boatload of free money. It was at that moment where they looked at each other and had an idea.
Like many moms, these friends are employed, over-extended and crazed, however they decided they needed to bring Nippy to Boston to share his education and his secrets. As they began to dig deeper, it became quickly evident that there was a lot they didn’t know, and likely other parents didn’t know as well. They decided to roll up their sleeves and plan the first ever Massachusetts Strategic Scholarship Bootcamp.
Kerry Strollo, Lexington resident, mom and event co-organizer said “This is about educating parents that you don’t have to sit idly by and just hope something down the line will work out financially for your kids. This is about early success planning so you (and your kiddos) are not panicked when they are a senior in High School on how they, or you, will afford college. Who knew kids in 7th and 8th grade can start to obtain and stockpile scholarships, and High Schoolers can earn so much they pay for their college education and then receive overpayments for living expenses after college? I didn’t, and we have 4 kids! As soon as I learned this I wanted to shout it from the mountain tops.” Strollo added, “There are tips, techniques, and a path to finding the scholarships, however it starts with putting together a plan of action. This Bootcamp is designed to help you craft that plan for success.”
Rosette Cataldo, a Revere native, mom and event co-organizer looks at it though a different lens. “I watch my kids, albeit great students, wasting time every day on the internet, Fort Nite, YouTube, Netflix…you name it. These kids must use their devices and brains for a better purpose. I want to educate my children on how to make the internet a gold mine that works for them, their future and not just a time suck.” This event is all about educating local parents and students at the same time and getting them aligned to work together with a plan so that the family isn’t crippled with debt
The Strategic Scholarship Bootcamp will be held:
April 29, 2018 11 am – 1 pm Diamond Middle School, Lexington
April 29, 2018 4 pm – 6 pm Sheraton Hotel, Framingham, MA
April 30, 2018 7 pm – 9 pm Larcom Theatre, Beverly, MA
May 1, 2018 7 pm – 9 pm Marriott Hotel, Newton, MA
For more info please visit: www.strategicscholarships.com
Tickets are $49 per person. Students are encouraged to join their parents. Group rates (20+) available. To hear the story about a Tuft’s graduate with massive student debt please view this video
We join the local sports community and the Catholic Central League in congratulating Pope John XXIII High School of Everett on winning its first basketball state championship in its history.
Coach Leo Boucher and his team that included Chelsea standouts Luis Velasquez and Mehkhi Collins, brought much excitement to their fans this season and many students, alumni, and supporters traveled to Springfield Saturday to watch their Pope John Tigers defeat the defending state champion Maynard High Tigers for the Division 4 title.
It was a great day for the small school who rose up and defeated much larger schools and teams from powerful conferences in the MIAA Tournament. The team’s spectacular guard, Angel Price-Espada, submitted a performance for the ages with 49 points, including 10 three-pointers.
Mr. Boucher, a resident of Charlestown and a former basketball standout himself, previously showed his tremendous coaching skills at the St. Clement School, winning a state title there. When the school closed its doors, Pope John officials made a wise decision to bring him on board as its basketball coach.
It was also inspiring to see school administrators, Head of School Carl DiMaiti, Principal Thomas Mahoney, and Director of Athletics Ryan Murphy being a part of the fan delegation at the game and holding the championship so proudly following the Tigers’ 89-57 victory.
Mr. DiMaiti has presided over athletic successes before as the head of school at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. A former track coach, Mr. DiMaiti understands the importance of interscholastic sports competition and how it can help build a positive foundation for student-athletes and pave the way to a college education. Mr. DiMaiti’s children, Drew and Carole, were both outstanding high school athletes, with Drew winning an individual state hurdles title before moving on to nearby Tufts University.
Mr. Mahoney is in the Chelsea High School Hall of Fame as the founder and head coach of the CHS soccer program that produced GBL titles and All-Scholastic players when he was leading the program. He is an alumnus of Pope John (and Boston College) as a member of the Everett school’s first graduating class, so this championship is doubly meaningful to him.
Mr. Murphy was an excellent choice to lead the school’s athletic program. He is always accessible to those who call upon him. He has helped student-athletes proceed through the college application process and been an exceptional representative for the school at AD meetings. A school’s athletic success begins at the top, and Mr. Murphy has the entire program heading in the right direction. And now he has a state championship team in his program.
To Coach Leo Boucher, associate head coach Larry Washington, freshman coach Paul Williams, and the Pope John basketball players – thanks for the memories and congratulations on an historic championship season.
We’ll see you all in the Pope John XXIII High School Hall of Fame one day.
Late Legion of Honor member of the Polish Falcons, Nest 485, Chelsea
September 05, 1922 – March 10, 2018
Helen A. (Zaksheski) Wilson of Peabody, formerly of Chelsea, passed away early Saturday morning, March 10 and services concluded with her being placed to rest together with her late husband in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Peabody. Helen passed away early Saturday morning, March 10 in the peaceful surroundings of the Peabody home where she resided for over 65 years. She was 95 years old.
Born and raised in Chelsea, she was a daughter of the late
Anthony and Josephine (Trocki) Zaksheski. Helen firstattended St. Stanislaus Parochial School and graduated from Chelsea High School, class of 1940. She began work when she was hired as the first lady bank teller with the Chelsea-County Savings Bank. She later worked as a secretary for a local Chelsea attorney who suspended his practice to enlist in the army during World War II. Thereafter, she worked as a secretary in the offices of Atwood McManus Box Mfg. in Chelsea.
In April of 1945, she married her high school sweetheart and Navy Airman, William J. Wilson. They remained in Chelsea, raising the first of three sons before purchasing their dream
home in the early 1950’s.
A devoted housewife and mother, she also worked outside ofher home as an office manager for Boston Machinery, Inc. in Peabody. She retired in the mid 1980’s.
A woman of deep faith, she was a longtime active parishioner and early supporter of St. Ann’s Church in Peabody and she was a late legion of honor member of the Polish Falcons, Nest 485, Chelsea .Helen was preceded in death by her husband Bill, Sr. in 1992, after sharing what she would describe as a storybook romance of 55 years, beginning with two teenagers from Chelsea high school. In her lifetime Helen enjoyed traveling with her husband, reading and many activities centered around her home — writing and corresponding with friends and family, gardening, sewing, baking and cooking were just a few of the things she liked to do.
She was the beloved wife of 47 years to the late William J. Wilson, Sr., loving mother of Thomas S. Wilson and his wife, Eileen of Topsfield, Stephen K. Wilson and his wife, Kathy and William J. Wilson, Jr. and his wife, Deborah, all of Peabody; cherished grandmother “Babci” of Andrea Margareci and her husband, Michael of Burlington, Christopher Wilson of Peabody, Shannon Wilson and her companion, Christopher Cutone of Danvers and Matthew Halliday of Brooklyn NY. She was the dearly loved sister of the late Irene J. Schultz and Chester V. Zaksheski. She is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews and extended family members.
Relatives and friends are kindly invited to gather on Friday, March 16, at 9 a.m. from the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home, 82 Lynn St., Peabody followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in St. Ann’s Church, 140 Lynn St., Peabody. Following the Mass, Helen will be placed to rest together with her late husband in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Peabody. A visitation will be held tonight, Thursday, from 4 to 8 p.m. in the funeral home.
Memorial donations may be made to Haven from Hunger, 71 Wallis St., Peabody, MA 01960 or VNA Care, 199 Rosewood Dr., Ste. 180, Danvers, MA 01923, www.VNACare.org
For additional information, to send expressions of sympathy or to sign the guestbook on-line, please visit WWW.CCBFuneral.com or www. WelshFuneralHome.com
Chelsea High School Teacher
Long time Chelsea High School teacher of English as a Second Language Rosaria (LaBella) Caradonna of Revere, formerly of Chelsea, passed away on March 7.
Born in Palermo, Italy on Feb. 26, 1946 to the late Paolo and Antonina (Vona) LaBella, she immigrated to the United States when she was 16 years old.
Rosaria graduated from Chelsea High School. She then received a Bachelor of Arts from Emmanuel College and later in life went back to school receiving a Master’s in Education from Lesley University. Rosaria spoke many languages and had a passion for the arts and poetry. Language was very important to Rosaria as she taught English as a second language for many years at Chelsea High.
She was the beloved wife of Leonardo “Dino” Caradonna; devoted mother of Daniela Szymczak and her husband, Michael of Melrose, and Giuliana Arcovio and he husband, Matthew of Melrose; cherished grandmother of Michaela, Layla and Mila Szymczak and Mackenzie and Rose Arcovio; dear sister of Salvatore LaBella and his wife, Katherine of Long Meadow; caring sister in law to Maria Alvino and her husband, Alfonso of Norwood, Concetta Nicolaci and Giuseppa Favuzza, both of Italy. She is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Rosaria was devoted to her family as a wife, mother, and grandmother who will be sorely missed.
Funeral arrangements were by the Paul Buonfiglio & Sons-Bruno Funeral, Revere. Interment was at Woodlawn Mausoleum. If you are considering a donation in Rosaria’s name, it can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts Chapter, 480 Pleasant St, Watertown, MA 02472. For guest book please visit www.Buonfiglio.com
Students at the St. Rose School in Chelsea have organized a walkout on Weds., March 14, to make a statement about how the federal government is handling gun issues as related to school shootings.
Trinity Hoffman, 13, and an eighth grader at St. Rose, said she and several students felt it was important to be part of the national effort, which encourages students to walk out of school for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 students killed recently in a Florida high school.
“We just really want a lot of people to hear how we feel about this and how the government is failing to deal with the problem.”
Hoffman said students would leave class on March 14 and march on Broadway to Chelsea City Hall for a gathering. There, they will mark the 17 minutes, which is being done at many schools nationwide. Revere High students are also staging a similar effort in that city.
When the solemn moment is over, students at St. Rose will return to class. The walkout will entail about 50 students from the St. Rose 7th and 8th grade classes.
Hoffman said they are encouraging students from other Chelsea schools to join them.
Teacher Cristina Rivera said the staff and school are supporting the student decision, and believe it to be a good learning experience.
“It came about because of conversations that we were having in class,” said Rivera. “Students were very concerned about Florida and about an incident that happened in Wakefield. Even though it wasn’t credible, students came back to St. Rose and initiated a discussion. We had heard about the March 14th date already and we let the students vote on it and they wanted to do it.”
She said the students have taken charge making signs and mapping out the route and planning the action. She said the school believes it’s a great learning experience for the kids, especially around getting involved civically.
“We feel it’s really an important part of learning democracy and something we want to support in our students,” she said. “In four years, our oldest students will be allowed to vote. However, having a voice and learning to participate starts before that. Exercising their right to assemble freely on an issue they are passionate about is the start of learning about this democracy.”
In the wake of a social media threat against the Chelsea High School posted last Friday, School Supt. Mary Bourque is putting students and parents on notice that there will be zero tolerance for any threats – whether verbal, written or posted on social media.
As a major footnote to that warning, she said she is initiating a citywide campaign aimed at parents of school-age children – calling them to be vigilant about checking their children’s’ social media posts.
“Any threats, whether verbal, written or posted on social media we will prosecute and we have prosecuted with our relationship with the Chelsea Police,” she said. “As a practice, the Chelsea Public Schools always talks serious threats to the schools and well-being of the schools. There are protocols we have with the Chelsea Police about prosecuting these matters. We will have zero tolerance for any threats.”
This follows on a threat made on Friday, March 2, via a social media post by a student at the high school. Using the protocol – and especially in the current environment following the school shooting in Florida – police quickly checked out the threat, searched the student’s home and determined it wasn’t credible.
But that didn’t get the student off the hook.
Police, according to protocol, placed the juvenile student under arrest for posting a threat via social media.
It won’t be the last time either, Bourque said.
And that got to the heart of the matter for the schools, and that heart is the schools want parents to really monitor their children’s’ social media accounts.
“We need help with this, as does every school district,” she said. “We also want to work with parents to start monitoring what their Chelsea are doing on social media. For us, it’s getting control of what’s going on in social media that’s of paramount importance…We need parents to be paying attention to all of the accounts. No child should have a password their parents don’t know about.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and members of the City Council have also been asked to help with the campaign, and will do so.
“There has to be a zero tolerance for this,” he said. “Kids can’t be posting these kinds of things on social media. They will get in trouble for it. There are just too many serious things going on with this to be making these kinds of threatening posts.”
Bourque said there have been no credible threats discovered from the posts that have happened this year, including the one on Friday.
Most of the time, she said, it’s about posturing, but it’s a posture that’s going to land kids in serious trouble.
“It’s mostly students trying to portray themselves as something they are not,” she said. “They are bad judgment calls in putting themselves out there in that way, but it’s something that will get them in trouble.”
A major decision will be laid out for residents to discuss one last time in two weeks, that being whether the Broadway business district should be one-way or two-way.
The City of Chelsea will be holding its fourth and final community workshop on the Re-imagining Broadway project on Wednesday, March 14 from 6-8 p.m. The workshop will be held at the Williams School (Music Room) at 180 Walnut Street, Chelsea. (The entrance is on Arlington Street.)
At this meeting, the City of Chelsea will present recommendations for improving downtown circulation and enhancing the public space, including redesigned squares, bus hubs, and potential changes in street direction. Public input on the project has helped to shape the concepts that will be presented. The public is encouraged to attend the workshop to provide additional feedback on the proposed concepts.
Re-imagining Broadway is a planning effort, led by the City of Chelsea, to develop strategies to improve access and mobility for all users of downtown. As in many densely-populated urban areas in the region, Chelsea faces persistent traffic and pedestrian circulation challenges, compounded by the fact that the region is served by a 19th Century street network unaccommodating to modern needs.
The plan is focusing not just on a redesign of downtown circulation, but also how that redesign will support businesses, residents, shoppers, workers, students, and all other travelers. The goals of this effort are to: enhance how public space is used and accessed downtown; support existing businesses and encourage new growth; beautify the area and create a consistent, vibrant look; improve overall safety for all users; and establish a circulation pattern that works for people driving, walking, riding bikes, and taking transit.
The current challenge is capturing this energy and harnessing it to benefit residents now and establish Broadway as the center for future generations in our community. Broadway is the place where Chelsea comes together, but its design, look, function, and operation have not kept pace with the rest of Chelsea’s evolution. This is an opportunity to thoughtfully re-create the most visible and locally used part of Chelsea to become a more desirable, navigable, and welcoming destination for residents and visitors alike.
For more information, the public is encouraged to visit the project website: HYPERLINK “http://www.ReimaginingBroadway.net” www.ReimaginingBroadway.net.
Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque said just when urban educators plagued with a flawed funding formula thought they made some progress, the state yanked all that progress from under them recently.
Bourque, the past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the co-chair of the Urban Superintendents Network, has been working with the state for more than two years to fix a problem for Chelsea and many surrounding districts involving low income students – now called economically disadvantaged. The change has cost the Chelsea Schools millions of dollars per year in funding that they expected, but no longer qualified for.
“In the urban districts, we’re all on fragile ice right now,” she said. “Everything is coming at us at one time. It really begs the question about whether the allocation for education of students of poverty going to be the place where the state goes to make cuts and balance the budget every year. That’s not what the Foundation Formula budget is meant to do. It’s really almost immoral.”
Schools like Chelsea, Revere, Everett and Brockton – among others – have been hamstrung for the last two years due to major reductions in state funding due to the change in the formula. That change entailed making economically disadvantaged students qualify for that title only if their families were on some sort of public welfare benefit. Unfortunately, in communities like Chelsea, many families don’t qualify for those benefits due to their immigration status or because they haven’t been in the country legally for five years. Without that, the schools don’t receive nearly as much money to educate a very difficult and needy population.
This year, Bourque said, they added several new “qualifiers” for the economically disadvantaged tag – such as programs that students in Chelsea might qualify for despite immigration status.
However, as soon as that battle was won, Bourque said the state turned around and lowered the amount of money given for each student – making the gain a complete wash.
“We worked hard with the state to come up with solutions and they did add more students to qualify,” she said. “But as soon as we got more students, they reduced the amount of money given for each student.”
Bourque said the Chelsea Schools are likely going to be down another $1 million from where they feel they should be in the coming budget year. She said they will keep working on it, though.
It has been a real learning experience for the long-time administrator, though maybe not a positive one.
“To ignore systemic injustice and failure while children’s futures are compromised is morally and ethically, wrong,” she said. “It is not who we are as a Commonwealth nor is it who we want to be. The Grand Bargain of 1993 (for Education Reform) is not more and hasn’t been for many years. It is time for courage and time for action; our children and their futures are far too important.”
When the Chelsea Youth Baseball League, more widely known as the Pony League, was at its height of popularity from the late 1960s through the 1980s, when large crowds made their way to Merritt and Voke Parks for nightly games, James “Bear” Burke was one of the true coaching legends.
Mr. Burke, a Chelsea baseball coaching force and former employee of the Chelsea DPW, died on Jan. 24, 2018. He was 75.
The managers in the Pony League were giants in the eyes of their players. Pony League was huge in those days and you had to tryout and be selected in a player draft.
You begin with manager Larry Notkin, whose eye for talent was second to none and whose Red Sox, Cubs, and Royals teams were always a title contender. Al Palladino was the knowledgeable and nervous manager of the Twins (and then the Yankees), perpetually dispensing words of baseball wisdom to his players.
Paul Casino, clerk to the Chelsea City Council, was so popular and respected as the manager of the Angels. He was elected easily to the Chelsea School Committee and Board of Aldermen and served this city well. Casino coached some of the league’s all-time greats including Bobby Spinney, Paul Spracklin, and Eric Shuman.
Richie Pezzuto was the highly energetic manager of the Astros, taking Dennis “Hawk” Murray as the No. 1 pick in one of the drafts and building a powerhouse.
George Triant managed the Orioles, who with a lineup of Mike Lush, Jerry Dion, Bobby Ham, Larry Skara, Wayne Morris, Paul Halas, and other big-time players, became the only team in league history to go undefeated.
Steve Socha took over the Red Sox and had all-time Little League All-Star southpaw Paul Wheeler, a terrific hockey and baseball player, on his roster.
And then there was Jimmy “Bear” Burke, the beloved manager of the Pirates who exuded his enthusiasm for the game of baseball every time he stepped on the field. The “Bear,” as he was affectionately known, knew his baseball well. His in-game exchanges with the other managers, especially Notkin, were of a competitive nature. All the managers were friendly rivals trying hard and devoting countless hours of practice time to their teams with the hope of claiming the coveted playoff championship.
Al Palladino remembers tangling with “Bear” as an opposing coach and then having him as his assistant coach. He has fond memories of his longtime friend.
“I feel so bad that Bear has passed away,” said Palladino. “He was such a good guy. He had a kind heart. I coached against him when he had the Pirates and he came back and coached with me when I had Paul Nowicki on my team.”
Palladino recalled a humorous interaction that the Bear had with another local sports legend, the late Arnold Goodman, during a league meeting. “They were on opposites of an issue but the Bear stood up and said, ‘I make a motion because Arnie Goodman says so,’ “and everyone in the room just broke out in laughter because Jimmy and Arnie had finally agreed to agree on the matter.”
Bucky Cole, one of the Pony League’s greatest ballplayers, was a member of Bear’s Pirates team in the mid-1960s. Cole joined the Pirates after a sensational career in the Chelsea Little League where he was that era’s Mike Lush.
“I was a proud member of his Pirates team and we played Larry Notkin’s Red Sox team in the finals and we lost to them,” recalled Cole. “The Bear put his heart and soul in to coaching. He really loved coaching. He and Larry were good friends but they were always rivals to the final game. It was like the Yankees and the Red Sox going at it. He was a great guy.”
Cole said he also worked with James “Bear” Burke in the Chelsea Park Department.
“What’s interesting is that my son, Tommy, also had the Bear as a coach when he was 16 years old,” said Cole. “That’s how long he coached.”
And that’s how long the Bear was a positive influence on Chelsea youths – for a lifetime.
The city of Chelsea has lost another widely revered personality in its sports history.