REAL MEN: BEAKER

In the past few months, I have been receiving a lot of mail, email and social media reminders of my 25th reunion from college. As with any reunion type event, it reminds us how time flies (and that you are getting old!). After digesting that fact, I was reminded of an important day that would ultimately play a part in choosing to attend my Alma Mater, the College of the Holy Cross.

In the summer of 1992, about to enter my senior year at Lowell High School (do you believe that place is still standing…could probably use a fresh coat of paint or maybe even a BULLDOZER! Sorry, tangent.) I was invited to visit with the football program at HC. Very exciting invite that I happily accepted.

However, in the days leading up to the scheduled visit, my sister got sick. Really sick. Courtney had a long fought battle with major G.I. problems since she was a young child and she took a bad turn at age 15. She would be hospitalized in Boston for nearly one month that summer. My parents, not surprisingly, refused to leave her side for any extended period of time; except to be sure I didn’t burn the house down in their absence, of course. This was fine by me and I managed just fine. (I’d like to tell you it was like Risky Business….and it was. Well, except for the parties, beautiful women, sex, drugs, and wild fun. Other than that, exactly the same. I did dance around in my underwear once…alone. I digress)

But as the days turned to weeks at Children’s Hospital for Courtney, my big day out on Worcester was quickly approaching. And so Dad and Mom had to make the decision to how to manage. This was a parent/student invite. I could not go alone and I certainly could not decline this opportunity. So, we decided to enlist the help of an old friend.

Enter Brian “Beaker” Barry

Brian was yet another close confidant and council to my Dad. Golf buddies, neighbors, occasional business partners, they were quite the odd couple. Conservative Attorney Barry coupled with Often-Off-The-Rails Frank made for a head scratching friendship; but one that seemed to always work.

Brian eagerly agreed to lend a hand to our family and chaperone me out to the The Cross. Leaving behind his own large brood of young children on a Sunday, Brian stepped up. I was quite nervous that day – and a bit unsure if this was a even a good idea. Brian could sense my jumpiness as soon as I got into his little lawyer-mobile Volvo. He made light commentary (and terrible jokes) the whole ride down. I remember it really did help me and the nerves. Brian delivered what was needed. Basically, to serve as the parent that could not be there to help navigate me through this interview of sorts.

Long story short, it was a very successful trip.

Flash forward a few months.

After visiting many more schools and weighing many confusing options I knew I wanted to be a Crusader and could not have been more proud to receive that letter of acceptance. And it was a great ride I have always cherished.

May 1997, Brian and I celebrated “our” victory the day after I graduated.

In hindsight, looking back almost 30 years since that visit to Mount St. James, Brian’s support on that day was so critical. It was the first step in making arguably the largest decision in my young life. We still joke about it whenever we bump in to each other.

Remember that day I got you in to college, Frankie?“, Brian will rib me.

Sure do, buddy.

Outside of his quirky wit, Columbo-like interrogations if he wants the scoop on some sordid subject, Brian is just a great guy and family man. Proud husband to Katie, father to five superstar kids, grandfather to a whole gaggle that’s still growing in size, Brian continues his life well lived over on Clark Road. Pretty damn good golfer, too.

Thanks for that day and for the many years of true friendship.

REAL MAN.

(P.S. Beak was also the co-conspirator of the infamous “Dr. Pleasure 40th Birthday Caper“, but I’ll save that for another chapter.)

REAL MEN: The Old Guard of Mount Pleasant

With Masters week upon us, the arrival of Spring, and opening of golf season , it seemed like a timely tribute to the people and the place I have been a part of my entire life; Mount Pleasant Golf Club.

As I meandered through the clubhouse last evening for the annual “Smoker” (the club’s traditional kickoff event to commence the new season) I was reminded what a great place this is to be a part of. Dad had me up there at 3 years old in the 1970s. Had my first beer there (don’t worry, I was 4 at the time), drove my first motorized vehicle there (fear not, I was 5), played my first game of 45s there (relax, I was 8 and there was a kitty) and made a lifetime of friends there.

I was a full member for more than 25+ years but when my offspring were little, I decided to step back and simply be a social (aka drinking) member. But, I will be back again for certain some day.

Last evening reminded me of the legends that roamed these grounds when, ah hem, the beloved ‘old’ clubhouse was still in place.

OLD SCHOOL

Names like Timmy “Ace” Vaughn, Eddie “Hot Top” Walsh, John “Skippy” Boyle, Tommy “Face” Conlon, Ray “Brooksie” Brooks, and, of course “Mr.” Billy Moriarty.

Those names and many more were absolute legends. Legends on the course, and larger legends in the clubhouse. Fun, tough, hard men. No excuses, greatest generation, “women weaken legs“-type of fellows who spent the few free hours they had each week on Staples Street with their buddies.

RULES

These boys had some basic but hard rules in those days – which had zero to do with golf…

If your wife called the actual phone at Mt. Pleasant, you were an outcast and un-politely asked to leave the premises immediately.

If you were not cracking a cold Budweiser on the first tee (at any hour of the day, mind you) then you were forced to take a mandatory testosterone test.

If every third word out of your mouth was not a swear, slang or off-colored comment, then just shut the f*&K up.

Pretty simple, I think?

These were bad ass dudes.

I have some great memories of those men. Always a life lesson when I encountered them – perhaps not always a good one – but always an education or, at the very least, a dirty limerick or joke.

Forward We Go

As time wore on, those legends slowly – and reluctantly – passed the torch the current Boys of the Old Brigade. Now aging icons with names like Hassett, Wheeler, Livingston, Rourke, Mullavey, Coit, Shaughnessy, McKiernan, Healy, Costello, Murphy, Cassin, Dowd, McCarty, Emerson, Fawcett, Meade…(and the list goes on and on…so forgive me if I missed a few of you).

This generation was slightly softer than their predecessors but equally vigilant in their pursuit to leverage their Mt. Pleasant friendships and comradery to simply ‘do good‘. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been been organically raised by these guys over the years; supporting every type of cause; from cancer to little league baseball.

The Jimmy Fund alone has been the beneficiary of nearly $1,000,000 in the last 30+ years (shout out to J.R.)

All of the above and many more have made this “neighborhood club” awesome. They have protected it, advanced it, and cherished it. For those of you, like me, that have been fortunate enough to be a part of this 1910-founded institution, you know what I mean.

And the “new” guard of MP is certainly in great hands being lead and served by men named Jenkins, Tulley and more.

It’s a great place. Great for kids. Great for families. REALLY great for MEN.

REAL MEN.

Thank you fellas.

Enjoy the Masters.

REAL MEN: McNeil Men

As I have referenced in the past, the entire spirit of this Real Men project was to pay tribute to the men that mean so much to me. Shaped me. Had an honest and true impact on my life.

To date, nearly all of these men I have had the privilege to recognize were friends of the late, great Frank Senior or my powerful blood brothers (uncles essentially).

As I sadly walked in to the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home in Canton Massachusetts this afternoon to say goodbye to a true Real Man, it reminded me of the very reason I wanted to create this series of stories; to tell these men how important they were – before they were gone from this earthy world.

I have no interest in writing obituaries. My poor Dad spent 40 years of his life doing that meaningful, but painful, chore as a faithful funeral director. And he hated it.

I simply want to acknowledge some great freakin’ dudes of the world. That’s it. Period.

Today, heartbreakingly, I had to give my Father-Son-Holy Spirit through glassy, teary eyes to my wife’s Uncle, Leo McNeil.

Uncle Leo was just 64 years old and fought – like so many – a ridiculous bout with cancer. (Boy, do I hate you cancer. I’ll save that rant for another time)

Leo was the epitome of an old school gentleman. Kind, funny, cool and charismatic. A throw back. A unique specimen that fully deserves the wonderful celebration and mourning of his beautiful life I witnessed today, Leo loved hard and gave hard. A true servant and soldier of God, Leo is a 1st ballot Hall of Fame Human in my estimation.

I loved Leo.

But, Leo reminded me that I don’t want to pen another post-mortem story. No thanks.

Wisely, I took the time to tribute my FIL (father-in-law) several months back. I typed the words I wanted him to read and understand about what he means to me. Proud I did so, and hopefully I remain in his will. ;).

However, my MIL (mother in law) is 1 of 8 children. Leo, the only male in the brood of Big Leo and Ruth, the other seven lady McNeils clearly have a way with the weaker sex. Minus their dear sister Jean, who died many years back from the results of a brain tumor, the other McNeil Misses lassoed themselves a barnful of studs!

Let me just give you the briefest of descriptions, but these are the definition of Real Men and I am so thankful they have been a part of my world for over 25 years….

Uncle Ed – married to oldest McNeil, Nancy, flat-top-quaffed Ed is the big strong silent type. Pretty sure he called me by my actual name once, just a straight down the middle solid guy. John Wayne style man. Respect.

Uncle “Tut” – I didn’t know this guy’s actual name was ‘Paul’ until today, I think. An Italiano James Bond, Tut is a smooth, cool cat. A shaken, never stirred brand of gentleman. Hand him a golf club, martini, cigar …he makes it all look good. A great hugger and a great friend.

FIL – you have already been covered. Enough.

Uncle Pat – Sioux City Iowa native, a quiet rock star of a man, Pat is unassumingly cool. Give this guy a guitar and some time and you will simply relax and be intoxicated by his company. Pat is a man that gives you faith in in the notion of genuine kindness. A warm, welcoming human being.

Uncle Paul – Sharing a birthday with Jesus Christ, Paul may have actually given more to this world than our Savior himself. When I first came on the scene to the McNeil Clan, Christmas Day, Paul wasn’t celebrating his birthday but awaiting a call from the bone marrow receiver he anonymously donated to a year earlier….you know, just because he is awesome. You kidding me? Paul is one of the best, bad ass good guys matriculating around this big blue ball.

Uncle Steve – Steve, the baby of the McNeil-In-Law-brethren is simply just an awesome man. Smart, confident and fun. This dude bought a Winnebago to get to Buffalo for couple Patriots snaps each year! Spawn a crazy Polack Clan, Steve and his merry band of kids have fun – a lot of fun. Great guy – simply stated.

And let us not forget Ginny. The lone female in-law to the McNeil Testosterone Amalgam. Leo’s widow. 😦 Ginny can roll with any of these men mentioned above. Classy, kind, tough and fun Irish lady. You have an army behind you during these awful times.

So, in summation, not a bad group to call “family”. As we mourn Leo during these days, we take solace in what an incredible group of men (and woman) converged in to an already amazing family.

Thanks for not beating me up, fellas.

Real Men.

Rest easy, Leo.

WHAT IS ‘REAL MEN’?

As I continue this REAL MEN series, I assure you, I do not take it lightly. The whole spirit and intent of this project is to pay homage to men that have had an influence on me – not some ass kissing contest. I have nothing to gain. I chose to dive into this endeavor after my Dad passed away nearly two years ago. And while I spent 3/4 of my life in a “funeral home” family, these writings are not intended to be eulogies – but tributes.

Yes, unfortunately, several of these men I wrote about – men named Tighe, McKay and Martin – have moved on to a better place, the point is to convey emotions and share the stories about great men before it is “too late”.

Everyone always says great things about loved ones when they have passed – but why wait? How many times have we all said “(S)he was such a great person. I wish I had one more day with them. I wish I told them how much they meant to me. I wish…I wish…I wish.”

You know?

Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

That is why I have written these words about some of the great gentlemen I have been blessed to encounter in my nearly 50 years in this earth. In certain cases, I missed my chance during this project. Men like McCarthy and Livingston. Always in my writing sites and plans, but never put pen to paper. My loss.

With that said, I am confident I have made great selections to date and I am so pleased to share them. The reactions from these posts demonstrates just how great these men are and what they have meant to so many others.

Most of these men are blood or blessings to my world. My Dad (and Mom) kept great company and exposed me to such wonderful humans.

Thank you for that.

I have a few more tributes I will pay but I only pen these stories when it feels right. In any case, just giving you all an insight to “why” I choose to author these tales…cause these people made such a mark on me.

Do yourself a favor and tell the men and women like these just how important they are to you…before its too late.

Thanks for reading.

REAL MEN: PAUL

I have been really excited to pen this chapter of REAL MEN.
The subject: Mr. Paul Dubuque.

Adding to my list of guys that were near and dear to Dad, but have always meant so much to me; and continue to do such. Paul is no exception.

Product of the Acre section of Lowell, Paul came up a poor French neighborhood kid in the 1950s and 60s. A veteran, Paul served his country well before settling back in his beloved hometown with his (saint of a) wife, Jackie, where they raised their five great kids.

I obviously did not know Paul way back then, but middle age (and now “quasi-old”) Paul has become an amazing friend and confidant to me.
Another member of “The Pall Bearer Squad” (I suppose he was a PAUL bearer! Rim Shot…tip your waiters and waitresses, I am here all week!) for Big Frank, Paul is as close as it gets to my heart and that of my family.

My first memory of Paul goes back to the late 80s when I was pre-pubescent teen that cared not for the opposite sex, but only sports and video games. Early Sunday mornings, Paul and another legend would pack a gaggle of us kids in to the car (seatbelts optional because there were not enough of them to go around) and take us to play basketball at a local high school. I thought it was so cool. We had private gym time. Paul and the others Dads played in our full court games. Despite his girlish figure, Paul actually had some sick hoop game back in those days! Always easy, fun and kind to us youngsters, Paul was an “adult” I surely respected.

Flash forward a few decades, and the relationship changed drastically. The respect remained, but the relationship dynamic certainly evolved from Sunday morning roundball many years back.

Now, all of a sudden, I could matriculate with Paul and the rest of the Merry Band of Mad Men my father hung around, like peers and not ”fathers and sons”. I was Junior Scout seeking full time membership to the Whacko Pack, this was a new chapter for me. (Read previous REAL MEN entries and you will see what I mean). Yes, this new segment was surely more interesting than sweating it out on the bball court on the Lord’s Day.

Translation: golf, cigars, maybe a bourbon, dirty jokes and the like!

Which brings me to a not-to-be-overlooked component of knowing Paul Dubuque; THE JOKES.

Paul must have been a Court Jester in Medieval France in a previous life because he can tell a joke like no other and can certainly “hold Court”. Masterful in his delivery and timing, Paul can capture your full attention when you foresee a 1-liner or a 30-minuter coming out of that beautiful ,quasi-large, jovial, cologne-wafting cranium he has somehow managed to operate for over 70 spins around the Sun. And the only one laughing louder at the punch line than his audience? Paul himself! That fact always makes it more the funny.

A true friend, Paul calls me often and opens with a kind, genuine ”Hello”, a earnest inquiry about my life and happenings to follow, a quick hilarious quip or story for sure, but always closed with an “I love ya, pal“.

And that’s no joke.

That’s just Paul.

REAL MAN.

REAL MEN: Roger

The men described in this series all possess similar traits; loyalty, character, humor, humility, grit, compassion, “bad-ass-ness” but most, kindness.

This guy embodies that last trait.

Roger Landry.

In keeping with the common thread, Roger is a dear and old friend of my late father and the entire McCabe family. Roger is a true friend.

As a lifelong educator and principal, Roger will appreciate the math that accompanies this chapter.

Roger grew up in the Acre section of Lowell, 2nd oldest to a brood of 8. Six sisters and a brother. The Landrys are”breeders”. Roger’s two daughters represent just a couple of their 28 first cousins. The latest generation producing upwards of 63 offspring (footnote to Ancestry.com).

Jesus, folks, don’t you have Netflx? Bon jour, ya animals.

You need a formal organizational chart to keep track of these people. Make note, if you are doing business, eating dinner, having coffee, sitting, standing, driving, golfing, voting or breathing there is 73% chance you are in the presence of a Landry. Amazingly, I know approximately 81% of them and they are all simply good, decent, hard working human beings. That can’t be said about most.

Back to Rog.

With a glorious quaff of snow white lettuce covering his dome, Roger was a lifetime educator and principal. Began his career as a 6th grade teacher but spent the lion’s share of his professional years as a Principal in Lowell Public Schools. The very first Principal of the Murkland Elementary School, constructed just steps from his childhood home in the Acre, Roger had the perfect affect and effect on so many young students. My mother had the privilege to work in the library of the Murkland under Roger’s direction, and I would frequently visit. I witnessed first hand the firm but gentle hand Roger lead this school. Many of the students came from poor and broken homes and Roger served as a leader, role model and father figure to so many. Regardless of what condition these children entered that place, I can guarantee they came out better students and people when they left. Roger was truly born for this mission and good work.

Away from those classrooms and hallways, Roger was a very fun and social guy. Never would shy away from a card game, a sporting event or just a “night with the boys”.

More math you request? You got it.

Roger has been to Las Vegas 51 times. 51! The only people that have been to Sin City more than Roger are Frank Sinatra, Sigfried and Roy. Sammy Davis Jr. was only there 46 times, based on my non-research.

While always a gentleman, Roger is no softy, especially when it comes to common courtesy and politeness. A great tale of Roger from way back. Dad was working late, Mom was at some type of event tagging along with the Landrys and other friends. Allegedly, a fellow guest of this party was being a bit inappropriate toward Mom. Legend has it Roger had him pinned against the wall quicker than you can say “Get to the Principal’s office“. Thanks buddy.

A family man to the core, Roger has lead a wonderfully humble and great life; just ask wife Margie and daughters Carolyn and Patti.

A gentleman, a scholar and a friend.

100%

Real Man.