By Maurice “Mossy” Martin
Special to the Gazette
Condolences to the family of Dave O’Connor, a World War II veteran and a Mission Hill icon, who passed away May 5 in Sarasota, Fla., at 86. Dave, a Mission High School graduate, was a Pearl Harbor survivor who served in the U.S. Navy. He represented Mission Hill in the House of Representatives from 1951 until 1970. Dave was generous with his time and money. He was especially supportive of the Mission Hill Little League.
Perhaps Dave was best known for being the proprietor of Dave O’Connor Funeral Home on Tremont Street in Mission Hill. Dave was the youngest mortician in Massachusetts, taking over the business from his mother when the funeral parlor was located at the current Mission Hill Post at Tremont and Wigglesworth Street.
Dave rubbed elbows with political heavyweights. On one occasion, he infuriated U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and Massachusetts Gov. Endicott Peabody regarding the appointment of Dave’s friend John Thompson as Speaker of the House. Thompson, a fellow World War II veteran, was appointed, following a verbal battle.
Dave always had time for the little guy. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in his magnificent poem “If” in 1895, Dave was the kind of guy who could “walk with kings—nor lose the common touch.”
Condolences to the family of Tommy Barrett, who passed away last month. Tommy grew up in the Mission Hill projects in the ’50s and ’60s. Those were rough times, but Barrett, although only 5-feet-5-inches, could always take care of himself. He loved boxing and he fought a few times at the Matthews Arena (current N.U.), utilizing his powerful left hand. In the ’70s, Tommy was the manager of Little City Hall in Roslindale. Tommy got the thirst for politics, and he ran for state rep. in Roslindale. He received a lot of votes, but he lost. More important, Tommy was a good guy.
Congrats to Karen O’Keefe, a former high school softball great, whose entire Mount Saint Joseph Academy softball team was inducted into that school’s Hall of Fame on March. 26. Karen is the daughter of proud parents Yogi and Maryann O’Keefe.
Belated happy birthday to Tommy Maher, a 1969 Mission High graduate, who is 60 years old. A surprise party was held in Tom’s honor at Maggiano’s in Park Square last month. Tom’s close friend/nemesis Dave Prendergast did some serious roasting of his buddy. A great job was done by Tom’s sweetheart wife, Josephine Maher, in organizing the party. Tommy, incidentally, was a terrific hoopster at Mission High School. Despite being an undersized forward at 5-feet-10-inches, Tommy was known as the “Human Eraser” for his shot-blocking ability.
Last week, I chatted with Lt. Col. George Rollins, who called me from Afghanistan. George, who will conclude his military duty in October, sounded upbeat despite the hostile surroundings and the scorching, 120-degree heat. George, who grew up in the Mission Hill projects, is a 1973 graduate of West Point.
Good luck to Billy “Dapper” Hanafin upon his retirement as a jail officer in the Sheriff’s Department. Bill, who is moving to Florida, was a savvy point guard on the Mission Hill hoop courts in the ’60s. Mission Hill folks of my age are more likely to remember Billy’s younger brother, Gerry Hanafin. Gerry was the goaltender for the hapless Jamaica Plain High School hockey team in 1966. The joke around the Hill back then was that Gerry had a sunburn on the back of his neck from the red light going on after he yielded a plethora of goals. Gerry, an affable kid, was always good-natured about the team.
It’s nice that the Mission Hill Little League is playing some of its games at the Smith Street Playground, next to the Tobin School. That is where the games were played starting in the ’50s, and it lends some nostalgia. I played for the Red Sox Little League squad in 1961 and 1962, and if it was a Wednesday evening, I could hear the legendary Father Manton’s booming voice offering the novena from nearby Mission Church. Incidentally, my Little League sponsor ws Dave O’Connor.
Congratulations to Regan Geary, who graduated from Simmons College last month with a degree in nursing. Regan, a delightful young lady, is the daughter of proud parents Joe and Deidre Geary. Joe Geary, incidentally, was a clutch-hitting right-fielder for the Owls Nest back in the old days of the Mission Hill Softball League.