Last month, Mission Hill mourned the death of Franny Ward, a former Mission High School basketball great, a longtime Mission Hill hoops coach, and mentor to the Mission Hill youths. Franny, a 1965 Mission High graduate who had been living in West Roxbury, succumbed to cancer.
My earliest recollection of Franny was when I was 9 years old and Franny was honing his basketball skills on the Mission Hill project courts. At 13, he was superior to most of the 16- and 17-year-old players. It was pure joy watching Franny with a basketball in his hands.
While playing for Mission High, Franny, teaming with superstar Jerry McLean, seldom lost while drawing large crowds to the Tobin gym. Franny, despite his 5-foot-7-inch height, received several college basketball scholarship offers. Instead, Franny joined the U.S. Air Force, serving his country as a military policeman.
After military service, Franny worked in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Franny along with Bobby Healy and boxing coach Don Bernard, were fixtures at the Tobin in the ’70s, serving and mentoring the Mission Hill youths. At that time, Franny coached the Mission CYO basketball team, and he also coached Little League baseball for several years.
In the ’80s, Franny and Kevin Fitzgerald coached the Mission High basketball team. Franny was a terrific X’s and O’s coach, and he molded excellent teams with players such as Donnie O’Keefe and Bobby Munzert. After his coaching days, Franny worked two full-time jobs as an MBTA conductor and on the overnight shift at the Shattuck Hospital as a campus police officer. That allowed him to buy his dream house in West Roxbury.
Franny leaves a legacy of a generation of grateful Mission Hill youths who had Franny as a coach and teacher.
My family and I were saddened by the unexpected death of my brother, Kevin Martin, who passed away June 8. Kevin, a 1966 Mission High School graduate, was a veteran of the U.S. Army. Kevin was a talented accordion and tin whistle player. He inherited the gift of music from my father, who taught Kevin how to play many an Irish tune on the squeezebox.
Kevin is survived by his lovely daughter Jennifer St. Jean, a nurse living in Lowell with her husband, Michael St. Jean, and also two grandsons, Michael Stephen St. Jean and Jakob Thomas St. Jean.
Mission Hill folks are proud of Marie Gormley for being the valedictorian of her graduating class at Mount Alvernia Academy in Newton. Marie is the daughter of proud parents Michael and Karen Gormley and the granddaughter of Yogi and Maryanne O’Keefe.
Good luck to my Calumet Street neighbor Tommy Todd on his new assignment as the assistant chief in the Dedham Court Probation Department. Tommy, a Mission High School and Northeastern University graduate, previously worked for 26 years as a probation officer at Dorchester Court.
It was an ominous month in the neighborhood as Mission Hill resident Billy Jones passed away. Billy, a Mission High graduate, had been retired from the Mass. College of Art. Billy was a former commander of the Mission Hill Post, and he will be missed.
We also lost former Mission Hill resident Tommy Cummings last month, a few weeks after he suffered a stroke while walking around Jamaica Pond. Tommy seemed to wear a perpetual smile on his face. Locals, including his friend, Big Jim Moynihan, would often see him at the Raynham dog track.
Kevin Clifford stopped by the Mission Hill Post last Saturday night for a Corona and to say hello to the boys. Kevin is from my old stomping grounds at Tobin Court. It’s nice to see Mission Hill project guys do well, as Kevin, a 1971 Mission High graduate, is the proprietor of Clifford Jewelers at 333 Washington St. in Boston. Kevin, a rugged linebacker, was my teammate on the 1979 Killilea Club championship team.
It’s great that Kevin’s son, Matthew Clifford, recently returned home safely after a tour in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine. Kevin’s son Brendan served in the U.S. Army, and he spent a year in Iraq, coming home in 2010.
The Mission Hill Open Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 25 at the Norwood Country Club. The entry fee is $100. Sponsors are still welcome. For more info, contact Peter Flynn at 617-435-9706 or Kevin Lowre at 617-543-8114.