Hill Happenings

On Aug. 23, 1968, Mission Hill’s Joe Conlon, a Green Beret assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, was stationed at headquarters at Marble Mountain in the Republic of Vietnam. Shortly after midnight, Conlon heard several explosions and realized the enemy was inside the compound. A first lieutenant lay on the floor, injured by a grenade. Conlon jumped on the lieutenant to protect him and moved him to safety. Conlon and SFG member Patrick Watkins secured the entrance, but they were wounded by another grenade.

Conlon, although bleeding and with debris from a collapsed ceiling on him, fearlessly carried a badly wounded soldier through enemy snipers. Conlon eventually found a Navy corpsman who was driving a jeep and transporting the wounded to the dispensary. Conlon returned to headquarters several times, moving more injured soldiers to medical treatment. He did this while exchanging gunfire with the enemy.

Seventeen American soldiers lost their lives on that dark day, and many more were wounded. Because of Conlon’s gallant actions, countless more American casualties were prevented.

For his devotion and bravery, Staff Sgt. Joe Conlon was awarded the Silver Star Medal at a ceremony on Oct. 25, 2012 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

The 5th Special Forces Group was highly secretive, and after the Vietnam War, paperwork was lost, hence the long delay in the award. The 5th Special Forces Group did receive a Presidential Unit Citation in 2003.

Conlon graduated from Mission High School in May of 1960. Four days later, he was in Parris Island, having joined the Marines. Joe served for 24 years in military service. After retiring from the military, Joe worked for General Electric in Lynn. He has a lovely daughter, Christine Shoemaker, who I enjoyed conversing with a Joe’s celebration party Nov. 10 at McGarvey’s Tavern in Manchester, N.H., where Joe resides.

Joe, incidentally, was a fierce defensive end on Mission High’s football team who played in the epic 22-18 upset win against Matignon High at Matignon in 1959. Matignon had two future NFL players, including quarterback Jack Concannon. The game ended with a Matignon ball carrier attempting to cross the goal line, only to be tackled by Richie O’Neill and Dougie Blades at the 1-yard line.

Mission’s quarterback in that memorable game was Mike Mangiacotti, a brilliant signal-caller. The coach of that team was Tom “Bubba” Clarke, a 1953 Mission High graduate who later was an All-American running back at Northeastern University.

Condolences to the family of Patsie (Courkin) Donovan, a beloved Mission Hill woman who passed away last month. Patsie was generous with her time, volunteering for numerous Mission Hill affairs. Patsie was instrumental in organizing the Mission Hill Crime Committee meetings back in the ’70s.

I fondly recall going to Lake Cochituate with Patsie and her sisters on those sunny beach days from yesteryear. Patsie loved Irish music, and as her nephew, Boston Police Lt. John Earley eulogized at Mission Church, “Her favorite song was ‘Black Velvet Band.’”

Happy birthday to Emma Lane (Dec. 16), a sparkling 84-year-old Mission Hill woman whose presence brightens up Mike’s Donuts every morning. Emma stays young, volunteering at the New England Baptist Hospital, and she is also a lector at Mission Church.

Kathryn Healy was baptized last month at Mission Church, prompting smiles from proud parents Bobby Healy and Suzanne Healy. The baptism was preceded by Mass said by Bobby’s brother, Father John Healy. Father Healy grew up in the Mission Hill projects, and he was ordained last year at the age of 62.

Wayne Selden, a superb hoopster from Mission Hill, officially committed to Kansas University at a signing celebration Nov. 16 at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury. Selden, currently a senior at Tilton School in New Hampshire, earned a four-year basketball scholarship. The event at the Shelburne Center was attended by about 100 people, including a crew from ESPN.

On a personal note, thanks to the family for inviting me to this uplifting celebration. I particularly enjoyed the speech by Alfreda Harris. Alfreda, the Shelburne Center director, has known Wayne since his childhood years and praised him for his politeness as well as his basketball skills. Wayne is blessed with a terrific, supportive family, including parents Wayne Selden Sr. and Lavette Selden.

I was glad to see the plethora of trees that were recently planted on St. Alphonsus Street overlooking Mission Church. To quote Joyce Kilmer from his beautiful 1913 poem “Trees”:

A tree that looks at God all day,

         And lifts her leafy arms to pray

Merry Christmas!

Former Green Beret Joe Conlon (right) celebrates his Silver Star medal honor with Mission Hill native Army Lt. Col. George Rollins at a Manchester, N.H. party Nov. 10. (Courtesy Photo)

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