John “Grapes” Grady has retired as a basketball coach after 50 years on the sidelines. John, a 1959 Mission High School graduate, most recently coached at Marian High in Framingham. John’s retirement conjured up memories of my senior year at Mission in 1967, when John was my coach. My teammates were terrific guys and good players, including Frank Nagle, Kevin Fitzgerald, John Clarke and Mike Morgan. That season, however, we lost virtually every close game in the tough Catholic Central League.
John was a savvy, streetwise mentor who nurtured hundreds of local kids who learned life lessons far more important than wins and losses. Coach Grady remained at Mission for many years, winning several Catholic League titles. In the ’80s, John became the head coach at Don Bosco High School, where he was highly successful. One of Grady’s best players at Don Bosco, incidentially, was Tom Healey. Healey, a slick point guard, hails from Sachem Street on Mission Hill.
Finishing his coaching career at Marian High, the youthful-looking Grady was able to bridge the generational gap as Father Time moved on. He didn’t win many games at Marian, but he surely molded young men into future good citizens.
Thanks to everyone who attended the Memorial Mass at Mission Church for my brother, John Martin, on July 2. After Mass, it was heartwarming at the Mission Hill Post as we reminisced about John and the old Mission Hill days. Special thanks to Father Lavin, who said the Memorial Mass, and also to my friend Emma Lane, who severed as a lector. Father Lavin and my brother John were childhood friends at the Mission Hill Projects at Tobin Court, and they are Mission High School graduates.
It’s always nice to see the offspring of Mission Hill folks do well, as Daniel Ryan graduated from the IBEW electrical school in Dorchester last month. Daniel, the son of former Tobin Court resient Joe Ryan, is currently working for Murphy Electric on the South Shore. Daniel stays in peak condition, as he is adept in jujitsu, a former of martial arts.
Audrey Todd recently graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Audrey Todd is the daughter of Jack Todd and Paula Todd. Jack, a retired police officer, grew up in Mission Hill. At Knox, Audrey majored in international relations, and she is also a gifted writer.
Congratulations to Alexandra Todd (Audrey’s cousin), a recent graduate of Latin Academy, who earned a scholarship to Bridgewater State College. Alexandra is the daughter of proud parents Kevin Todd and Tina Todd. Kevin Todd is a sergeant on the campus police force at the Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain.
Alexandra, incidentally, is a talented equestrian. Perhaps Alexandra inherited her horse-riding skills from her grandfather, John Todd, 84 years young, who lives across the street from me on Calumet Street. Legend has it that John was reprimanded by the Boston Police for galloping down Albany Street in Roxbury on a mare back in the ’40s.
A fish story: Last week, the Phantom Gourmet, a popular restaurant show on Channel 38, spotlighted Belle Isle Seafood in Winthrop. Several folks watching the show recognized Mission Hill resident Richie Curran, who was chowing down on a plate of shrimp. The owner of Belle Isle, where the food is terrific, is Jimmy Costas, who is married to Stephanie Curran (daughter of Chuck Curran).
John Clifford, an altar server at Mission Church for more than seven decades, will celebrate his 87th birthday July 31. John was born in the “Leaky Roof” section of Roxbury in 1926, and he has been living on the Hill since 1928. John’s Confirmation name is Ignatius, after St. Ignatius, who died on July 31. St. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits.
Former Mission Hill legend Paul “Shakey” Roberts stopped by Mike’s Donuts last week to say hello to the boys. Many years ago, Shakey was the bartender at 1200 Beacon Street, where Mission Hill folks who flock to that popular Brookline watering hole.
Back in the ’60s, Shakey would earn some coin by adeptly picking winners in pro football and baseball. Before wagering on a game, Shakey would call the weather bureau, checking on temperature and winds. Shakey left no stone unturned.
Occasionally, when I sip a beer at The Crossing, I’ll converse with Chris Byner, a local guy with an unwavering devotion to our youths. Chris, who is employed by the City of Boston, has worked in gang interventions. He is indeed a role model for the young. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Chris since he got married recently.
Down the street at the Mission Bar and Grill, Paul Fitzgerald tells me he is a regular on Friday nights. It seems Paul has a reservoir of affection for the lovely bartenders, Jessica and Michelle.