Hill Happenings

By Mossy Martin

John Clifford, a life long Mission Hill resident, passed away April 26 at age 93. John was a Mission High graduate, class of 1943 and he later served in the Navy during World War ll.

John loved Mission Church and he was an altar boy at the Church when he attended Mission Grammar School. He continued to be an altar “boy” throughout his life.

John, incredibly, was an altar boy-altar server for 72 years, interrupted only by his military service. It was nice that his back porch on Calumet Street overlooked our wonderful Basilica. 

Having been John’s tenant on the third floor, I spent many hours on that porch, conversing with him. I enjoyed John telling me stories about his days in the “Mohawk Gang”, the legendary Mission Hill crew from the 40’s.

 John, who worked in the Waltham school system as a guidance counselor, was generous and he had a big heart. I saw him slip many $20’s to folks, sometimes to strangers.

At Mike’s Donuts, John was a regular, and he would often talk politics, occasionally getting peevish when his Libertarian views fell on deaf ears. John’s best speech took place at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002  when he ran for State Rep. in a wide open field as Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald had stepped down.

I sat there listening to many candidates give mundane speeches, several of whom wanted to raise taxes. The last candidate to speak was the 76-year-old Mr. Clifford, who, after a spirited oration, took a $20 bill out of his pocket and said; ” Do you want to keep more of this or give it to the god — government”. I rose from my chair and applauded.

One person whose politics John disagreed with was the late Mayor Menino, and John wrote him dozens of letters, always critical but respectful. One morning at Mike’s Donuts when John was holding court, the Mayor walked in and the two finally met. Mr. Menino approached John,  who got up and gave the smiling Mayor a big hug.

 The Gormley Funeral Parlor did a noble job laying John to rest at Mission Church. John often said to Funeral Parlor owner, Richie Gormley; ” I want Mission Church to be my last stop.”


Richie, from Roxbury, is a Vet Nam veteran, who served in the Marines and on Memorial Day at Fenway Park he was part of the Red Sox pre game observance to honor our fallen veterans.


I was saddened to hear that Paul McLean passed away last month. Paul, who grew up in the Mission Hill project, was good guy. He had a great sense of humor who always had a joke for me.


Congrats to Anthony Selden from Mission Hill who earned a basketball scholarship to Gardner Webb University in North Carolina. Anthony, who  graduated from Tilton Academy in New Hampshire last month, is the younger brother of Wayne Selden, who plays for the Chicago Bulls.


A tip of the hat to Abby Harnois who graduated from Catholic University in Wash. D.C. last week. Abby, a delightful young lady, is the daughter of Kent Harnois and Christine Harnois (Healey). Chris Healey grew up on Sachem St. in Mission Hill.


I was honored to be invited to the ceremony of the Boston Chapter of Disabled Veterans last month at Florian Hall in Dorchester. My best friend, Col. George Rollins, from Mission Hill and a West Point, graduate, was sworn in as the new Vice Commander at the celebration, which was followed by a scrumptious roast beef dinner. A highlight of the event occurred upon the Col.’s introduction when his beautiful two year old grand daughter, Teagan Condon bellowed a “hip hip hurray.”


The New England Baptist Hospital welcomes a new worker, Dan Bent. Dan is a skillful maintenance man who grew up on Alleghany Street in Mission Hill.


 Actor, Rick McDermott is doing well, working in the Judson Theatre in North Carolina. Rick, a 1966 Mission High graduate, has performed in several major roles and he has a big part in “A Witness for the Prosecution,” which will take place in November. Rick honed his acting skills performing in the Mission Hill Theater Group back in the 70s.

——————— Congratulations to Tricia Fitzgerald who received the Mary Leydon Commitment to Education Award during a ceremony May 22 at Emmanuel College. Tricia has been prominent in raising funds for Mission Grammar School, which opened in 1889. Tricia is as beautiful as when she was my Tobin Court neighbor many moons ago.  

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