On June 17th we celebrate Father’s Day. For many men, we will one day become the striking image through our personal qualities of that very man who helped bring us into the world, even if there isn’t a strong physical resemblance. It might be the way fathers hold a steering wheel of a car or a knife and fork, or a wisecrack, or enjoyment of a certain food, aspiration to serve our country, appreciation art or music, or maybe participation in athletics, or dressing conservatively or flamboyantly. The list of attributes could go on and on. In The Rainbow, William Wordsworth wrote “the child is the father of the man,” meaning that man is the product of his habits and behavior developed in the childhood.
Many of us here in Medfield have known numerous fathers who have been positive role models. Byron Reed, who used to live on Curve Street, was a United States Marine who fought in the Pacific during World War II. He was a loving father to Steven and Sharon and a devoted husband to Claire.
All four members of the Reed family were accomplished artists. Byron painted many pictures of the Peak House and the Medfield Library and the waterfall near Red Gate Farm on Foundry Street, often while smoking his trademark pipe with the sweet, aromatic, strawberry-flavored tobacco. He taught art at Xaverian Brothers in Westwood, while Claire was the art teacher at Medfield High School. Steven lives with his wife and two children in California and is a successful graphic design artist.
Another father in Medfield who had tremendous influence was Dr. A. Ritchey Stagg, whose home and office were at 25 Pleasant Street from 1941 to 2009. And after completing medical school, his son Peter joined the practice. Arthur McGuire, who used to own a pharmacy at the corner of Main and North Streets, said Dr. Stagg absolutely loved being a doctor, and that the medical and nursing staff at Natick Hospital “treated him like God.”
From the 50s through the 70s, Dr. Stagg always seemed to be on call and sometimes made house calls. If someone called in with a medical emergency, he’d often squeeze the person in between regular appointments. During the football seasons at Medfield High, Dr. Stagg was always on the sideline in case a player got hurt.
Vincent (my godfather) and Muriel Palumbo had three sons, Rusty, David, and Ricky. Grandpa Vinny became a proud grandfather after his sons had their own children. Uncle Vinny was also the uncle and sometimes Godparent to his many nieces and nephews in the extended Palumbo family. Vin’s mother and father came from Italy, passed through Ellis Island, and ended up on Frairy Street, where they raised 11 children.
What does one say about a man who has mastered both calculus and flying, and goes off to fly bombing missions over Nazi Germany? How do you remember the spirit and courage of Vin Palumbo, who knew that he could have been shot down from the sky at any time? How do you thank that man for serving and fighting for his country?
Despite the trauma of the war, Vin came home and found an inner peace and became a role model for his family. His love for Muriel was eternal. They joined together like precious elements, until they couldn’t be told apart. Muriel was the rock in Vin’s life and he would give her major credit for their success, forever saying he couldn’t have done it without her.
Uncle Vin aspired to pitch in the big leagues; he played briefly on a minor league team in the Boston Braves organization. (The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953, and then to Atlanta in 1966. Despite the passage of 65 years, the Braves often come to Fenway Park for interleague games.) Once, during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox, Vin pitched to Teddy Ballgame, better known to all of us as Ted Williams. He “held” Ted to a ground ball single hit to left field.
Vin and Muriel wanted to start a family, so he gave up his baseball pursuit. They raised their three sons right, to study and work hard, and each of them led successful lives.
Vin Palumbo the businessman became Vin Palumbo the philanthropist, humanitarian and community activist. Like many veterans, he spoke little about his wartime experiences but with deep admiration for fellow World War II soldiers.
Vin Palumbo gave generously to charity and to those he loved. He showed a unique confidence, and we learned from his experience, and our lives forever changed. And now on Father’s Day we thank Vin Palumbo who is remembered by his family, friends and community.
My father, Ed Flaherty, was an energetic worker, a devoted husband to my mother, who he called Dee, and Padre to his five children, Todd, Tim, Deirdre (Gogo), Dennis, and Edwina. My father became a linotype (printing press) operator prior to enlisting in the United States Army before the beginning of World War II. When the war ended my father returned home from Paris, where he was stationed as a lieutenant during its liberation.
After years of military service, he knew he needed refresher courses to resume his printing career. His aunt, Blanche Kingsbury, generously paid his tuition at Wentworth Institute. Thereafter he went to work at The Dedham Transcript and stayed until he retired in the early 1980s. When all of the Flaherty children were going through school, our father took advantage of opportunities to earn overtime and sometimes worked 60 hours a week. It’s impossible for me to remember a time when my father called in sick. My brother Dennis remembers during times when the overtime work at the newspaper wasn’t available, our father worked a second job at the Medfield Library. When he was on vacation from his job at the Dedham Transcript, he’d work on painting our house himself rather than paying a house painter to do the job.
During the 1950s our parents would take the family to Cape Cod; we’d have a week’s vacation with our aunts and uncles in Buzzards Bay. My sister Edwina remembered how our mother would cook fried chicken and wrap it in foil for a picnic on the beach under the shade of our large umbrella. After lunch we’d swim, dig for clams, and walk out onto the sand dunes during the low tide.
The Cape was much less crowded then. There were few supermarkets; people bought essentials at small corner stores like Glad’s Mini-Mart in Buzzards Bay near Monarch Estates. The Cushman Bakery truck and the Dainty Maid ice cream truck drove through the neighborhoods nearly every night before dusk.
It’s hard to imagine, but in the 1950s pizza was still an exotic food sold only in Italian restaurants! It quickly gained popularity and challenged hot dogs and baked beans. If we felt like seafood, our Aunt Belame would bring all of us for lunch at The Leaning Tower of Pisa, a restaurant made to look like that famous Italian landmark.
My father smoked briefly but quit, though smoking was much more widespread then than now. I soon came to think that my dad didn’t have any so-called vices. But when I was speaking with a neighbor who lived nearby on Pleasant St., he mentioned that my father would unwind with a drink called a “Highball,” with ginger ale and Johnny Walker Red…or with his other favorite mixed drink, a “Grasshopper” made with crème de menthe and cream. Or if he was working outside in the yard on a hot summer day under the shade, he’d make a cool and frosty “Tom Collins” on the rocks. At times on those humid days, and even in good fun, my ten-year-old brother, Dennis jokingly asked Dad, “What’ll you have?” And in the spirit of the moment, Dad would answer with a bit of fun and enthusiasm, “Give me a Pabst Blue Ribbon,” a beer that was very popular at one time.
My father’s life seemed like the mirror image of the 23rd Psalm. Ed Flaherty could have a soothing affect on people. He could encourage a calmness over sometimes tense moments like how a dark and foreboding summer storm might have turned into a possible tornado. He could bring a certain stability to very difficult events and render a peaceful tranquility all his own.
When I think back through my childhood, I remember a great many things about my father. He once gave me a paperback book written by the Episcopal minister Malcolm Boyd, who wrote the book of religious poems and teachings entitled Are You Running With Me, Jesus? My father’s typical day included his reference of the light and sound in each day. He would move fast by entering the bathroom, washing up, grabbing a bite to eat at breakfast and then jetting off to work. My father was determined to never arrive late for work while setting a positive example for his children.
My father would sometimes ask himself where would his effort take him? But in good faith, he trusted the higher power when some of those difficult times seemed incomprehensible.
He bravely faced the sudden loss of very close relatives both as a parent and a son himself. When cancer struck his body, he beat the disease in 1973, but he was stricken again in 1989 and needed chemotherapy at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. The cancer went into remission until 1991; he died in June, 1992 at Framingham Union Hospital, six months after my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. All I could remember saying to my brother and sisters was, “Thank God they made it after 50 years of marriage!!”
One of my father’s favorite expressions in the face of adversity was “that’s life.” That expression was the way he was able to deal remarkably with personal tragedy. But why is it that a person works so very hard all their life and reaches retirement, only to be stricken with an eventual fatal disease that takes their life soon afterward? Ed Flaherty didn’t need a voice to tell him the answer. All that counted for him was that he was leaving a family who loved him very dearly and it was ultimately that faith that kept him believing in the eternity of the Christ he followed in an unsentimental and simple way.
There are so many memories of the way things used to be. My father practiced his religion and was deeply devoted to Roman Catholicism. He became an usher at Saint Edwards Church starting in 1957 up until he passed away in 1992 at the age of 74. During his life, my father was known for his generosity. He always made sure the family had plenty of food in the fridge and on the kitchen shelf. Food didn’t last very long in our house. Likewise, he always made sure there was plenty of heating oil in the tank close outside. Our father enjoyed our mother’s Italian cooking and was more of a meat and potatoes man with lamb, pork chops, and fried chicken with fish on Fridays and either baked or mashed potatoes along with a variety of different vegetables. Salads usually ended the supper along with his cup of Lipton tea. As dad was of Irish descent, our mom often made Irish stew. That variety of food was the way our father observed the words of President Roosevelt, providing American families with the expression and promise of “a chicken in every pot.”
If my brother and sisters needed something like borrowing Dad’s car, he’d never refuse the request. If we were in need of a few bucks, our father would always loan us the money until we were able to work and earn it on a job. He had everything down to a science, which included balancing his checkbook, keeping his car in good working condition, advising us on any inquiry we may have had, and ultimately helping me overcome my downfall that included my math homework throughout junior high school.
Eventually, throughout all my upbringing, I somehow began to think and finally realize that my father, Ed Flaherty, most always had a smile on his face and loved life. That serenity was evident because our father was perhaps the happy warrior and a genius in disguise, the man who I had belatedly come to discover with greater respect, adoration, love and greater appreciation and now miss most every day. In his appearance, he was the most ordinary man. However, where looks could fool you, he was a father who lived a most remarkable life in the style and solitude of his times. He never bragged about his accomplishments and in his very own sometimes cantankerous way, he lived modestly and rejoiced in his life that always included his family. People who knew my father would tell me that everyone liked him and thought him exceptional in many ways. But his strong workman’s hands couldn’t turn back the even bigger hands of time. When he was admitted to Framingham Union Hospital in his final days, I refused to leave him alone in those final hours. I stayed at his bedside and kept watch the whole first night in the bed opposite his. My brother Dennis came to take up the vigil in the morning. I then went home but then returned in the early evening to relieve Dennis for the night. When Dennis arrived the next morning I drove home but Dennis soon arrived about two hours later telling me that our father had passed away on that early summer day.
It is now here today that I’ve opened a window to my father’s sunshine and given all the many people who knew my dad a glimpse into the life and times of a giant of a man who I will never forget and never stop thanking.
Sometimes we don’t miss what we’ve had until it’s gone. But that doesn’t mean we’ll ever stop reminiscing and telling our fables and stories. For that, my father, Ed Flaherty, along with the other fathers I’ve spoken of on this Father’s Day, all left this good Earth in a much better and significant place. We have journeyed among their lives and have remembered in a celebration of the life they have given us through the sometime near magic of their own personal history revealed and graciously prized. These are indelible images presented in an ironic twist of a notable sport euphemism. All good guys don’t finish last, but beat the odds to collectively finish first! Now for all their benediction of wisdom, we may all believe just a little bit more in the paradise of Nirvana.