Category Archives: InCity Voices

Chef Joey’s mom ties her apron strings …

MY FATHER’S LENTIL SOUP, MEDITERRANEAN STYLE

By “Natacha”

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Chef Joey’s mom gets ready to work her magic! Skillet for sautéing the veggies, pot to cook the soup.

My son “Chef Joey” is in France, so I’m giving you a recipe for this issue of CECELIA: MY FATHER’S LENTIL SOUP. I learned this recipe decades ago as a teen from watching my Greek father make it from scratch with dry lentils – never lentils in a can. My father made this soup often because it is so good for you. Lentils – you can live on lentils! – they have all the nutrients. You can live on dates, too – they are just as nutritious. In France, where I live part time, everyone eats lentils. They cook them up and make lentil salad, which you dress with oil and vinegar and vegetables and eat cold.

My immigrant mother did not like America – she called it “polar bear country.” But my father had his business here and was always working at his shoe factory … he was a very busy and there was no time to be distracted by us kids and our silly problems.

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Natasha’s dad and mom.

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An ad for the shoe factory

He was strict and expected his children to do the right thing and think for themselves. We had to show him our hands – no finger-nail-biting allowed. Posture was essential – slouching was not allowed. We had to sit up straight always. I was trained so well that one day the teacher at elementary school told all the kids in class to look at me sitting at my desk: SIT CORRECTLY LIKE NATACHA! she said.

When it came to lentil soup my father was just as strict: REMEMBER, he said, ALWAYS CHOP UP YOUR VEGETABLES FINE. …and never forget a quarter spoonful of crushed red pepper for flavor.

So here it is, my father’s lentil soup recipe…Mediterranean style!

You’ll need:

1 lb lentils, dry

1 stalk celery

2 medium carrots

2 cloves of garlic
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🧄🧄🧄🧄

1 medium onion

1 can of stewed or crushed tomatoes

1/4 tsp crushed red peppers

Optional: salt pork
Or bacon – 2 slices

🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅🍎

Instructions:

Soak your dry lentil beans in cold water. If they’re fresh that’s 2 hours. If you get them at most supermarkets that’s overnight.

Chop your vegetables into very small pieces. Get a skillet…
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🥕🧅🥕

Sautee your vegetables in olive oil or vegetable oil until soft, not brown. But before you do that, sautee your bacon or salt pork. Then add the vegetables, chopped fine, of course.

Add your crushed tomatoes and cook 3 – 5 minutes.

Drain lentils and put them in a stock pot. Add your sauteed veggies and bacon/pork mixture. Add water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat on your stove top, adding water as needed to make a soup. At the very end, if you wish, add sliced hot dogs or kielbasa.

Enjoy!

COMEDY FUNDRAISER FOR FAMILY OF FALLEN POLICE OFFICER, “Manny” FAMILIA

By Jim Coughlin

Polar Park on Madison Street, just outside of Kelly Square, on Tuesday, July 2, was the scene of a fundraiser for the family of the late Worcester Police Officer Emanuel “Manny” Familia who tragically died on June 4th after unsuccessfully trying to save a young man from Virginia, Troy Love, from drowning. But he also drowned at Green Hill Park.

The event featured a line-up of some national, New England and Boston comics, along with Cambridge comedian Lenny Clark who served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

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Todd Angell

The event was billed as “A Night of Comedy for Familia.” Besides Clark, other comedians who performed at the fundraiser were Boston comedian Tony Viveiros whose stage name is “Tony V,”Dave Russo, Frank Santorrellia and Christine Hurley of Plymouth who was introduced to the 2,000 spectators at the event as the “Queen of Comedy.”

Tickets were mostly sold on line for line, starting at $30.

The event was organized by retired Massachusetts State Trooper John Fraioli who is a member of the security staff for the Worcester Red Sox at Polar Park. The fundraiser began with a singer, Todd Angell of Lynnfield, who sings at the opening of hockey games for the Boston Bruins at the TD Center in Boston. He brought the entire crowd to a rousing standing ovation after he completed the National Anthem. Angilly, whose day job is as the Assistant Super indent of Re-entry for Essex County Sheriff Kevin Carpenter in an interview said, “It was an honor to be here to join with the Worcester Police Department who just lost a brother.”

In referring to the police, Angell said, “These are the people who keep us safe.”

Manny Familia’s wife, Jennifer, as well as his 7 year-old daughter and 13 year old son were in attendance at the event. Off duty members of the Worcester Police Department, wearing blue tee shirts with the logo “Comedy Staff” on the back and the police department’s logo on the front served as advance people for the comedians going onto the stage and helped provide security for the event as the comedians came and left the stage.

The range of humor was about ordinary every day things such as marriage, relationships with members of your family, and there were even some comic lines about the legendary traffic problems at Kelly Square.

Those in attendance were a combination of present and former members of the Worcester Police Department and their families. Among those in the audience was a policewoman from the Holden Police Department who only identified herself as “Janet.” She is an 18 year veteran of the Department and said she worked with Manny as a member of the Oakham Police Department prior to his becoming a member of the Worcester Police Department. Janet saluted her fallen brother as “an awesome police officer who always had a joke.”

Also attending was Alex Owen of Worcester who did not know Manny personally, but she said she “has friends who knew him.” She described herself as a 2008 graduate of Holy Name High School in Worcester and called the fallen police officer as “an incredibly nice man, an amazing police officer and an excellent father.”

“People only have nice things to say about him,” she said.

Another attendee was Shawn Grimes of Sterling who said he came because he read the story in the newspaper and friends of his told him they were going to attend the fundraiser, so he decided to come, also. Perhaps the one interview that I had after the event that best summed up the event for the fallen police officer was the one I had with Ralph Capaldi, a resident of Auburn who called the fundraiser, “a great show of love.”

I guess that was what the event at Polar Park was all about, in the final analysis. As a reporter who covered Familia’s wake and funeral Mass at St. John’s Church on June 10, I can personally attest to the greatness and the emotional strength and stamina exhibited by the members of the Worcester Police Department, both individually and collectively, as they came either alone or with their spouses to say goodbye to their fallen comrade who unquestionably was loved very much by his colleagues in the department.

Worcester has had a number of tragedies and traumas over the years: the 1953 tornado, the 1996 Worcester Cold Storage Fire that claimed the lives of six members of the Worcester Fire Department, and there was the tragic death of Worcester Firefighter Jason Menard shortly after that, and of course the latest of these tragedies was the death of Manny Familia. But Worcester is a great city and we, as a community, will overcome the loss of Manny.

The members of the Worcester Police Department need to know that the small minority who unfairly criticize the entire department do NOT speak for the entire community, although they may somehow think that they do. The police need to be called their proper title, and I just don’t mean properly addressing them as “officer” as a simple matter of showing some modicum of respect to them as law enforcement officers. But rather what the Worcester Police need to be recognized for is what they truly are and that is “Blue Angels.” As the singer for the fundraiser very appropriately said about the police, “they are the ones keeping us safe.”

For those whose battle cry is “defund the police, I have one question: when someone is shot in your neighborhood or your home is burglarized, who are you going to call: the critics of the police? I don’t think so.

The pain of the loss of Manny Familia is still fresh in the hearts of the women and men in blue who keep us safe. In the wake of Manny’s tragic death, one wish for our city could be that we be spared any more tragedies like the one that took police Manny Familia from us, far too soon. Undoubtedly, the death of Manny has been a difficult one – not only for his fellow police officers but for the entire City of Worcester. …

Rest in Peace, Blue Angel.

Free! WCCA TV is presenting world class jazz musicians at 3 venues in August! It’s the CMJazz Fest!

From Mauro DePasquale:

Worcester Community Cable Access – WCCATV – is presenting world class musicians and local notable jazz performers at three different venues in August as part of the Central Mass Jazz Festival (CMJF). All events are being offered free to the public.

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Go, Mauro!

“Musicians took a substantial loss of performance opportunities in 2020, due to Covid” said Mauro DePasquale, Executive Director of WCCA TV and Founder of the Central Mass Jazz Fest. This year’s “Hybrid Fest” will be a true celebration, a reawakening of live music, and the freedom for all to travel out of their homes into fun venues to hear and share the fun of live music.

Central Mass Jazz Fest Main event will be virtual and broadcast on WCCA TV channels Sept 6 through 10, however, CMJF, thanks to sponsors and donors, will present three live “JAZZ POP UP” Concerts beginning August 3 through August 19th.

Tuesday, August 3, from noon to 2:30 p.m., at the Worcester Beer Garden on Franklin Street, CMJF will feature “JAZZ SOUP Pop Up jazz jam” featuring a collection of local jazz artist, including:

Al Vaudreuil, a popular local jazz guitarist and teacher; Joe Reidy and Peter McNeaney who are both well respected big band notables and perform with the Wachusett Jazz Quartet and Mike Girard’s Big Swing Thing; and Jazzed Up Trio.

Al Vaudreuil
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Bill Fanning

The final Pop-Up performance will be at Chashu Ramen + Izakaya on Franklin Street Thursday, August 19 from 5:30 to 8:30 featuring the JAZZED UP Trio with special guest Bill Fanning.

“There will be performers on stage here that literally travel the world as well as perform in the local area. We also have a group of local young musicians – Isosceles Groove – who will be entertaining and demonstrating they too are world class with a great music career ahead of them,” noted WCCA Executive Director, Mauro DePasquale.

“The hybrid part of our festival actually began with performances recorded in our studio as part of what we called “Spring Swing. It was live streamed on the cable channel 194 and on social media in mid June. The live stream was recorded and is currently being packaged to run as a series of performances which is slated to air in full sets of amazing world renown jazz acts September 6 through 10 along with interviews with the artists”, DePasquale added.

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Mitch Siedman

The acts recorded at WCCA’s studios on June 14 include Triangulation with Mitch Seidman who Just Jazz Guitar reviewer, Brandon Bernstein called “fearless, letting his solos go where it needs to go musically, crossing barlines and building intensity throughout”; The Greg Abate Quartet, featuring internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer Greg Abate who will resume his world tour traditionally playing 225 days on the road;

The Bill Fanning Trio whose leader performs concerts and conducts clinics in the U.S. and internationally as a member of the Jeff Coffin Mu’tet and has toured with the Arte Shaw Band, the Benny Goodman Tribute Band, Max Carl and the Big Dance Horns featuring Glenn Frey; the JAZZED UP trio who are multi award winning local favorites who play the sweetest music this side of heaven and will leave you feeling great; Donna Byrne Quartet, who Tony Bennett described as, “one of the best young jazz singer in the country today. She’s the Real McCoy”. These performances can be seen on WCCA TV Worcester cable channel 194, wccatv.com, Facebook live and on Roku (Worcester TV).

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Donna Byrne

DePasquale added, “All events are free to the public thanks to the generosity of the sponsors who are making this possible. I would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Worcester Arts Council and the Mass Cultural Council, David French Music, Berkshire Bank, Thermalogic, Berkshire Bank, Worcester Family Eye Care, the Kirby Foundation as well as host venues, The Worcester Beer Garden, Belmont A.M.E. Zion Church and Chashu Ramen + Izakaya, and also individual donors. Thank you.”

Meet Worcester District Attorney Joe Early, Jr

By Jim Coughlin

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Event outside Worcester City Hall – justice for all in our city! ICT file photo.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early invited this reporter into his office to spend a few hours with him and to catch up on all the news with his office and any developments on either old or new cases that his office is prosecuting.

When the DA met with CECELIA/InCity Times, he said the police were very active in their on-going investigation of the Bell Pond lifeguard stabbing incident and are reportedly looking for a fourth suspect in this incident and declined to comment any further. However, according to the Worcester Patch, the announcement of the fourth arrest in this case came on Wednesday, July 14th when police said over the weekend of July 10th and 11th they had arrested and charged Pedro Felix Camacho, 21, of Queen Street with armed assault to murder. After a court hearing on Monday, July 13th, Camacho was ordered held without bail.

When asked about another high-profile case that has been investigated by his office, the Molly Bish murder of a 16-year-old Warren lifeguard that occurred 21 years ago, Early said that a special crime task force established by his office several years ago, in June named a “person of interest” in the case. The individual was Francis “Frank” P. Sumner. Early said that Sumner died in 2016 and was born in 1945 and was active in the Central Massachusetts area from 1960 to 2016.

Bish had resided in Warren. The announcement from Early’s office was made on June 3, 2021and came just two weeks shy of the 21st anniversary of Bish’s disappearance on June 27, 2000.

Although Sumner is deceased, Early said police are still trying to gather information from his associates in the hope of gathering more information about Sumner and his possible involvement in Bish’s murder.

When Early opened his office to this reporter, he was seen meeting with Derrick Kiser of Worcester who introduced himself to me as “the president of former gangs in the city (of Worcester) 25 years ago.”

Kiser now heads his own consulting business, “Fresh Start Wellness” in the Worcester area. He speaks to students at schools from elementary up to high school, as well as before prison audiences, about his former life of crime, in an attempt to dissuade young people and all of his audiences from making the kind of bad decisions he made which brought him afoul of the law in his earlier years. Kiser, 49 understandably speaks with a great deal of passion because he does not want anyone, regardless of their age, background or station in life, to end up in the unfortunate circumstances that he did 25 years ago on the streets as he said, “the president of a gang in Worcester.”

Early, in his role as District Attorney, had nothing but praise for the work that Kiser is doing in trying to dissuade others from making many of the wrong decisions that he made in his youth. Early said, “We’re proud to support Derek Kiser and Fresh Start 508’s latest program, “Your Health is Your Wealth” which focuses on bringing together law enforcement and youth who’ve experienced trauma to address mental health issues.

“Derek has done incredible work and he’s great at bringing communities together to address difficult but important topics,” Early said. “We also collaborate with a diversion program that prevents individuals from joining a gang or experimenting with substance abuse.”

In my meeting with the District Attorney, he broke for a few minutes to swear in the newest Assistant District Attorney to join his office, Alex Milone of Worcester. Milone said he is looking forward to serving in the office. “It is a great public service,” he said. ” I was happy to apply and make a difference.”

Early, is the son of the late and very popular United States Congressman Joseph D. Early who represented the Massachusetts Third Congressional District in Washington from 1975 to 1995. His father was a close friend of the late Senator Edward M “Ted” Kennedy with whom he served in Congress. I grew up in the area of Beaver Brook Park on Chandler Street and remember back when the District Attorney’s father served as my state representative prior to being elected to Congress in November, 1974. I distinctly remember having a conversation with the DA’s dad in the early 1970’s when he told me, “Robert F. Kennedy, (RFK) would have made a great President.” Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 4, 1968, after winning the California presidential primary.

The legacy of both his father and the Kennedys’ is not lost on DA Joe Early. In the conference room of the DA’s office is a memorable quote from JFK hanging in a picture frame on the wall. The quote is JFK’s 1960 campaign slogan: “Everyone can make a difference and everyone must try.” Early, when asked to explain his more than obvious passion for government service, quoted JFK’s statement that “government is an honorable profession.” So it came as no surprise to this reporter when Early, asked to name his heroes, without hesitation he said his father, along with the late U.S.Congressman John Lewis, (D-Georgia) who died last year of cancer. The DA told me that he met the late Georgian Congressman, an icon in the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the early 1960s.

Understandably, Early came from a very high-profile political family in Worcester. I remember his father’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the fall of 1974. In particular, I remember a campaign brochure that was distributed featuring a picture of his parents along with his seven brothers and sisters. When asked if his political family was like a Worcester version of the legendary Kennedy clan, the Worcester DA flashed a wide smile, and said, “Yes, but without the money.”

Woo Sox stadium open house

By Jim Coughlin

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Old school Worcester. Photo courtesy of Worcester Historical Museum.

The Worcester Red Sox, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday, July 9, hosted an Open House to the public at Worcester’s Polar Park in Kelley Square.

Hundreds of fans attended the event, during which residents were free to roam throughout the park and take photos. While not an identical replica of Boston’s Fenway Park, the Woo stadium has some similarities to Boston’s Red Sox arena. Charles Steinberg, owner of the Worcester team, who previously owned the Baltimore Orioles, the San Francisco Padres and the Boston Red Sox, was on hand to greet fans and talk with them informally.

In a prerecorded video message played during the open house, Steinberg said: “Today is a ‘Saturday Suggestion Day.’ ” He asked fans for suggestions as to how they would like him to improve the ballpark. Park staffer Bridget Sands, 19, of New York, a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, is currently serving as a paid intern for Sales and Service Internship. A math major, Sands said fans she has talked to on Saturday said, “Polar Park is the best thing that has happened in Worcester for the past 100 years.”

Wow.

Fans’ suggestions included more signage indicating where various concession stands were located. Among those at the park on Saturday were Rebecca Zash of Worcester who attended with her two children and other family members. “I’m excited to see what Polar Park looks like,” Zash said. “And I am excited to have the park in Worcester.”

Mike Perkins of Hopkinton, attending with his two young children, said he was also excited about the new baseball diamond. Perkins’ 3-year-old son grinned broadly when asked if he liked baseball.

Ashley Brown of Sturbridge, who came with her son, Bentley, 4, and daughter, Bailey, 5, said Bentley plays t-ball and the family members are “big Sox fans.”

Costumed mascots of the Boston Red Sox, Tessie and Wally, along with Smiley, mascot for the Worcester Red Sox, were also present at the event and mingled with guests.

The Girls Club

By Rosalie Tirella

Love💙 Executive Director Gordon and the Friendly House Staff and Kids! Here’s to a fun summer 2021 to all the Worcester kids who participate in the Friendly House sports, arts and crafts, day trips, games, contests and meals – all up and running! Hundreds of city children and teens celebrating the return (pretty much) to pre-pandemic life and rituals. Yippee!!

☀️My family has some history with this iconic Wall Street social service agency. When we were kids, my younger sister loved sports: she ran in the Friendly House road races and played basketball in the FH gym. … Years later my late mom Cecelia made mini-donations of new blankets for the neighborhood families.

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Rose and her kid sisters: at primo age for THE GIRLS CLUB!

☀️We were from Green Island, so our kiddo summers were spent closer to home (5 days a week, 8:30 a to 3 p) at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Vernon Hill (now Girls Inc.) From kindergarten (the gingerbread house) until the end of junior high, we were proud Girls Club girls. Our mom walked us up Vernon Street to the Club in the morning and picked us up in a cabin the afternoon. When we were older we walked or got a ride from our Uncle Mark (our cousin Mary went to the Club, too). The best times!!! The same staff returned – summer after summer – with Director Mrs. Miller running the show year after year after year. She was tall and leaned forward to talk to the little kids. She had dark hair and wore glasses and white Keds. She kept the club immaculate even with hundreds of girls having fun – no running in the hallways of the three story building and no loitering – you had to find an activity to go to – they were printed on pink and red and yellow and green construction paper balloons that were pinned to the big Girls Club bulletin board in the lobby – every week day had a bunch of balloons and you chose your activity. All the staff was female … some of the gal teachers were pretty nursing students from the St. Vincent’s nursing school (all female) across the street. Everyone who worked there seemed young, talented and cool.

Very empowering! A total Girls zone! No boys to hog the attention – or boss us around. Women ran a beautiful facility that served hundreds of Worcester girls and their families. I have terrific memories of my young summers there – memories that many would snicker at today. It was all so pre-feminist: sewing class, knitting class, cooking, yoga, put-on-a-musical like SOUTH PACIFIC. SING SONGS! One songs lyrics went in a round: “MAKE NEW FRIENDS BUT KEEP THE OLD/ ONE IS SILVER AND THE OTHER GOLD!

Sure, we were encouraged to excel at school – and many of us did – but summer at the Girls Club was sitting in our Clubhouse “BEAUTY PARLOR” painting our finger-nails with that pale pink polish or pretending to dry our hair underneath the big, non-working helmets of those old donated beauty parlor hair dryers … or roller-skating in the gym to the Rolling Stones’ I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION blasting over the intercom speakers. You chose the albums and put them on the record player yourself … or baking, from scratch, those delicious peanut butter cookies using USDA ration peanutbutter – the cookie balls you flattened and crisscrossed with fork tines before you put them into the oven to bake. The smell of those cookies cooking was intoxicating! Those HUGE silver cans of peanut butter – nondescript. JUST USDA
PEANUT BUTTER STAMPED ON THE BIG CAN. Perfection.

Today it’s all different. My Girls Club is now Girls Inc. Like a corporation. It is co-ed. The place seems to have quite the p.r. maven as its executive director – but who really gives a sh*t? I see few girls in Girls Inc – even in the newspaper articles. We had hundreds, the place and its yard and back lot was swarming with girls. Today Girls Inc offers girls serious stuff: date rape awareness class, STEM studies class, computer class, career exploration. All important – even life-saving! But … really…bleh. It’s summertime…girls just wanna have fun. Especially poor inner-city girls like the Rosalie of 1971! Afternoons at The Girls Club in the 1960s and 1970s, up on Providence Street, were sweet – but frivolous compared to what goes on up there these days.

Still… maybe making toilette paper roll firecrackers for the 4th of July (filled with popcorn), covered in red blue and white crepe paper, in the arts and crafts/game room with Ms. Bousquet… or taking swimming lessons or a dip in the Girls Club lap pool (always impressive to me) … or sitting on the bench in the Club Library by the window looking into the Kodak View Finder, pointing the little “camera” out the window into the summer sunlight and seeing, as I snapped away as, as if close up, each individual small “slides” of a wild animal of Africa or touristy photos of Rome … new worlds on those round disks no bigger than a DVD!!, well it was fun and frivolous. But it was also self-discovery and empowering, too.

BRING BACK THE GIRLS CLUB!

Reposting this GIG column for Father’s Day …

I wrote this column about 14 years ago, right after my father died. – Rose

On Seeing My Father

By Rosalie Tirella

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Country Boy. Rose’s father as a teen with his dog, Pal. He always owned dogs – loved them! Later he became obsessed with German Shepherd Dogs. Rose inherited her father’s love of canines! Today: Lilac at her feet. Below, Jett by the stove, waiting patiently for scraps. pics: R.T.

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Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our straight brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time, I asked myself?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother, she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would make a great Easter photograph!

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy!

Downtown Worcester! Today!

By Rosalie Tirella

New day. Jett thanks “Auntie Lee” for the comforter – even though he likes to be on the bed with mommie. It’s good to have good people in my life! …

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❤Jett. Pics: R.T.

⚘Yesterday I worked on our 20th ICT/CECELIA anniversary issue and tried to buy a ladies wrist watch in our spiffed up, street-scaped, flower-pretty, benches-galore downtown. Ah! Great Expectations! Good luck with that! How naive was I?! Not a woman’s Timex to be found in our great urban renewed downtown – Main Middle or North – unless you wanted to go to the pawn shop in the heart of Downtown Worcester.

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Downtown Worcester…yesterday.

Remember when you could buy the necessities in our downtown, in any downtown in America, like a basic ladies Timex – or even, for Worcester folks, a better and fancier wrist watch at Denholms or Shacks (for men)? Those days have evaporated like the foam off your mocha caramel latte! Seems you can get all the high priced high falutin’ coffee you need in our downtown, but you can’t buy a da*ned Timex. Or a package of new Fruit of the Loom men’s cotton briefs. Or socks. Or kids school or “church” shoes.

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Remember when our downtown was built for and around the Worcester worker bee? We had Woolworths. The Mart. Lerners. American Supply. … Furniture and ladies bras and mens underwear for the Woo masses. My mom loved to shop in our downtown. We kids loved to shop with her. It was all just a 25-minute walk away from our Lafayette Street tenement! … 25 mins until we saw and mingled with hundreds of Worcester folks buying their goods like us, enjoying their hot fudge sundaes at the Woolworths lunch counter on Front Street. Magic time. The American Dream made visible, tangible … edible!

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Today’s new Downtown Worcester has been marketed to, built to, accommodate the moneyed Millennial (via their parents who foot the bill$$) or deluded old upper-income empty nester (“if I hang with the young, I’m young!”): We’ve got fancy, over-priced restaurants and bakeries and coffee shops made for people on the move. Entertainment districts. Beer gardens. But no Timex ladies watches! No sports coats for Uncle Walter! No neckties or tie clips for dad … or new ottoman for the living room to match your new Lazy Boy that sits in front of the Zenith 19-inch, color TV. All made in America. For sale in Downtown Worcester.

Sigh …

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Rest in peace, “Blue Angel”!

Text and photos by Jim Coughlin

Worcester mourns the loss of our “Blue Angel,” Worcester Police Officer “Manny” Familia …

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The City of Worcester was in mourning for the last seven days because of the loss of one of our city’s police officers, Emmanuel “Manny” Familia, a member of the Worcester Police Department who tragically died on June 4, after injuries sustained trying to save a young man who was drowning in the Green Hill Park pond. The teen was 14 and from Virginia; he was in Worcester visiting his relatives when he went swimming in the pond with his friends …

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Manny was born in La Vega Dominican Republic and came to Worcester as a young man. He graduated from Doherty Memorial High School, the class of 2001. I also attended and graduated from Doherty High, the class of 1974. So, I share this in common with the fallen hero of our great city. But I did not know Manny. I only came to know him as a result of being assigned to cover his wake and funeral that was recently held at St. John’s Church on Temple Street on June 9 and 10.

I interviewed members of his family, his brothers and sisters in blue from the Worcester Police Department, his comrades from other police departments from throughout Massachusetts who descended upon Worcester this past week to provide emotional support to their Worcester brethren in blue and, lastly, some of Manny’s friends from either playing basketball in his neighborhood of Dewey Street or at Doherty High.

And after immersing myself in this story, I can, perhaps somehow say that I now know this fallen “Blue Angel” of Worcester. In my many years of being a local news reporter, I can honestly say that I have always approached every person whom I have ever interviewed with profound respect and courtesy. However, when covering this tragic loss for the city, I approached this story with even more heightened sensitivity.

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Two of my interviews in covering Manny’s wake and funeral stand out: One was with Roberto Diaz who attended high school with Manny and played basketball with him. The other was with a man who also grew up with Manny and is now living in Rhode Island. In leaving the funeral, this man came over to the area where a large group of us reporters were gathered in front of St. John’s rectory. He never identified himself and approached the police barrier between us and the large group of mourning police officers (as they were going inside the church.) He was openly crying and told us, “Thank you. You guys are great for telling everybody about Manny.”

As it turned out, the second man did not attend Doherty High with Manny. Instead, he went to North High and even competed against Manny on the basketball court. I know firsthand from coming out of an athletic family in Worcester that when you compete against another team, it is almost “automatic” (if you will) to dislike (if only for a time) those whom you compete against in sports. But those negative energies that somehow are inculcated into athletic competition did not find a place in the high moral conscience and values and core beliefs of Manny Familia. Manny was born a leader: both on and off both the basketball court and in the police force.

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As Mr. Diaz explained to me after he came out of his friend’s wake, there were absolutely no barriers in their friendship and relationship: Manny was Dominican, while Mr. Diaz is Puerto Rican. Mr. Diaz explained to me that Manny quickly and warmly embraced his neighbor and introduced him to something new for him: namely the Dominican culture.

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Mourners …

Manny was a leader and when those who unfairly criticize the men and women who serve in law enforcement, I only wish before those demagogues open their mouths again, that they could take a brief look at the life, legacy, the shining example and the supreme sacrifice that Emmanuel “Manny” Familia made as a member of the Worcester Police Department. Even more meaningful and powerful than the words I can muster in saluting officer Manny Familia are the words found in Chapter 15, Verse 13 of the Book of John in the New Testament which reads in relevant part: “No greater love has a man to give than his life for his brother.”

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Our Jim with Town of Auburn firefighter Maria Soya.

Maybe the words of William Shakespeare from his play “Romeo and Julliet” could be comforting to those Manny has left behind. These are the same words the late United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy, (D – NY) read before the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as he eulogized his assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy:
“When he (Romeo) shall die, cut him up into little stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

May Emmanuel “Manny” Familia’s life be a blessing to everyone who was in any way touched by him during his time on earth. … Rest in peace, “Blue Angel.”

REC Summer Farmers Markets Open June 14!⚘🌻🥦🫑🌽🥕🍞🌶

This just in …

Main South’s Regional Environmental Council announces the opening of the REC Summer Farmers Market season, starting June 14!!

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Eat your REC carrots! CECELIA file photo

REC Summer Farmers Markets Opening Day

WHERE: Various locations throughout Worcester

WHEN: Monday – Saturday, starting June 14

The Regional Environmental Council (REC) Summer Markets will return to sites throughout Worcester starting on Monday, June 14th and will run through November. REC markets run six days a week, except Sundays.

The REC Standing Farmers Markets operate three days a week:

🥦 at Beaver Brook (326 Chandler St.) on Mondays and Fridays from 9am-12pm

🫑 and at University (Crystal) Park (965 Main St.) on Saturdays from 9am-1pm.

🥕🥕🥕🥕The REC Mobile Markets, where we bring fresh & local produce to neighborhoods across Worcester, run Tuesday through Thursday.🙏💙

🌻🌻🌻The REC continues to require facemasks for those who are not vaccinated from COVID and socially distance from customers and staff.🌻🌻

At all REC markets, purchases can be made with cash, credit, debit, SNAP, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), Senior Farmers Market Coupons and WIC Farmers Market Coupons.

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For more information, visit:

recworcester.org/farmers-markets

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The Regional Environmental Council’s (REC) mission is to bring people together to create a just food system and to build healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities in Worcester, MA and beyond. The REC’s major programs include: YouthGROW, a year-round youth employment and leadership program for low-income teens on 2 urban farms; UGROW, a network of community and school gardens; the REC Community and Mobile Farmers Markets, bringing healthy, local food to low-income and food-insecure locations across the city.

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A fun summer vegan spread – get all your ingredients at the REC FARMERS MARKETS!

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FYI:

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