Tag Archives: CECELIA

Barbara Haller

By Rosalie Tirella

The Barbara sign on her building. photo: R.T.

Former Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller died a few days ago. I drove by Haller’s Main South office space yesterday and saw her sign on her building at the corner of Main and Castle streets, the sign that’s been at the top of the edifice for all to see for years … big, bold and direct: BARBARA HALLER CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 4.

Someone once said to me, miffed: She lost the election! That sign is still up!

The person was hinting that the old guard – Barb – just couldn’t let go, couldn’t face the fact that the new guard, a Latina representing the now pretty much Hispanic district, District 4, was the future. That the white working class that had voted Haller in a decade ago, the same folks who voted in the late great D 4 city councilor Jan Nadeau, Haller’s political mentor, were dying off, not really defining the Main South, South Worcester and Green Island neighborhoods anymore. The heart and soul of District 4. When Nadeau died, her supporters and political network became Haller’s. Haller, even though brilliant, artsy, educated – really phenomenal in so many ways – reflected their old school values back on to them, thru her presence on the Worcester City Council. She represented her district well for that time: She, like everyone else, declared NO prostitution in our neighborhood! NO drugs! NO PIP wet shelter! NO homeless people! NO crappy three deckers with their crappy slumlords! WE MUST TAKE BACK OUR MAIN SOUTH! WE MUST TURN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD AROUND SO WE CAN ENJOY OUR BACKYARDS, PARKS AND SIDEWALKS ONCE AGAIN!

During her council tenure, Barbara Haller did all that – and more. Not only – as D 4 councilor for more than 10 years – did Barb Haller “clean up” her Main South neighborhood and surrounding ‘hoods – she helped them flourish. Made them walkable. Made them greener. Made them artsier, healthier … It was Barb and life partner Frank Z and former mayor Joe O’Brien (a one time denizen of Main South living a few streets away from Barb and Frank on Castle Street) who cleaned up Castle Park and made it pretty, clean and safe – devoid of used heroin syringes, garbage strewn under trees … It was Barb who got former City Manager Mike O’Brien to revive the last municipal swimming pool in Worcester as he was shutting the rest down. Not only was the Crompton Park pool saved, it was redone with adorable amenities like spray slides and new benches, new shower area … everything! Crompton Park, in D 4, is a city gem – Barb helped make it sparkle.

Barb got the handball courts rebuilt… they’re off the old Maloney’s Field on Cambridge Street in South Worcester – not in Main South, Barb’s neighborhood. Still, she brought her passion to the project, and they went from being drab to beautiful and new. These inner-city handball courts instantly drew hundreds of Latino folks during all seasons to play, exercise and have fun. Families who bring babies in strollers and sometimes pack a lunch to enjoy a summer day at their park together!

Barbara would patrol her District 4, a densely populated, sometimes dangerous D 4. She quit her job at National Grid to devote all her working – some would say waking – hours to her beloved District 4. As a reporter and friend I drove around the district (also my childhood stamping grounds – I grew up in Green Island) with Barb. More than a few times. I was with her as she checked on all her neighborhoods, three decker by three decker, park to park, mini Mart to liquor store. In her big old rusty SUV, Barb braking and accelerating, stepping on the gas or brake pedal in her cute signature brown or beige sensible shoes, wearing her faded denim long skirt, white cotton shirt and topped off with a black cotton blazer, Barb was on a roll. Little notebook by her side, pen by notebook, she checked the three deckers with busted windows, broken doors, used works – needles and other crap that heroin addicts had left behind in HER district. Barb was fearless in these inner-city fact finding missions, where she’d check on drug houses or abandoned warehouses, climbing over fencing, pushing aside bushes and brambles. Once, on one of our little jaunts, always followed by a nice lunch at Peppercorns or the Webster House – always on Barb – she and I saw two groups of young guys, in their late teens and early 20s, squaring off in front of a liquor store in Piedmont, baseball bats in hand. Fearing violence, smashed heads galore, I said: Barb, Oh, no… there’s gonna be a fight. Let’s call the police!

Well, Barb, being Barb, doesn’t hear I word I say and stops her vehicle just two yards away, in front of the soon to happen brouhaha and opens the SUV door to get out …

I say: No, Barb! What if someone pulls a gun on you?

All were so young and strong, bicep muscles showing definition in the summer sun…Barb was a senior citizen, heavy and sometimes … waddled.

I’m 63, she tells me, quietly. I’ve lived a long life …

and she gets out of her vehicle cool as a cucumber, John Wayne in THE SEARCHERS. Barb walks up to the guys, talks with them and they disperse.

My late mom used to love to watch our city council meetings when Konnie Lukes and Barbara Haller were on the council. She admired Konnie’s toughness and in your face political style. She thought Barbara was always intelligent – and that she always looked so cute! “She’s wearing her outfit!” Ma would say, between sips of coffee and nibbles on her danish. “She has her pencil sticking out of her bun!”

Yep. That was the great Barbara Haller. Fine grey hair pulled back into a neat little bun with a yellow number 2 pencil protruding. I don’t think I ever saw Barb’s hair down once, even when I visited her in her home – always her neat bun, a few grey wisps of hair framing her round pleasant face. The pencils spelled brilliant mathematical genius engineer – and they were also there in case she needed to take notes on District 4.

I am making Haller sound a bit severe – and she could be. That was maybe part of her political downfall – seeing every Main South addict as a criminal, every homeless person on Charlton or Sycamore streets as the enemy, every PIP client someone to eject from her neighborhood forever. Her biggest political mistake? Saying, on the record, that some days, walking past the PIP, walking along Main Street, she felt she was “the only legitimate person” in her ‘hood. This comment brought on a slew of haters and political opponents. From then on Barb had one political opponent after another vying for her seat on the city council, election cycle after election cycle – in Worcester, that means every two years! So there was Lynn, a founder of the Worcester Youth Center, Grace the progressive but pokey WAFT saint, even Dave from Dismas House on nearby Richards Street got into the act and tried to register homeless people to get them to vote for the person running against Barbara that year. Barb called him on it through placing a call to a T and G columnist who wrote a scathing column on Dave, making him look sneaky…reprehensible. Dave quickly moved to Westboro with his wife and little child.

Which leads me to say: Barb was a politician. A very savvy one. A true operator. I say this with pride, as a woman. Barb was ALWAYS the smartest person in the room. She knew exactly what every character was up to – and she knew how to foil their plans, making those phone calls, button holing this person, taking that person to lunch. Male pols do this all the time. It’s high time we acknowledge female politicians for doing the same…for better and for worse.

Barb was a joyful person: after she and partners sold the Gilrein’s blues club on Main Street to new folks, she threw a party. I went to it and watched Barb dance up a storm! The music started, the boxy, buxom Barb lept up, and light on her feet, with grace and rhythm, boogied with Joe O’Brien’s wife and then maybe one of Joe’s (at the time) young kids and then … alone. Just for the joy of the dance.

Once I gave Barb a Dollar Tree Christmas mug for Christmas. It was the best I could do that year. We were in her SUV when I gave her snowman mug to her. She looked at it and started to cry. She said: Thank you! It’s just what I needed!

When I got home later that day I wondered, why the waterworks? A few years later I realized it was because she loved me …

I could go on and on about how terrific a human being Barbara Haller was and how lucky Worcesterites were to have her live with us, for us. … A few years back, right before they were going to tear down the beautiful Notre Dame church in downtown Worcester, I saw a small group of people putting on some kind of farewell concert to the church – right before its demise, in front of the ugly brown tarp and silver chain-link fence that had cut the church off from the community. But the community had come! A few high school and college kids were reading poetry before the church, another person was playing a violin to her … There was a small audience. And sitting in a folding chair, before the little group of young people, before the great church with its high arches sparkling in the sun, there sat Barbara Haller, witness to it all, waking a friend that would soon die, even though she tried to save her! Barb was swaying gently to the music, and though I only saw her from behind, I bet she was smiling … and crying a bit, too.

Just like I am today! Goodbye, old friend! Like Note Dame, you were a once in a lifetime gift to Worcester!

Love …

Why are so many animals left behind in natural disasters, and how can we change that?

By Michelle Reynolds

Vietnam War dog … Now the U.S. military leaves none of its working – or companion – dogs behind in a war zone.

Kittens clinging to the top of a patio umbrella surrounded by rising floodwaters. A dog balancing on a floating bookshelf. Chihuahuas stuck under a collapsed house. Chickens trapped in submerged coops. A dog whose paws were badly burned. These are just a few of the animals PETA fieldworkers have rescued just in the nick of time following natural disasters. Others weren’t so lucky.

We know the dangers. So why, in an emergency, are animal companions so often left behind?

The problem seems to be twofold. First, many evacuation workers and shelters refuse to accept animals, leaving their guardians in a no-win situation. And second, guardians are often unprepared when disaster strikes. But there are solutions.

When Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, about 44% of New Orleans residents refused to follow evacuation orders, in many instances because the Superdome and other shelters had “no animals” policies. Some residents were threatened with arrest and forced to comply, and some took the dangerous step of reentering the evacuation zone to try to rescue their animals. As a result of Katrina’s heart-wrenching devastation, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, requiring states that receive FEMA aid to include animals in their evacuation and sheltering plans. Since then, more than 30 states have enacted emergency protection protocols for animals or have plans in the works. Not all evacuation shelters have to accept animals, but options must be provided.

For guardians, it comes down to finding them. And the best time to do that is well in advance of an emergency. Having a plan in place will ensure that the entire family can stay together safely. A quick call to your county emergency management office or local animal shelter may be all it takes to find a list of animal-friendly sheltering options in your area. A simple online search for “animal-friendly evacuation shelters near me” also returns numerous results. In the event that there are no facilities nearby, campgrounds can be a good option, and many hotels that normally don’t allow animals often lift their prohibitions during natural disasters. A few minutes on the phone should yield a solid list.

If you’re required to leave the area, animals are always safer with you than they would be if left behind to fend for themselves. Having a “go bag” ready for them can save precious time when disaster strikes. It should include a harness and leash or a carrier; bowls; medical records; litter and a small litter tray for cats; a favorite toy or blanket; and enough food, bottled water and medication to last at least a week. All animals should be microchipped and wearing current identification tags.

If you see animals who have been abandoned or are lost or injured, try to get them to an animal shelter. Companion animals cannot survive “on instinct” and should never be left outside, especially on a chain or in a pen that prevents them from escaping danger. If it’s not possible to help, note their location and call the authorities immediately.

National Preparedness Month presents the perfect opportunity to make a plan to ensure our animal companions’ safety during emergencies. With the climate catastrophe causing natural disasters to become more frequent, there is no time to waste. Our best friends help us weather every storm, and we should do the same for them.

❤️Downtown’s Worcester Public Library📚📖🎥🎸 is a great resource for all!❤️

By Jim Coughlin

Jim is an avid reader!

The Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library was closed from March 2020 until June 2020 and had the formal opening of the new front entrance on Franklin Street on August 17, 2020. However, just prior to the June re-opening, the Library Board of Directors had chosen a new director in December of 2020, Jason Homer, who formerly worked as the Library Director in Natick.

Homer is absolutely passionate about his job as the library’s director. He came to Worcester during a difficult time for our city, state, country and the world because of the global pandemic. However, in his very short time in Worcester he has already been recognized for his leadership qualities.

WPL librarians – always there to help students with projects, book searches … and so much more. photo: J.C.

As a youth growing up in Worcester, I was a regular patron of the Main Branch of the Library at Salem Square. From memory, I could tell you exactly where each particular section (of only books) were located, such as Humanities, Social Sciences and Science, the Children’s Room, Newspapers and Periodicals and much more.

But the recent assignment from my editor Rose to write a story on the many new services available to all at Salem Square library was something of a “reporter’s surprise,” if you will. I learned that no longer is the Worcester Public Library a huge collection of books, books and more books, as it was back in my early days. But rather it is a vital community center of all kinds of information and resources that have kept pace with the new age of information in the 21st century.

In comparison to earlier days, there is a relatively new and updated Children’s Room and a Teen Room, complete with inter-active technologies such as a computer generated drawing board in the Children’s Room where little ones as young as 3 or 4 years of age can “draw” on a computer screen that lights up with bright colors to keep their attention. One added benefit for Worcester’s increasingly diverse population is that this screen is also programmed in Spanish. To show how thoughtful the planners of these new library features were about generating positive vibrations among the youngest amongst us: there is a game of “Tic Tack Toe” on this wall-sized computer. But in addition, it also features a corollary game of “Tic tack Woo,” as in Worcester.

The WPL, pre-new front entrance. CECELIA file photo

Also in the children’s room is a rocket ship where the little ones can go in and view a computer screen and, if parents are at all concerned what they are viewing, there is an adjoining computer screen that will let them see exactly what their child was just viewing.

In addition, there is also a “baby’s play area” where the little ones can play with various building blocks to their hearts content.

The library director told me that the children’s room rocket ship is placed there in honor of Worcester’s Dr. Robert H. Goddard who is credited as being the father of rocketry and the Space Age. Goddard fired the first jet fueled rocket into space on March 16, 1926, at Pakachoag Hill in nearby Auburn. It is good that Worcester’s future generations will get to know their former famous neighbor’s contribution to the Space Age – he played such an important role in things that we, as Americans, take for granted today – such as landing astronauts on the moon!

Homer said the children’s room is for infants to age 12 and after that there is the Teen Room for kids ages 12 to 17 that is perhaps the most popular and widely used of the different departments in the entire library. Staffing the Teen Room are three young women: the longest serving the Teen Room is Erin O’Neal who has been a librarian for five years and is originally from Wyoming. In my interview with her she said, “I love my job and the (Worcester) library is a great library to work for.” Assisting her is Claire Laprade who has been at the WPL for only one year. She, like Erin, enjoys her job. She said the focus is on the teens. “We can provide a safe place for teens,” she said. The pair said the number of teen patrons on each day depends on whether it is a school day or a day off from school.

Hundreds of “classics” await you at the WPL! CECELIA file photo

Erin said during school days, the WPL Teen Room averages about 30 visitors. But they said on perhaps a school day there can be as many as 100 teens over the course of the day. For teens, if they have their library card, they can scan it and take out a laptop for whatever they want to do. There is another librarian in the Teen Room who has only worked at the library for a much shorter time and just happened to be off the day that this reporter dropped by for his grand tour.


There is also an area that the library director called “The Innovations Center” that contains among other things, sewing machines that patrons can check out for their use in an identical way as taking out a book to read!

Worcester has long been a “Gateway City” for newly arriving immigrants from all over the world. Behind the table where I sat with Homer for our interview is what is called The Welcoming Center. “What we have on the shelves, here are videos and DVDs for helping people with their test for (United States) citizenship and for English as a Second Language – ESL,” he said.

Also in this area, I found a whole array of both videos, along with newspapers and periodicals in foreign languages such as
Japanese, Korean and more.
Included in “The Welcoming Center,” the Worcester Public Library also hosts representatives from various social service agencies such as SMOC, the South Middlesex Opportunity Center that provides counseling and coaching for members of Worcester’s homeless community who have fallen upon difficult times.

Jason Homer, WPL director, and staffer in one of the many WPL departments designed to serve diverse Worcester communities. The Teen area is the most widely used section of the library. photo: J.C.

And for those of you who are into reading various newspapers and periodicals from either across the country, New England or Central Massachusetts, there is a very diverse Periodicals Department, with newspapers from Worcester’s neighboring communities and as far away as Pittsfield, Massachusetts (which is as far west as one can go and still remain in our state).

On the second floor and third floor of the library are two banks of computers for those who wish to do letters applying for work or to do either internet or book catalog searches. Directly behind the computers on the second floor is what is called the “Worcester Room,” a collection of newspaper articles on people of historical note to Worcester such as members of the Worcester municipal government, our state reps and other citizens.

And not to exclude those in the city who are visually challenged, there is a department that has a collection of books in Braille and Americans for Disabilities/ ADA-approved and -adapted computers for their use.

Here in the United States, we had a president who had served as the Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II in Europe and subsequently became U.S. president in 1953. During this time, there was a newly elected United States Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy who became a champion of every demographic who became marginalized, including the blind. He filed bills in the United States Senate to improve the lot of the our visually challenged citizens. Unfortunately, the president, Dwight Eisenhower, did not seem fit to give them a helping hand for improved services. So unfortunate. So come 1961 when Mr. Kennedy had ascended to become the most powerful man in the world, president of the United States, he did not allow the power he had inherited from Eisenhower to go to his head. He made assisting the blind one of his administration’s many, many priorities!

What this reporter has tried to lay out for the readers of CECELIA is that you don’t have to be a professional student or a “bookworm” to visit the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library on Salem Square in downtown Worcester. No matter where your interests lie or your age or ability, or even challenges in life … for either learning, enrichment or just finding a way to spend your spare time, the Worcester Public Library has something for you.

And perhaps the biggest advocate the City of Worcester has at this time for making all kinds of learning and information available to all of our residents is Jason Homer, the executive director of the Worcester Public Library. He’s intelligent, caring and, based on my nearly hour-long meeting with him, he absolutely loves what he is doing as the library’s executive director!

So, the next time you are in downtown Worcester, near Salem Square, I urge you to drop into the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library. I promise you there will be something there for you – including copies of CECELIA!

On my way out of the library, last week, I stopped and asked the library’s security officer, Mr. Hargrove, for his thoughts on the new library director. He had nothing but absolute praise for Homer. Worcester needs more Jason Homers. We greatly appreciate his service to our city!

This September: dad walking his son to school. Parents, visit the library with your children so they become comfortable learning in this Worcester gem! photo: R.T.


Thor: Love and Thunder movie review

By Luis Sanchez

Luis Sanchez

On July 8, 2022, the world was able to witness yet another MCU installment on the big screens. This movie was able to make me laugh, scare and feel all within its 2-hour runtime. This is a spoiler-free review, so feel free to keep reading without fear!

Thor: Love and Thunder was directed by Taika Waititi, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Christian Bale as Gorr, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor.

This is the first time we see Thor after the events of Avengers: Endgame. In this film, Thor is called back to action after discovering that Gorr the God Butcher is on a quest to kill all gods. What many people did not understand about this film is that it’s comedy-based. This was not meant to be an MCU-lore filled movie with cameos in every frame. This movie was what Eternals tried to be. With expectations set high after Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, many expected a lot – too much perhaps, and that led to many negative reviews from the public. In my opinion, Thor: Love and Thunder was quite enjoyable. The laughs were great, but the movie remained true to itself and even provided the audience with moments of fear – which made it an all around good movie. It’s a fun way to spend a moment with friends and have a laugh.

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor was a surprising character. To not reveal too much, all I can say is that the movie did well on making us care for her, despite not seeing her during Thor: Ragnarok. Her connection with Thor was also surprising, but it remained thoughtful and it kept the audience interested on how it would all end up. Thor was an incredibly funny character, but in the process of making him funny the writers also made him careless. To some degree it remains true to the character, but it takes away from all of the lessons that Odin has taught him about caring for others. Still, this version of Thor works well with the movie’s persona, and I think it was effective in driving the movie forward.

Valkyrie was more or less pushed to the side which is shameful, but Tessa Thompson’s character did not go unnoticed. Gorr was honestly my favorite character. He was amazingly creepy, and it brought a balancing darkness to the light of the movie (Thanos would have been proud). Gorr used darkness as his weapon, and the visual effects were satisfying to see with Gorr. Sometimes he would melt into the darkness, or when he was incoming, the first thing you would see were his extremely creepy eyes. It’s as if they gave the fear of “darkness” a character and filmed how it acted inside a child’s nightmare. If a villain can creep me out or make me afraid of them, then that villain was well written and well performed! Gorr was outstanding. No other way to describe it.

In the end, Thor: Love and Thunder relied a lot on comedy, and it worked out, for me at least. I think that the biggest problem with this film was its audience. When many have high expectations, it leads to harsher reviews because the movie did not reach their expectations. I disagree with many of the “critics.” This movie was a lot of fun and a good break from MCU lore. Its path is its own, and that is something to admire in a movie. To be fair, someone who has not seen a single Marvel movie will enjoy it as much as anyone else.

If you are not willing to spend some money in theaters, then I will recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD or Disney+. I would rate this movie 6/10 and would recommend watching it with people who you know will have a laugh.

How eating vegan/vegetarian foods can save our planet!🌎

By Rebecca Libauskas

Today: Rose enjoying her morning java – with French vanilla non-dairy creamer.

Save our planet – go vegan!! photos: PETA.ORG

Investments in meat made from plants have a more profound impact on the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions than other green initiatives, according to a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group.

The report found that investing in the production of vegan meat and dairy reduces greenhouse-gas emissions three times more per dollar then investing in eco-friendly cement technology, seven times more than in green buildings and 11 times more than in emission-free vehicles.

As consumers, we can “invest” every time we go grocery shopping, as well as urging lawmakers to use our tax dollars to develop and expand vegan food production. Doing so will not only help mitigate the climate catastrophe but also prevent animals from suffering on factory farms.

So many cookbooks to learn from …

But let’s not delay: A recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says the effects of the changing climate are worse than experts initially thought, and they advise that we take immediate action. The good news is that interest in vegan food is skyrocketing — even meat-eaters are filling their plates with animal-free cuisine.

There are tons of ready-made vegan meals and desserts you can get at any Worcester supermarket and TRADER JOE’S in Shrewsbury! Deelish!

According to Bloomberg, the market for vegan foods will reach $162 billion by 2030. And the investment bank Credit Suisse expects the vegan food industry to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2050. The search term “vegan food near me” increased by 5,000% in 2021 and was categorized as a “breakout search” by Google. But more than just searching, people are opening their wallets at the grocery store.

So who is driving this shift toward planet-friendly food? Here’s a hint: Avocado toast is vegan. Zoomers (members of Gen Z) and millennials drive the demand for vegan food because they tend to value health, mitigating the climate catastrophe, and ethics. Nearly 90% of zoomers, for example, are worried about the environment, and 41% feel that the changing climate is the planet’s most important issue. Millennials are also more health-conscious than the generations that raised them and more likely to seek out nutritious vegan food. Young people also care more about animals — some even choose to adopt animal companions rather than starting a human family.

Imagine a world in which we don’t exploit animals for food. …

Suffering and a brutal death on American factory farms!

The science is getting close, and clean meat, dairy and egg innovations are being developed. One company is producing dairy protein through fermentation, eliminating the need for cows. Another makes cultivated meat from animal cells, creating cruelty-free chicken breasts and beef. The facility is the largest cultivated meat factory in the world, and the company intends for its products to be available for purchase sometime this year.

Try an IMPOSSIBLE BURGER or make “impossible” meatballs for your next spaghetti dinner. Rose has made these meatballs and they’re so tasty!

A comparison study shows that by 2030 — when large-scale commercial production of lab-grown meat may be possible — pound for pound, lab-grown meat could potentially contribute 92% less in greenhouse gases and use 95% less land and 78% less water than conventional beef.

But we don’t have to wait for new products to hit supermarket shelves. Many grocery stores, restaurants and fast-food establishments carry meatless and dairy-free options. There is even a new vegan hard-boiled egg that looks and tastes like the real deal.


Our current food system is hungry for change, so let’s feed it — by going vegan.

Try one of these “subs” next time you bake!


By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

This summer: John Monfredo, outside his Worcester home. photo: R.T.

Just recently, as I drove past my old house where I grew up on East Central Street in Worcester, I had to stop my car and look across the way as workers were taking down the Mt. Carmel Recreation Center building.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in its heyday. Photos submitted.

It was a nostalgic time because I started to think of all my childhood memories of growing up on East Central Street and time spent at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and its nearby Center. These were special memories for my family and me. My brothers, Joe and Ben, and I had such good times in the neighborhood at the church facilities!

Mr. Monfredo’s dad next to the church bell he helped install at Mt. Carmel church decades ago.

It is with sadness that I now look at the demise of the church being torn down and now the property associated with the church … the ball field and the recreation center all gone. However, instead of dwelling on what was, I’d like to look back and think about the good times growing up in the shadow of our beloved church, built by Italian American immigrants. It was the center of Worcester’s Italian immigrants and their families for decades.

Unlike now, we all knew all our neighbors and we all watched out for one another. It wasn’t uncommon to leave your bike or toys in the yard because no one would take them. We respected each other’s property. We were fortunate, for the adults watched over us and made sure we did the right thing.

Mount Carmel Vigil
A Mount Carmel vigil

Parishioners fought nobly to save their church, taking their case to the pope in Rome, Italy.

At that time on East Central Street I was surrounded by many Italian families – the Spaziante’s, the Vigliotti’s, Palumbo’s, D’Elia’s the Virzi’s, Ranucci’s, DeLFemine, Dattis, Panucci’s and the Natalie’s, just to name a few. It was a neighborhood of two and three deckers. All the families were vigilant when it came to children, and folks were not afraid to call up your parents if you did something wrong.

The young Mr. Monfredo reading his essay at a church celebration.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church played a major role in our upbringing because, not only did it provide spiritual guidance to us Mt. Carmel families, but there were many activities available for the children in the parish. …

The Mount Carmel recreation center, a place where parishioners held spaghetti dinners, candle pin bowling night, dances and many celebrations. photo:R.T.

I remember going to the beach for the day on a bus with Father Bafaro, as well as going on various field trips to state parks.

WCCA TV’s Mauro DePasquale, far left, one of his church’s cantors. Mauro and so many other parishioners and Worcesterites are heartbroken over the loss of the beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and the church’s recreation center and baseball field. Mauro was hoping to build a small shrine on the site, where people could come to pray and remember Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But the property was sold by the Worcester Catholic Diocese to a real estate developer who’s building a huge apartment complex and garage on the once hallowed ground and focal point for Worcester’s Italian American community.

At the Recreation Center, who could not forget the teen record hops where we would meet with many of our friends and have a great time? Kids danced the night away! At the end of the night, we would hear these words from Father Bafaro: “The best way home is the shortest way home.” We also had the pleasure of candlepin bowling at the Center, as well as playing basketball with friends or joining a church team and competing against other teams.

Home-plate at the church’s ball field. photo:R.T.

Then there was the cafeteria at our Recreation Center where all sorts of events took place: community suppers and so much more. The
Rec Center provided so many other events for our families to attend! At the field, next to the Rec Center, we played baseball and football. I can also remember every Thanksgiving Day morning we would go to the field and have a touch football game with the guys.

Prayer Vigil Crew 12_2017
Parishioners gathered together to form prayer vigil groups to pray nonstop for the bishop to stop the sale of their church – the church their Italian parents and grandparents built stone by stone.

I asked some family and friends for their lasting impressions and here is what they said: For my brother Joe it was very personal, for that’s where he met his wife to be! He enjoyed going to the dances every week, and he also mentioned that he loved bowling and playing basketball for the CYC at the Rec Center. … Carleen D’Elia Ford, a friend for life, stated that her first impressions of the church started when she went to Communion classes run by the sisters of Venerini because the nuns were so helpful and communicated well with the students. She then spoke about appreciating the Columbus Day Parade and the Italian Festival in the parking lot of the church that took place each year and how the innocence of youth was so prevalent in those days.

A Mount Carmel church carnival.

Ann Spaziante, my friend and next-door neighbor on East Central Street, had lasting memories of the Friday night dances and of Father Bafaro driving around to make sure we went right home. She also said, We used the bowling alley downstairs and really had fun. In addition, we all enjoyed just “hanging” around the Rec … great friendship, never an argument, just good socializing. You never had to go very far to be with friends because they were always there in good and bad times.”

These three deckers, by the church site, off of Shrewsbury Street, are still standing. They were once home to Worcester’s Italian American immigrants, their children and grandchildren. The Italian immigrants built their beloved church just yards away from their three deckers! photo:R.T.

One of the strongest advocates in keeping the church from closing was Mauro DePasquale of Worcester and executive director of WCCA TV. I asked him about those positive memories: “My favorite memories of growing up in the Church and Rec Center are too numerous to mention. Attending the church with the organ music shaking the congregation amazed me as a young child. Seeing my Dad kneeling over the pew in deep reverence and prayer facing the alabaster white altar with angels and the Blessed Mother, our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Scapular was memorable. That was the sacred space where my faith and family traditions were taught to me. I have many other fond memories growing up at Mount Carmel such as attending Catechism and later helping teach our faith to other children and adults. I performed at my first “Battle of the Bands” concert at the Rec Center, produced “Notte D’amore” (two seasons), an evening of multi-genre music and poetry for the Italian Cultural Center, while serving on the Board. The church was a community epicenter for the neighborhood, a community of Italian Americans and blended families, and so much more. Fighting more than four years to save the church from being abandoned and demolished by the Diocese was heartbreaking. The church and the buildings are gone, but the spirit and values learned from Our Lady’s and the Holy Family presence among us will shine brightly in our hearts forever.”

Mr. Monfredo and his brother with their dad.

Finally, my brother Ben perhaps summed up the many thoughts of others with this statement: “We all loved going to the Rec, for there was candlepin bowling, bus trips to the beach and to ballgames, the record hops, the Italian Festivals in the summer where we could go and enjoy Italian food and carnival rides in the evening hours. There were also Catholic Christian values classes where our parents sent us to learn values that helped shape our lives. There was always something to do. It kept kids off the streets and offered an alternative to just hanging out. They also had the Joe DiMaggio Little League field as well as a playground with swings, seesaws, a jungle gym area and a bocce court. We didn’t have video games, so we played outside with friends and came home when it was dark. Those were special times, and the Church played a big part in our development. Yes, I will always remember those special times growing up and how the church played an important part in my life.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel church has been blended into another Worcester Italian American church, Our Lady of Loretto Church. But the Mt. Carmel parishioners still pray together, and together, praying, they are Our Lady of Mount Carmel! photo:R.T.

As you can see, Mt. Carmel was a very special place for many of us. After all these years, it is still missed! The demolition of church and recreation center is a loss for the new generation!

The church was razed a few years ago. The beginning of demolition entailed removing all sacred elements of the church. Photo:R.T.

The El

By Rosalie Tirella

The El’s famous stuffed grape leaves. photos courtesy of the Worcester Historical Museum.

I loved the El – as in the now long gone El Morocco restaurant and jazz club up on Wall Street. Up on the hill, a bit past the Friendly House, the crown jewel of an East Side Worcester neighborhood that for years was home to Armenian, Syrian and Lebanese immigrants.

My late mom adored El owner Joe Aboody who was the sweetest guy in the world. Joe had the cutest little grey poodle that was clipped to pom pom perfection, and he’d bring his poodle into the dry cleaners where my mother worked and plop him down on the counter. The dog would “sit” and Ma would give Joe his drycleaning, all the while admiring his smart, regal little companion, who was a star in his own right.

The first El Morocco with a few Aboody family members.

At the restaurant/club Joe and his handsome brother Richie made the rounds as guests dined and wined. They’d visit every table making each and every guest – from actor Al Pacino to Cecelia Tirella of Lafayette Street – feel like a ✨star✨. The Aboody’s put 1950s glamor into gritty, “utility closet” Worcester and Woo wallowed in the opulence. There was gold painted on the walls, chandeliers that cried sparkling glass tear drops, camel decor on the outside of the building, sconces inside the restaurant that dramatically lit up the faces of patrons sitting at the bar or around dining tables, making everyone look beautiful …

How do some people do it? Attract EVERYBODY? Flash a smile and instantly gain a rapt audience? The Aboody brothers were the sultans of any room – they oozed charisma.

When older, in college, I’d go with my kid sister to the El. We’d take a cab to go listen to Scott Hamilton and other cool cats. Sometimes I’d see the assistant principal of Burncoat Senior High School, my alma mater, at the El! He’d be wearing dark shades and smoking a cigarette and acting very cool, blowing right past me! I loved it when after a jazz show Joe would invite me and my sister to the restaurant’s noisy, busy kitchen, seat us at a high, round table for two and serve us, on the house, plates of the El’s delicious hummus and baba ganoush with plenty of triangles of Syrian bread for dipping. Joe knew we were poor. He knew our mother was proud of us, her good girls going to college – she’d only finished the eighth grade. So he lavished us with his love – great food – and then he raced back out to the busy dining rooms packed with people. I mean hundreds of happy, gregarious, buzzed, dancing, flirtatious people, shoulder to shoulder … it was always a tight squeeze at the El …

A restaurant booth from the first El – the second El was much fancier!

Every Christmas the Green Island dry cleaners Ma worked at would have their annual Christmas party at the El. I remember going a few times with Ma and watching her beam at the whole scene, out for some much needed fun, a little drunk from her drinks, soaking up all that Rat Pack Old Hollywood atmosphere: the gorgeously dressed and coiffed men and women, the clinking of wine glasses as couples canoodled, the silver rings of cigarette smoke spiraling up up up … everyone so florid … so boisterous…so happy … the gold shimmering on the walls, the bar packed with guys and dolls flirting. Ma loved to dance and always sashayed around the dance floor with the owner of the dry cleaners who was her ally for decades … Ma wore her Elizabeth Arden red lipstick that night, effortlessly reapplying it during and after her meal, straight from the bullet, no mirror needed.

I miss the El. You can see some of it, photos, forget me nots …. an old restaurant booth from the original El … at the Worcester Historical Museum, 30 Elm St. Trust me, the historic artifacts don’t begin to capture the excitement.

Which dog breeds are the least healthy? These eight might top the list

By Michelle Reynolds

Mixed breeds like Rose’s Jett – a rescue from WARL, adopted by Rose 15 years ago – are often healthier than “purebreds” who can be overbred and develop genetic traits that lead to all kinds of illnesses, including cancers. pics: R.T.

All caring guardians want the same thing for our dogs: a long, healthy, happy life. But even with excellent care, certain breeds are more likely to have you trekking to the vet’s office than to the dog park. While all “purebred” dogs are predisposed to genetic conditions that cause discomfort and disability, one group stands out from the rest.

Dogs who have been bred (and typically inbred) to have the flat faces that the American Kennel Club and some social media influencers tout as desirable are afflicted by an uncomfortable, debilitating and sometimes fatal condition called brachycephalic syndrome. In short, it means that their disfigured snouts and constricted airways leave them struggling just to breathe. Far from being “normal,” the flat faces often associated with French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers, boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, shih tzus and certain other breeds cause them myriad health problems, including sleep apnea, coughing, gagging, retching, vomiting, tiring easily, collapsing, fainting, dental issues, eye problems caused by misshapen skulls, laryngeal collapse caused by chronic stress on the cartilage, and strain on the heart from fighting for air.

It can be tough or even impossible for these breathing-impaired breeds to go for a walk or to run and play with their guardians. And according to a recent study at the University of California–Los Angeles, such facial deformities may even hamper their ability to smell. This condition affects all the things that matter the most to dogs.

During the hot summer months, breathing impairment can turn deadly. Dogs must be able to pant in order to cool themselves. And with narrow, restricted nostrils and windpipes, these dogs often can’t cope. They’re at least twice as likely to suffer from heatstroke as other dogs.

Lilac enjoying her bowl of water at the dog park. Keep your dogs hydrated during the summer “dog days!”

It’s little wonder that in Germany, breathing-impaired breeds are referred to as “tortured breeds,” and the breeding practices that result in pain and distress for dogs are restricted, as they are in Austria, Norway and the Netherlands. Elsewhere, breeders persist, despite knowing how much anguish these dogs endure, just to suit the latest fad. As long as people keep spending thousands of dollars to buy suffering “designer dogs,” breeders will keep churning them out.

The best way to spare breathing-impaired breeds a lifetime of misery is not to buy or breed them.

If you already have one, please take extra precautions during physical activities and in hot weather. Signs of heatstroke include restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. If someone you know has their heart set on purchasing one of these breeds because they think it will get them Instagram “likes,” talk to them about adoption. Shelters are full of “purebred” dogs who were bought on a whim and then dumped once the excitement wore off or they became “too much work” or the vet bills started to mount. They’re also overflowing with one-of-a-kind dogs who are equally deserving and less likely to have chronic health issues.

Providing a cherished adopted dog with a full, healthy and joyous life – that should be the goal.

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Lilac and her beloved Cece!

The WPD👮‍♀️ – at the Worcester Historical Museum …

From the Worcester Historical Museum, 30 Elm St., Downtown Worcester:

WPD police cruiser door, signed by officers from all over America. It’s in the Worcester Historical Museum now, in honor of Worcester Police Officer “Manny” Familia who drowned last summer trying to save drowning teens in the pond at Green Hill Park. Photos courtesy of WHM.

“Worcester’s history is not just confined within the walls of this museum. In fact, Worcester’s history is all around you. Our city creates the history, and the museum is the repository of just some of this history.

“Worcester Historical Museum partners with several communities and organizations to share their stories within the physical walls of the museum. For instance, the cruiser door (pictured) is on loan from the Worcester Police Department for our exhibition in the Booth Gallery, “We All Got History … Worcester at 300.”

“The police cruiser door was brought down to Washington, D.C., with the runners from the Worcester Police Department for Police Week in May 2022.

“The door was placed next to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in DC where Worcester Police Officer Enmanuel “Manny” Familia’s name was added this year.

Officer Familia. Image from a 2016 video, courtesy of the WPD.

“Officer Familia passed away in the line of duty last year. The signatures on the door are from police officers in Worcester and around the country in remembrance of Manny.

“Visit the exhibit to see more items from our community partners.”

The museum wants your history … Worcester history.

Drive safe, Worcester! … (Correction and photos))

By Rosalie Tirella

CORRECTION: LAST PARAGRAPH – it’s Gates Lane School.

Slow down!! photos: R.T.

Above: barreling through my old neighborhood, this cement mixer extraordinaire: loud, dangerous, oblivious. Last week, the Republic Dumpster driver was speeding, I mean tearing rubber!, down Providence Street. Vernon Hill School is located on Providence Street – lots of five-, six- and seven-year olds, plus their young parents, will converge on the school in a week or so, making it an important part of their lives for the coming school year. Will Republic Dumpster trucks or Dauphinais Cement behemoths defer to Worcester’s most vulnerable citizens – little children – when on the road? Will the tiny tykes cross the street without fear? I doubt it. Last spring I saw a dumpster truck barreling down Mill Street, practically mowing down a young mom and little kids after she had gotten her children off the school bus. It screeched to a halt. Thank God for good brakes!

Watch the yellow line! … Yes, they speed and run red lights in Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods.

Mill Street is a 30-mile an hour stretch of street, but unless the WPD cops are there, on the look out, the vehicles go 40 miles an hour and much faster than that. Mill Swan elementary school is located on Mill Street – their special needs kids are of no concern to Worcester motorists. Often you’ll read in the paper of DRIVERS, DRIVING ONE-TON CARS, COMPLAINING, WHINING!, that the mowed-down pedestrian wasn’t walking in the crosswalk, so he got his! … The neighborhood where Feeney Brothers construction is located (Lincoln Street) has signs posted: NO TRUCKS IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD. A residential street, more Burncoat than Lincoln, lets its true feelings out: these middle-class folks don’t want the Feeney Brothers’ erratic driving in their neighborhood. Nor do they want their huge trucks’ pollution, noise, crap on their little street. They know the Feeney Brothers have no qualms about shattering neighborhood bliss, maybe even enjoying the mayhem they create …

Probably politically connected – which emboldens their speedster drivers!

The WPD can’t police every Worcester main drag. School’s back in session next week: SLOW DOWN!! And remember: PEDESTRIANS, IN AND OUT OF CROSSWALKS, RICH OR POOR, SOBER OR HIGH, SUBURBAN OR INNER-CITY, ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY.

As Worcester grows, builds, reinvests, develops like there’s no tomorrow … reinvents itself into something totally different from my Green Island girlhood to become a city that is way more diverse but also a hundred times faster, greedier, expensive, harder than many of us old timers ever experienced in our beloved ol’ Wormtown, we should all hang our heads in sorrow as Dauphinais, Republic and all the other trucking, garbage, cement and dumping companies lead the way in reminding us that families aren’t there for us the way they used to be, we’re a less cohesive community, the poor will get crumbs but no more, a permanent underclass is here to stay, and the happy, shiny transplants from the east have taken away some of our grace.

The new Worcester?



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Students at Belmont Community School enjoy reading in their library … CECELIA file photo.

PLEASE BE KIND TO OUR STUDENTS! … LET’S NEVER FORGET THE LITTLE GIRL WHO WAS MOWED DOWN ON STAFFORD STREET THIS PAST SPRING – run over, rushed to the hospital, suffering, in shock, dying, her mom and family devastated FOREVER. Gates Lane School is across from the Shaw’s Webster Square shopping plaza, on Main Street …

Gates Lane School

But many parents pick up their children after school ON THE STAFFORD STREET SIDE of the shopping plaza:

Parents and kids often meet on this side of the plaza, the Stafford Street Side. Many parents go to the Main Street side to meet their kids.

I’ve taken photos for CECELIA newspaper of parents picking up their little children after school on the Stafford Street side of the plaza – many walk their kids to their cars, parked in the plaza, and they drive home.

But the little girl who was killed by the car and her mom were pedestrians. THEY WERE CROSSING STAFFORD STREET AFTER THE SCHOOL DAY – TO GET HOME. The happiest part of their day – reuniting to talk of, maybe laugh at, their experiences in school, or work, or home turned bloody, horrific, life-shattering.

THE CITY OF WORCESTER MUST BUILD A MEMORIAL TO THE LITTLE GIRL, to a WPS student who died on an out of control Worcester street. We need a statue, reminding all Worcester drivers that SCHOOL CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS CROSS STAFFORD STREET when the school day is done. And to drive with THEIR kids in mind …

The other side of the plaza: Stafford Street.

Stafford Street is often the Webster Square area race track, speed demons galore. About 26 years ago, Rose worked with a woman whose son was hit by a car as he was crossing Stafford Street. He didn’t die but was severely injured. His mom, a CNA, was so grateful he survived that she took all his injuries in stride, never feeling bitter or angry.