Every so often you meet someone special and they leave a lasting impression upon you. Peter Stefan, community activist and Main South funeral director, who passed away this week, was one of those kind of people. Many here in Worcester owe Peter a debt of gratitude that they can never repay. Peter was unique and uniquely qualified for helping all and providing funeral services for the poorest of the poor throughout Worcester County.
Peter with newspapers, gifts, notes – and a smile for all! file photo: Rose T.
Peter was the world’s last resort, and he never failed to help – to accommodate a needy family in their hour of grief over the passing of a loved one, regardless of the expense to his own profit margin. Peter went out of his way to provide funeral services to indigent people who otherwise would have no means to bury their family members.
Peter initiated many drives in Worcester to gather needed items to disburse to those in need, such as his winter coat drive to provide warm clothing to those who otherwise would not have any, or his back to school supplies drive for Worcester’s inner-city students. Peter worked closely with Gordon Horgrove, executive director of the Friendly House. When Gordon needed help supporting one of his agency’s families, Peter always came through for the family. Peter thought the world of Gordon because of the the terrific community work he did. Peter also contributed to the Worcester Senior Center – for many years funded a free seniors podiatry clinic. His loss will leave an impact upon many of Worcester’s social service agencies.
It will remain to be seen if someone steps up to the plate now that Peter has passed.
Peter was certainly a character and Worcester County could use a few more like him. He was never afraid to stand up for what he believed in, as shown by his handling the funeral arrangements for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect whose body no other funeral parlor in the state would accommodate, due to the notoriety of the incident. Peter believed that all people who die should be treated with respect and dignity – regardless of the consequences. He was pilloried for his providing services for the bombing suspect, but he did it anyway. That was the kind of guy he was.
Peter always stood firm in the face of adversity and did not back down. He was always a champion of the poor and destitute; he took many cases that other funeral parlors would not, for one reason or another. He was the only mortician in the area who would touch the bodies of AIDS victims in the 1980s when no one knew much about AIDS and many were prejudiced against gay men. It made no difference to Peter Stefan. He treated their bodies with respect and dignity.
Peter Stefan made a difference and it will be awfully hard to replace him.
Rest in peace, Peter! Worcester County will miss you!
On this day I witnessed a spectacle that would have been unheard of back on the 6th of June 1944. In the midst of an active pandemic, hundreds of people in Worcester were compelled to forget about social distancing and come out of their seclusion to protest the horrific death of another Amrrican citizen – George Floyd – at the hands of what has been described as “out of control” police here in America.
The principle trigger to the angst surrounding this particular death in custody was the fact of the victim’s heritage, a Black man. By now everyone has seen the video of the Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on the victim’s throat for almost 9 minutes, seemingly oblivious to the many people who attempted to impart the information that he was “Killing him.”
In fact, people were threatened by other police officers at the scene – told that they would be tazed or pepper sprayed, if they did not stop their protests while that officer continued applying pressure to the neck of George Floyd until it was plainly apparent that he was no longer moving – at which point another officer checked the victim’s pulse and summoned an ambulance.
Many people feel that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and that drastic action must be taken to make changes to our American police procedures – throughout our country – to stop what many feel is discriminatory and selective deadly force being used on Black citizens. Never mind the fact that there are statistically far more non-blacks getting killed while in the process of being arrested or once in confinement. Even one death in custody is too many, when the cause was preventable.
The country has been a fire keg looking for a match since Michael Brown’s death … I am not going to argue that the police are blameless for that angst, as they callously left Michael Brown’s body lying in the street for an extended period of time while they “investigated” the shooting – in full view of many onlookers.
Mistakes were made on both sides of that issue, as is again happening with this latest tragic death of a citizen in police custody.
We might want to rethink our police training on a national level so that incidents similar to this one are not repeated. Worcester learned a valuable lesson along those lines many years ago with the death of Worcester resident Christino Hernandez, who also couldn’t breathe due to being held forcibly with his airway obstructed by improper Worcester police tactics being used.
You would think that other departments around the country would be able to benefit from that costly lesson and that these deaths would decrease over time with proper training of future offices.
I have the unique perspective of having been nearly killed while being held in police custody years ago – by an out of control Court Officer who lifted me off the cell floor while I was handcuffed from behind and basically defenseless. He was choking me – I couldn’t breathe.
But I was fortunate enough to have been able to disable him by breaking out his lower leg bones so that I could breathe!
Of course the County of Worcester swept that “under the rug” with a deal made by me that in return of charges being dropped, security cameras would be installed in the holding cells to prevent another such incident. They paid the then fully disabled Court Officer full disability for the rest of his life, never charging him for the assault on my person.
I was 25 years old – young – and figured that I was going to “change” the way things were being done by exposing the truth of the matter, not realizing what I was getting into, but also realizing that police are an integral part of our society. Despite my own bad experience, we need to have them.
This is where what I witnessed yesterday comes into sharp focus for me. The protesters have a just cause – there is ample need for reform in our policing here in America. We have double standards in both civilian and police hierarchy. On the civilian side, you have out of control segments of society that embrace a philosophy of “snitches get stiches” aimed at those who actually uphold their end of the citizenship bargain and do their civic duty to testify against those who are breaking our laws on a daily basis: dealing deadly poisons to our people who end up dead with a needle in their arm or a crack pipe at their lifeless feet.
You also have the police “Blue Wall of Silence” that prevents the good officers from “ratting” on the bad ones who need to be disciplined.
It boils down to the same thing, “snitches get stiches” in both civilian and police circles.
The people have the power to make the “change” happen, but they have to be willing to pay the price of their convictions by becoming willing to testify in a Court of Law against those that breach the peace. The law has remedies that are effective and will work, but the public has to support their local law enforcement and work within the law to bring about the “change” we all seek. Injustice will continue to happen on both sides of the fence unless and until people realize they are the last chance to effect change – by bringing to justice those who abuse their authority.
Making demands is one thing, participating in wholesale looting, burning and destruction of public and private property is another. It will never change anything, except bring on more force of arms to control angry mobs of people stirred up by agitators with an ulterior motive that is not in the best interest of the average American citizen.
The police need to be willing to clean their own departments and hold their own bad apples to a higher standard of professionalism. Citizens need to step up and help the local authorities take a huge bite out of crime by doing their civic duty and assisting the police in curtailing criminal activity. (It can be done anonymously, so there is no excuse for letting the criminal elements continue to intimidate citizens into silent consent of illegal activity). We here in Worcester are fortunate that our own police department has made strides since the Christino Hernandez killing. Under our current police chief, Steve Sargent …
WPD Chief Steve Sargent
… I have been watching from the sidelines since I was 25 years old – with a keen eye. I am now 59 – much has been accomplished but also much needs to be done, as well.
The Worcester “Peaceful Protest March” certainly drew attention to the problems we face. Now it takes courage to make our society better for all and hold bad police and criminal elements as well to a “higher standard.” We deserve a safe America where everyone gets to enjoy our uniquely American freedoms. Worcester has always been in the forefront of change. Let us not drop the ball now.
Like/dislike? Please let the author know – email Ronny at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon chatting with some enthusiastic seniors. 😊😊
I would have to say the senior citizens event held yesterday at the Worcester Youth Center was a smashing success! I got there shortly after it began and there were already 131 seniors lined up, having been given a number to wait their turn to receive their Farm Produce vouchers – accepted at all Worcester REC FARMERS MARKETS and others outside the city.
Seniors at the Youth Center waiting for their farmers market coupons – worth $25.
The booklet each senior gets, filled with $2.50 coupons.
This opportunity was open to Worcester residents aged 60 and over. And has been run by Friendly House Executive Director Gordon Hargrove for years.
The beaming Gordon in his element! Helping people!
You could get a form to have any homebound elder fill out and return it to get them their own $25 worth of coupons. I saw this with a man in his 70s asking about his mother who is at home and who is 100 years old and couldn’t come in person! He was given a form that she needed to sign, and when he brings that form back, they will help her as well.
Seniors entering the Youth Center on Chandler Street, acros from Foley Stadium.
Getting some help: Allen Buttreau answers this woman’s questions at the door.
I think this is a wonderful program that enables many people who otherwise could not afford to buy the often higher priced produce and bread at farmers markets. Along with the vouchers, you could get a color publication called “Welcome to the Farmers’ Market!” put out by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Executive Office of Elder Affairs. It is chock-full of advice on how to use the Farmers Market vouchers, recipes, healthy cooking tips, advice and a complete list of when and where Farmers Market will be through out the season.
Jim Burns, the Director of Elder Services, hard at work at one of the tables signing up people for the Fruit and Veggies Vouchers.
The folks who got the vouchers at the Worcester Youth Center on Chandler Street only had to walk out the door and into the next parking lot to attend the REC Farmers Market being held there. REC HOLDS FARMERS MARKETS THERE EVERY MONDAY and FRIDAY 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., as well as Crystal Park, Main Street across from Clark University, on Saturdays, 9 a – 1 p. The seniors were able to spend all or some of their coupons and bring home a tasty treat of healthy, locally farm grown fruit or produce.
There was a tremendous turnout, which goes to show you that Woecester has many “food-insecure” seniors. People moved through the lines steadily, none having to wait for very long. It was well run and efficient.
Unfortunately, I was not eligible to participate. I have to wait a few more years to reach that milestone of 60!
REC COMMUNITY FARMERS’ MARKETS
Now – November 2😊🍆
Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable, Local Food!🍓🌽
🇺🇸(Crystal Park) UNIVERSITY PARK FARM STAND:
Saturdays, 9 AM – 1 PM
Across the street from Clark University – 965 Main St.
🇺🇸BEAVER BROOK PARK FARMERS’ MARKET:
Mondays & Fridays, 9 AM – 1 PM
306 Chandler St. (across from Foley Stadium)
And, for our Worcester teens and children! Free Summer Meals at our city swimming pools, playgrounds, libraries and parks!
Email Ron at Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com
Text and photos by Ron O’Clair, former Staff Sergeant E/5 United States Air Force Reserve, August 1979 – June 1987
A proud Veteran salutes during the National Anthem, part of the opening ceremony.🗽🇺🇸
I attended the annual Veteran’s Inc. Stand Down because I am eligible for one thing, and for the main reason that my driver’s license recently expired and I have been having some difficulty with the renewal process … . Plus, I figured it was about time I had my Veteran Status annotated on my license along with my “Organ Donor” designation. Now with the new laws, I hope to have the “Real ID” on there as well.
Veteran’s Inc., left, is an imposing, historic Worcester edifice.
The Veteran’s Inc. Color Guard prepares for the opening ceremony.
The RMV booth was very helpful, even beyond my expectations, as I got a voucher that is good for the next 30 days to help me pay for the renewal fee. I am not sure how much discount, but on my limited income any savings is greatly appreciated.
I also took advantage of the hair cutting services being offered and was given a cut and trim by an employee of D’Orrio’s Salon on Plantation Street who volunteers her time to help veterans. She did a tremendous job trimming my beard, moustache and what remains of my hair on the back and sides of my bald head! It is people like the hair stylist who make these events so fun and worthwhile!
Our own Worcester Chief of Police Steven Sargent made an appearance to support our veterans!
I had wanted to get to the event early, but I was taking along another vet who was making me late because he was not ready to go when I wanted to leave. So by the time we got in line to get our numbers, we got #319 & #320. Which meant that we had to wait until those before us got to go through the clothing line, which in my case means I never can find anything that will fit as all the larger sizes are already taken.
Chatting at the special event designed to help our local vets and show the community’s appreciation for their military service to America.
It is the same every year. You get the ones that go through and grab up extras of everything, coming out hours ahead of everyone else with tons of stuff. Those with high numbers end up with very little to choose from or, as in my case, nothing at all. I guess it is human nature for some to have no consideration of people down the line.
The event speakers assemble for the opening ceremony with Vet Shelter Vice President Dennis Leary speaking first, followed by President & CEO Lt. Col. Vincent Perrone, then came Jason from the shelter staff, followed by local elected officials.
I also had some treats: tortellini, a sausage on a bun and a couple of slices of brick oven pizza cooked right there on the street. These food items were generously donated by various local vendors. Just after getting my meal it started raining, so Bruce and I headed to my car parked up the road to eat out of the rain.
The vet I had driven to the event was able to get himself half a duffle bag of clothing because he is not so large as I am. Many things available can fit him. After we ate, he wanted to leave, so I brought him back home and returned because I still had not secured my copy of the D.D. 214 I needed to annotate my Veteran Status on my license. He didn’t want to stay for the 1 p.m. opening of the “BX” where they had all kinds of brand new items like socks and T-shirts.
It was nice to see everyone who turned out. People going between the booths outside and inside the building.
Worcester Police Officer and Super Community Volunteer!👍👍 Sean Lovely (left) and another unidentified officer work the event.
The Singapore Summit between our current President Donald J. Trump and North Korean Premier Kim Jong Un that just took place will no doubt be a historical moment. There are many here in Worcester who do not support our current administration, quite vociferously in opposition, in fact.
I have been writing articles for InCity Times/CECELIA featuring Worcester’s Democratic Party, democratic politicians and have come to know most of the people involved in Worcester politics through my own run for Worcester City Council. I have many friends who are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. I think I have done pretty well separating my own politics from my published work. …
… The progress made by our President and the North Korean Premier is a good start on the road to a successful conclusion that should benefit everyone. No one in their right mind would actually want a nuclear war to happen anywhere in the world. It would destroy our planet and billions of people would suffer horrendously.
Regardless of how you feel about Donald J. Trump, you must be – as I am – elated that peace talks are underway at last, our U.S. MIA and KIA soldiers’ remains will be brought home for burial, and we can embark on a new, hopefully peaceful, relationship with the North Korean government.
There are those reading this who will not give an inch of credit to Trump, and I understand how that can be. But what about giving credit to the other people who had a part in bringing this day about? People like the brutalized and tortured – by the North Korean government – Otto Warmbier who gave his life in sacrifice, unknowingly, which led to international media coverage of his death … Or the bizarre, longtime friendship of NBA’s Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un, which helped open the door to the current administration. It was rebuffed by the previous administration.
The fact that Dennis Rodman, like Kanye West, suffered death threats from his own supposed “friends” -for his political activities and beliefs – should open the eyes of all Americans. There are many people who are clearly blinded by hatred to the point of absurdity – especially when it comes to anything to do with the present administration.
What benefits one, benefits all. I believe the summit was a good start on the road to a better future for everyone on the planet! Those who find fault with it, should perhaps reexamine their priorities. Stop the hatred of all things based on personal feelings of ill will towards President Trump. Forgive the past, as the leaders have done, and concentrate on moving forward with the best interests of the people in mind, all of the people, equally under our laws as intended by our United States Constitution.
Let us at least attempt to focus our energies on what is good about America of today: our booming economy, our improved employment opportunities for all people, lowered taxes spurring increased business development, fewer people on relief & food stamps(?).
How can anyone at this point still deny the positives that have come in the last nearly two years?
We must focus on the positive and stop dwelling on the negative. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a very good thing for everyone!
May the God of our understanding continue to bless our nation in positive ways.
Comments? Please email Ron at Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com
From the SAVE NOTRE DAME CHURCH ALLIANCE:
Community leaders seek injunction to enforce state review of Notre Dame des Canadiens demolition
Thirteen Massachusetts residents, including community leaders and members of the Save Notre Dame Alliance, filed a civil action on Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court seeking an injunction to prevent the demolition of Notre Dame des Canadiens until such time as the legally required impact review process is completed.
The destruction of Notre Dame without state review to seek alternatives to demolition would violate the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (“MEPA”). This is because Notre Dame is listed on the Inventory of Historic and Archeological Assets of the Commonwealth, and before any listed building can be demolished as part of a development using state funds MEPA requires an exhaustive public review by state agencies to look for alternatives.
The suit against CitySquare II Development Company (a subsidiary of Hanover Insurance) claims the firm never filed the required notice with EOEEA or MHC to initiate the review as the law requires.
The court set a hearing for Thursday, June 14, at 2 PM in room 20 on the 4th floor of the Worcester County Courthouse (225 Main St.) to hear the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to bar demolition while the suit is pending.
If the court grants a permanent injunction, CitySquare II would not be allowed to demolish the church while the review MEPA requires is under way.
Plaintiff Ted Conna said “we hope that the review process will identify alternatives to demolition, and that this landmark historic building can be saved and restored. If that happens, Notre Dame will add both economic and cultural value to everything around it. But even if the review process does not produce any new solution to save Notre Dame, we felt it was important on principle to defend the law—in this case, the law that says that when state agencies and state funding are involved, the state’s historic assets cannot be demolished without proper review. I’ve been asking myself for months, how can it be legal that a building of such historic importance could be demolished without MHC review? Well, it turns out that it’s not legal.”
“Some may call us obstructionist for bringing this action,” Conna continued, “but I’d rather be called that than be a ‘destructionist.’ I think an obstructionist tries to prevent someone else from creating something, but that’s not what’s going on here at all. We are trying to prevent the defendants from destroying something of great value to our community, with no plans to replace it with anything other than a vacant lot. The lot across Trumbull Street from Notre Dame was vacant for nearly 50 years after all the buildings there were demolished to make way for an office tower that was never built. How is that progress? I think ‘protectionist’ and ‘preservationist’ are far more accurate words for what we are trying to do, which is to protect and preserve an important historic building for the Worcester community.”
Peter Doan was a delegate at the Dem state convention this weekend! Go, Peter, go!! photos by Ron O’Clair
Convention floor – Peter up front 💙!
By Ron O’Clair
I first met Peter Doan at the YMCA on Main Street when we both attended the Congressman Gutiérrez-Congressman McGovern event held during April of this year. I recognized him as a Vietnam Veteran straight off and wanted to know if he would mind if I took his picture for CECELIA/the InCity Times website.
Peter was pleased to pose for the photograph and thankful that I had recognized his service during the Vietnam conflict where he served in the South Vietnamese Air Force as a Captain who flew helicopters as an ally of the United States of America.
We began a friendship that day, and he invited me to attend the “Black April” event being held at Worcester City Hall in remembrance of the 30 April 1975 pull out of Vietnam by the United States Armed Forces, leaving our Allies alone to fight off the Viet-Cong as best they could.
I went to that event, as was reported in CECELIA/InCity Times, and had an idea that it would be great for today’s generation to know what took place back then when America was divided over the issue of Vietnam, with major civilian opposition to the conflict, which ultimately led to the United States abruptly pulling out all of its forces – leaving many people like Peter behind to face the wrath of the Viet-Cong.
A few weeks ago, Peter and I took a trip to Green Hill Park and walked among the monuments there at the Massachusetts Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, reading the inscribed letters to home from fallen soldiers to their folks.
Peter spent four and a half years in a “re-education” camp after Saigon fell to the Viet-Cong. It was a hell-hole where he witnessed his friends starve to death and be deprived of clean water. They had to drink water out of mud puddles on the ground: many of the people died of diseases such as Dysentery and Cholera.
At the prison camp Peter only received a bare minimum of rice each day, not sufficient to allow him good health. He finally escaped and made his way by boat as a “refugee” to Manilla, in the Philippines, where he applied for – and was granted – permission to immigrate to the United States of America.
Once Peter got here, he worked at saving enough money to secure the release of his wife and child, so that they could join him in America for a better life.
He actually had to pay to bribe corrupt officials of the Viet-Cong regime to secure the release of his family!
From what I could understand, it was a huge sum of Gold Baht which was the currency of Vietnam. He explained about coming to the United States as a boat refugee, settling in the Boston area on the 20th of April 1980. He got his first job through a program put in place by then-President Ronald Reagan focusing on hiring minorities.
Peter Doan – a brave and upstanding American!🇺🇸🇺🇸
He started working the very next Monday – at a Digital Equipment Corporation plant in Roxbury that was built for that purpose. He got paid $125 per week at $4.10 an hour. That was in 1980 when the sum$ was actually considered to be a good hourly wage.
Peter told me he applied for a Helicopter Pilot position with the company, but because he was not yet an American citizen, they would not consider him for that position – even though he had numerous hours flying the type of helicopter they required!
He told me he got a pay “raise” of a nickel more an hour after his first job review, an amount that today is insignificant. He also told me he worked more than one job in an effort to save the money he needed to release his family from Vietnam.
Peter’s first residence was an apartment in Dorchester, where he lived in a second-floor, three-bedroom apartment that had no heat. He shared it with four other Vietnamese refugees for $150 per month. Their slumlord told them if they wanted to have their heat fixed, the price for the apartment would be $300 per month. So they lived for three years with space heaters providing their only heat in the cold New England winters.
Here was Peter, arriving in America with the clothes on his back, and within 10 days of arrival, he had employment and housing and was well on his way to achieving the American dream.
He is justifiably proud to say he never took any welfare payments. He has done all he has accomplished by the sweat of his brow!
Each attempt to secure the release of his family cost Peter 10 24K Gold Baht, which equals $4,000 US dollars. And each time, his wife and child were intercepted by the authorities and sent to jail for three months. This happened 10 times between 1980 and 1990! In 1990 Peter was finally successful in getting his wife and child released, and they joined him in America, which ended up costing him more money the last time to have a better chance at a successful journey.
Peter’s son spent his first three years in an American high school, from which he graduated. Then he went to Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1997!🎉 He works today with a well known American firm, Price, Waterhouse. His wife and child became American citizens in 1995.
Peter himself became an American citizen in 1985, voting for President Ronald W. Reagan for his second term.
Peter was active in politics, working with many officials – including our late, great U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy, former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty Dukakis – to bring 27,000 Vietnamese children to the United States of America.
He was a delegate at the Republican convention back then and now is involved with the Democrats. Their state convention was held here in Worcester June 1 and 2.
Peter has such a fascinating story about coming to America and living through the darkest hours of our history during the Vietnam conflict! I would have known none of that, had I not taken the time to approach him at a Worcester event with my questions, as a person with preternatural curiosity, and in my capacity as a writer for CECELIA/the InCity Times!
Many people are seemingly unaware of the significance of Memorial Day and why we celebrate it each year.
I say this because there is so much confusion about whether or not a person should stand at attention facing the American flag and place their hand over their heart when our National Anthem is played at sports events and public functions, such as city council meetings.
There are many who are seemingly confused about their own rights, duties and responsibilities as American citizens, and this is just one aspect of that. There are many – I am thinking of the NFL players – who will attempt to justify non-compliance to proper etiquette, claiming that their disrespect of honoring the flag is to bring attention to police brutality … to injustice being perpetrated upon segments of society by the whole in matters of civilian abuse at the hands of police officers throughout our nation.
I am not disputing the simple fact that there is injustice happening that can sometimes be attributed to racial discrimination. We all know there are cases of that happening even today.
What I am saying, though, is showing disrespect to our flag and our National Anthem is absolutely the wrong way to address the problem. It comes across as a slap in the face to every mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, spouse and loved one of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and the ideals of truth, justice and the American way. Ideals upon which our country was founded.
The Founding Fathers of our great nation, America, would be aghast if they could see just how far our society has fallen. They risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to fight tyranny and oppression to form our nation as a Constitutional Republic. They crafted the Declaration of Independence, declaring our intention to be a free nation of the people and for the people! They fought long and hard to win their freedom, suffering many casualties and enduring many hardships. Then they sought to form a more perfect union by drafting the United States Constitution and making it the law of the land. They created our Constitution in such a way as it could be amended as needed to cover situations they had not anticipated, such as the abolition of slavery, which was accomplished on 31 January 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by the Senate and made into law.
Many of the first American citizens gave their lives to win our freedom from the tyrannical governance of Great Britain. Many more have given their lives to preserve the Union of the United States of America since that time, right to this very day! We set aside the last weekend in May to honor our fallen heroes with our observance of Memorial Day, which many people have seemingly forgotten the significance of while enjoying the three-day weekend it provides.
This is a time set aside to honor the fallen.
Last Memorial Day, at the height of the National Football League “Take a Knee” protest against police brutality and racism, many of our NFL football players participated in the protest anyway, despite the fact that it was Memorial Day. And there are many people, myself included, who felt this was a slap in the face to the survivors of our fallen heroes.
This Memorial Day weekend, the NFL has stated that ALL NFL teams and players will stand for the flag and our National Anthem if on the field – or face consequences. I happen to believe that came about because of the economic boycott of the NFL by people like myself who refused to support an organization that condoned the disrespect of the American flag – for WHATEVER reason.
I had hoped that last year the players would have stood at least on Memorial Day weekend but, unfortunately, that did not happen. I suspect there will be some football players who fail to honor our fallen this year as well, despite the NFL ruling. They will do this in their misguided belief that doing so brings attention to the cause of injustice at the hands of rogue police officers across America. Police brutality perpetrated upon people of color out of proportion to white people.
As many will say: it was never about disrespecting the American flag – it was about injustice. To that I will say: it is an injustice to disrespect our fallen military heroes in this manner, especially on Memorial Day weekend.
Do we have issues with injustice in civilian versus police interactions?
Yes, I believe we do.
However, I don’t believe disrespecting our flag, our National Anthem and our fallen heroes is the proper way to address such injustice.
May the God of our understanding bless those who have lost a family member or friend whom we honor this Memorial Day.
In memory of my dad, John E. O’Clair Sr., U.S. Army, Korea; my brother-in-law, Lawrence (Butch) Pelletier, U.S.M.C. Vietnam era; my friend, William G. White Jr., U.S.A.F. Vietnam era, and all the men and women who served our nation with pride, honor and sacrifice. May you never be forgotten.
It was former ICT scribe Ron O’Clair, in the St. Mary’s church parking lot, in a red convertible, with white interior! Ronny was wearing his big black hippy sombrero and (I think) sporting a beard. He was looking up at me, while I parted the curtains in my fourth-floor shack to admire the sight and snap a pic. Then he gave me a wide smile and a big thumbs up and sped off! Quite the sight!
Ahhh, Ronny! On a high! Feeling good with the sun shining on his sombrero and a new shiny red toy! Here’s a guy who’s been knocked down by life from day #1 (childhood poverty, death of a parent when he was a little kid, then foster homes, depression, the murder of his brother, discharge from the military, alcoholism) and come back from the brink so many times (STILL brilliant and articulate, a TERRIFIC writer, in recovery for 30+years, a cool street social worker who’s helped hundreds of people find food, solace, housing, AA meetings as the live-in manager of a Main South rooming house ) that “resilient” is too weak (and serious) a word to describe Ronny. “Come backs” doesn’t fit either because the phrase makes Ronny seem old – which he sorta is, at 55!❤ – and a has-been, like a member of the Herman’s Hermits🎵 – which he is most definitely not! (Sorry, Peter Noone!)
For me, Ron O’Clair is more Dylan than Noone. More Byron than Seuss. He never goes out of style … But his bipolar illness makes him disappear from the scene now and then, leaving his friends worried and sad. His condition makes him see things so intensely! The perfect writer for ICT! Ron can be deep – deeply sad, deeply wise, deeply sensitive. He can also be deeply wound-up, loud, revved up, ecstatic. Manic. Ronny has always offered his friends his kaleidoscope of feelings – and experiences –
… often powerful. When in his emotional “troughs,” though, Ron pretty much hunkers down in his two rooms in Main South – for weeks. This breaks my heart. You can call it mental illness. But why put a complicated brilliant person like Ronny in a box? Still, his emotional vales break his momentum, whether it be his running for Woo City Council or following through on a marriage proposal that he made to a lovely – I mean lovely both spiritually and physically – hooker that he rescued outside his Main South building. … I think back to that time: Ronny was in love! But his complicated brain waves brought it all to a halt! It made me cry! I was rooting for the pair: Ronny bought “Sandy” a beautiful ring, rented a car one Christmas eve so she wouldn’t have to sit in his crap-cluttered vehicle on the trip to his brother’s house for Christmas dinner – to meet the family.❤ Ronny got Sandy clean and sober, took her to the doctors, the dentist, NA meetings. A gal pal gave Sandy bags of cool vintage clothing. I planned their wedding with our gal pal: she would provide the vintage wedding dress and I’d dress up my apartment. I’d make the mostly veggie meals, served on my late Mom’s china, turn my dining and living rooms into an inner-city chapel with all my candles placed on an altar I’d fashioned from headboards I had found on the side of the road. I’d board Jett for the day… Then boom. Ron shut down, so did Sandy …
… and that was the end of that. Ron dismisses the whole love affair as a non-love affair. A pain in his butt. But I know he’s lying.
Ron has shared many of his experiences with you in ICT. Like the time he was a boy in foster care in rural Maine and bonded with a buffalo on the farm he was living on. The buffalo was like a big pet for Ronny, and he visited him in the field next to his foster parents’ house every day. But one Christmas Ronny unwittingly ate his best friend in the world. The buffalo was the main course for his foster family’s Christmas dinner! Ron tells the story with a chuckle, but you hear the real pain in the story he wrote for InCity Times. ICT – the conduit for Ronny’s dreams and schemes – realized and/or crumpled. If you meet Ron in Main South or at any of his haunts in Worcester – at a Worcester diner eating a killer breakfast, at a junk-yard buying parts cheap for his cars that he collects like jewels – you would think he’s kinda glib and … a jerk. Incapable of the stories he writes. But if you read his columns – which I have with so much joy, through years – you’d soon realize Ron’s the brightest guy in the room. But his poverty, his living on the edge in the rooming house in Main South, his sometimes too enthusiastic emotional style, his physical SIZE! have left him the perennial outsider, here in Worcester, the hometown he adores. You all discount him and his intelligence and goals. It’s a kind of prejudice. Not racial. But economic. And maybe just maybe your version of mental well-being skews a little to the left or right of Ronny’s state of mind! Shame on you!
In this life: so many people crossing each other’s paths, so many good people shunted to another road or handcuffed into silence by the in-crowd, the money crowd, the politically connected crowd. The hit brigade wallowing in their version of Wasp happiness.
What about WOP happiness?
Wikipedia says: “WOP stands for WithOut Papers. Many Italian immigrants had no papers to identify themselves and were branded as WOPs.”
My grandfather Sabino was a WOP.
He was also a NANG: Not A Nice Guy!
I’ve told you all about him: Unlike Ron, Sabino took his outsiderness, his otherness and used it to become a pretty successful entrepreneur. But he was an asshole in every other aspect of his life: cheated on his wife who gave him 10 children, beat her, beat my father, was a bootlegger. I mean, the guy was BAD!
Ron – and this WOP! – aren’t bad: we WRITE, we try to do the right thing for our city and this makes us happy and proud! Forget about moi for a second, let’s focus on Ron. Over the years Ron has:
given me a million rides when the jalopy I am driving breaks down.
delivered gallons of gas to me when I’ve run out – usually at night in the inner city. How comforting it was to see my friend pouring the gas into my gas tank, wearing his fake-lamb-skinned-lined bedroom slippers. In the middle of a Woo winter night. He wasn’t smiling, made no small talk and walked away with a huge huff after he finished his AAA call, but he ALWAYS came, always came through for me.
driven tons of people from his rooming house to the food pantry to get food so they could eat.
driven tons of people from his rooming house to AA, Al Anon, NA meetings – often joining the group as he is in recovery and never gets complacent about the fact!
helped strangers when they needed help
befriended lots of Woo characters – including this one! I remember the night Ronny came to my house with an old ex-boxer from Boston who just got a room at Ronny’s place. I had called Ron frantic – my late Mom’s cat April had just become diabetic and I did not know how/was afraid to use the needles to inject the insulin into April. Well, Ronny brings the boxer over to my house to help – the guy is BALD, HUGE, covered with tattoos, standing at my door, with Ronny. It is close to midnight. I am distraught. April needs her medicine. I don’t want her to die. I say…OK, come in. The boxer comes in, fills up half the entry-way but … picks April up, talks oh so softly to her, takes one of the skinny needles out of her needle box (filled with about 1O0 needles), shows me how to poke the needle into the little insulin bottle (always shake it beforehand), measure the amount of insulin. Then he lifts a bit of April’s fur on her shoulder, making a little tent, and gently gives her her shot. Then the boxer gently massages the spot where he inserted the needle. He told me and Ronny his grandmother had been a diabetic and, as a little boy, he used to give her her insulin shots. Every day. He said it all so beautifully. I could tell he had really loved his grandmother. Maybe she had raised him… I felt like shit for having been afraid of the Boston boxer and hesitating to let him into my home. As he turned to leave, I hugged the boxer – and Ronny -and said THANK YOU, GUYS! They lumbered down the stairs that lead up to my 4th floor apartment. Noisy as hell. I loved them both!
A night I will never forget, courtesy of Ronald O’Clair.
Lilac and the late, beautiful April
Ronny has also:
supported his landlord who was overwhelmed with his rooming house.
worked with the Worcester police for years to make his neck of the woods – the corner of Main and Charlton streets – much safer and quieter and a little less heroin-infected, especially when the PIP wet shelter was still open (across Charlton Street!)
So naturally it enraged me to see my friend’s hopes dashed when he applied for a slot on a City of Worcester Board/Commission and was turned down by a City Manager toady. Not the commission who does the vetting but by one of former CM Mike O’Brien’s (an ICT detractor for sure) employees. This was about five years ago, when Ronny was on a huge UP and had all his i’s dotted and t’s crossed. He had applied to sit on a City of Worcester health or zba board – for no pay, as the job is a volunteer position. I had encouraged him to apply. Ronny, living the life he’s lived, KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT INNER-CITY HEALTH ISSUES. And what he doesn’t know – he’ll read up on. He’s a brilliant guy! Also, so compassionate! Hell, he’d be down in the trenches with Dr. Mattie at a homeless camp, talking to the folks, driving them to job interviews! I mean, he would be all in – give 100%. But CM O’Brien hated ICT, so Ron got screwed.
A few days ago I called Ronny. We were talking about city boards and commissions when I urged him to take another crack at the HEALTH commission. “The city needs lots of people from District 4! On lots of city boards!” I said.
Ronny was hesitant. I said: GO FOR IT, RONNY! YOU WILL BE GREAT – on that city board or any city board!
He laughed. Then I asked him to cover an inner-city health clinic’s health fair for me, to run in the next issue of CECELIA. Ronny said YES, attended the event for me and sent me some pics he took a few hours later. Here is one for you!
Ronny O’Clair: gotta love the man!! Baby in Piedmont. photo by Ron O’Clair
Ron O’Clair – a damn fine writer! He’d also make a helluva Worcester City Councilor! We’re re-posting his candidacy announcement here! – R. Tirella
By Ron O’Clair
To each and every registered voter of Worcester: I would be deeply honored if you vote for me, Tuesday, September 8. I am running for a Worcester City Councilor At-Large seat.
I have long been involved with citizen activism, having worked with all of my former District 4 Worcester City Councilors since I purposely established myself as a resident here on Main Street in the 700 block, where I have had a bird’s eye view of the goings on in the public streets since the 3rd day of July, 1996.
I worked first with District 4 City Councilor Janice Nadeau, her successor Barbara Haller and, after a time, Barbara’s successor, Sarai Rivera. I have found all three of these women to be tireless workers trying to make the quality of life here in District 4, and the City of Worcester in general, better for all who live and work here.
Over the years I have even sponsored petitions to the Worcester City Council in my attempts to improve living conditions here in the City of Worcester, specifically Main Street, where criminal activity had been allowed to prosper to the point that life in my district became intolerable.
I have always been an ardent supporter of the rights of the people as outlined in the United States Constitution since signing on the dotted line when I became a noncommissioned officer with the United States Air Force Reserve program at Westover, AFB in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.
I have attended and participated in numerous Worcester crime watch meetings, authored many articles to bring attention to the problems facing our city, and most of all, observed with a critical eye the root causes of what I perceive to be the decline of Worcester since the time of my youth, until the current time we live in now where disrespect for authority seems to be on the rise, and a sizable percentage of Worcester residents are involved in illegal activities that stem directly from the sale and use of illegal narcotics.
I was initially educated in the Worcester Public School system – one of the finest in the nation – and have credits towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science with the Community College of the United States Air Force. I left formal education early to enter the workforce, due to a pressing need within my family, earning a G.E.D. through the Worcester Night Life program in order to qualify for entrance into the military with a high school education or its equivalent. I never stopped seeking knowledge and have the accumulated wisdom learned the hard way, by practical experience.
I have a strong desire to help transform the City of Worcester back into a place where anyone can succeed on a basis of equality. There will be many people who will try to discredit me, something I have been dealing with since I was 25 years old, and a victim of the old “good ole boy” corruption then in power in Worcester County. Throughout the entire ordeal, I never gave up being an ardent supporter of law enforcement, which is essential to maintain a Democracy, such as the one we live in.
I will run my campaign like my idol John F. Kennedy did, meeting and greeting as many voters as I can in a grass roots effort to secure enough signatures on the nomination papers to get on the ballot in the upcoming election.
My record of service to my City of Worcester, and my country, speaks for itself, and will withstand any challenges made upon it, despite my having been diagnosed with bi-polar. Winston Churchill was said to suffer from the same malady, and it did not affect his ability to help govern Great Britain to victory during the Second World War. Truth be told, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see firsthand how the criminals and those diagnosed mentally ill are treated within our institutions, and society in general. I will advocate on the behalf of those afflicted, as I have met some of the best people in the strangest places.
If elected to the position that I seek, I will faithfully execute the duties of the office that I enter, and work ceaselessly to make the City of Worcester a better place to live for ALL of its residents, regardless of any labels put upon them based on race, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, gender, illness or age.
Please consider voting for Mr. Ronald L. O’Clair, City Council At-Large in the next election.
Thank you, and may the God of your understanding bestow upon you many blessings.