One would think the publisher of a newspaper would know what’s in that day’s paper, no less that a paper is being printed.
But that wasn’t the case Thursday.
Yes, a Beacon was printed and distributed Thursday morning as has happened for years. But then there was an afternoon edition that I didn’t know anything about, until that evening when I was handed a copy.
Was the Beacon in the process of reversing the demise of afternoon newspapers, if not the decline of newspapers across the country? What madness had overcome the Beacon staff? Was this a pseudo Beacon, perhaps a Beacon filled with fake news? No question it was the Beacon. The dateline was Thursday, September 14, but the headline was new to me: “John – How well he does for the community.” There was my picture above the fold, a camera in hand.
I should have guessed Beacon general manager and co-publisher in Providence Media Group Richard Fleischer would come up with something like this for a tribute in my name for the benefit of MENTOR Rhode Island. Rich and I have put together special pages of the paper with limited press runs of less than 100 to poke fun at some of the city’s notables. Never have we put together a 16-page paper focused on one person.
Rich and his cohorts, former sports editor Debbie Weinreich, JR Paglarini of the MENTOR Rhode Island board, whose idea it was to honor me and in the process raise funds, my son Ted and a batch of conspirators reached out to family, former and current elected officials, people I have served with on various boards, fellow sailors, former employees, organizations I belong to and just about anyone who knows me to share stories.
The pages were filled with accounts ranging from building rockets as a boy to the foolhardy decision to sail from Cuttyhunk Island back to Warwick in a gale where the boat wallowed in the troughs of giant waves only to come flying off the next breaking wave. John Cavanagh, one of the crew, recounted the experience vividly. There were stories from children and grandchildren, current and former Warwick and Cranston mayors, members of the Warwick Rotary, the Rhode Island Academic Decathlon, former employees and the Rocky Point Foundation.
Mixed in – Rich confessed – were a few fake news tales like that of Thurston Howell.
Pulling all of this together started a year ago, JR Paglarini told me Sunday at the Walk to Defeat ALS at Confreda Sports Complex. JR is president of the Rhode Island Chapter of ALS. There was so much more to the edition than stories. Cartoonist Charlie Hall did a drawing of me sculling with Ollie; my granddaughter Natalie O’Brien created a crossword puzzle and undoubtedly my wife Carol had a hand in pulling together photographs – even one when I sported a mustache, which she helped cut off years ago.
Many of the Beacon staff had a hand in the edition, craftily concealing their work whenever I was around. I must confess graphics artist Linda Nadeau acted suspiciously switching windows on her screen whenever I came near her desk.
So much went into the event. The Hendricken gymnasium was transformed with table seating for more than 300. Ten Warwick restaurants donated a sumptuous buffet. There was complimentary wine and beer. Sponsors set the ball rolling with more than $20,000 in donations that was complemented by ticket sales and a raffle run by Channel 10’s Mario Hilario, who also served as emcee to bring the total raised to more than $52,000.
The evening brought together people I haven’t seen in years as well as those I interact with on a daily basis. I am honored to call so many friends and for so many of those friends to be actively involved in this community. Their contributions to MENTOR Rhode Island that pairs elementary and secondary students with a mentor for one hour out of the school week will help the work of this organization that has changed the lives of so many.
“Thank you” somehow seems inadequate, as the words don’t express the gratitude for the honor bestowed upon me and the contributions so many made to ensure there will be mentors for children who can use a listening ear and someone who won’t be judgmental and help them on life’s path.