TOM WARD - Our heroes next door...
TOM WARD - Our heroes next door...
Admittedly, I often complain in this space about some of the things that seem to be going badly in our state, about many of our "ranked 50th" concerns. And then I have a night like last Thursday night, and a week like last week.
The truth is, we have a lot of wonderful people all around us, and there aren't any "Top 50 People" lists to troll the Internet for when it comes to our nice neighbors. They are everywhere! They are in our classrooms and our factories. They are our first responders; they get me a coffee. And yes, I even know many decent elected officials, trying their level best to improve things. Sometimes they are hard to notice in our hustle and bustle, or if we're constantly staring at our phones with every 10-second pause in our lives. But they are here.
Paul Jacob is one of those guys, and he - along with his wife Lorraine - will be grand marshals of Monday's huge Autumnfest Parade in Woonsocket. Both Paul and Lorraine quietly get things done, and at a reception in their honor last week, friends including Jeff Gamache went through a litany of good deeds Paul had done with his sound and video company. Whether it was extra help and equipment in the messy old Stadium Theatre in the years before its rebirth, or St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center, it seems Paul was always there, helping out and giving away stuff to make an event successful. His fun-loving wife Lorraine was a magician at selling buttons and raising funds for Autumnfest, and always managed to win your money and leave you smiling.
Paul has also helped out this newspaper through the years, providing sound for candidate debates in the past, or for our hosting of the State Spelling Bee in March each year. First in, last out, and a pro every minute in between. That's Paul.
And as if his plate wasn't full enough, he was honored again two days later with the "Excellence in Business" award from the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. He was lauded alongside longtime Providence Journal and Bulletin Managing Editor John Monaghan, a Cumberland resident entered into the Council's William Blackstone Society.
But the high point at Twin River last week were speeches by Dave and Bill Belisle, and the introduction by Dave's brother, John. Of course, everyone knows the Belisles. Sons of Manville, born to skate, Bill Belisle is now 84 and remains the legendary coach of Mount St. Charles Academy hockey, with an assist from his son, Dave. Many also know that, unofficially, Dave runs the team now, but his dad is still right there behind him on the bench, and in his head and heart.
Dave is also the Little League coach who delivered his now-famous speech to his Cumberland "boys of summer" at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. last year. Caught by ESPN cameras after his team lost, his inspiring and loving words to the team were noticed across America.
As we saw in that video, Dave can speak from the heart. And last week, he did it again, in professing his passion for Mount, his devotion to his Catholic faith, and his love for his father. He told the story of being in the locker room after the team's amazing 26-year run of consecutive state hockey championships came to an end, and how his father spoke with kindness to his players that night.
In his measured way, Dave let the world know that the words he spoke to his Little Leaguers were his dad's words, an ability passed from father to son, and that none of this would have happened without Bill Belisle.
I remember being at Diamond Hill Park with Dave's Little League team of 2011 came home from Williamsport, and speaking to Bill as we waited for the bus to arrive. He was so thrilled that the limelight was on his son for a change, and not on him. He loved being in the background. But last week, Dave made sure that would not happen.
As for the Belisles' big night: Another nice guy, retired school principal Gene Peloquin, made that happen.
There are so many other caring people out there, and this fall weekend, if you stop and look, you'll see a lot of them. They might be Rotarians and Lions volunteering at the Scituate Arts Festival, or at Autumnfest, or seating you at the Stadium Theatre. If you can, take a minute to say "thanks," and take another moment to thank God they are in your life, even if only briefly. They make all of our lives richer.
Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers.