The Easter Bunny greets the crowd under a spectacular blue sky and the warmest Saturday in recent memory.

Saturday, April 12, 2014: The Easter Bunny greets the crowd under a spectacular blue sky and the warmest Saturday in recent memory.

by Robert Gillis
(News Story)
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 4/2014

Despite a very busy schedule of coloring eggs and making Easter baskets, the Easter Bunny made time to visit the children of Foxboro this past Saturday.

The Foxboro Jaycees once again brought the bunny to Foxboro Common in their annual spring Easter Egg Hunt, which included a meet and greet with the bunny.

Under a spectacular blue sky and thankfully warm temperatures, the children collected candy-filled multi-colored eggs and then had their picture taken with their furry friend.

All of this was free, an event that is by far one of the Foxboro Jaycees’ favorite community development projects.

Chairmen Derek House, assisted by his wife Laureen and son Devlyn, reported that over two thousand (yes, two thousand) eggs were stuffed with candy and treats last week.

Ask about the Easter Egg Hunt, Derek added, “It’s one of the best projects that the Foxboro Jaycees run, and have run for many years. I’m glad to carry on the tradition.”

Early Saturday morning, the Jaycee Blue Wave cordoned off three areas for different age groups, and then spread the eggs on the common.

The Easter Bunny emerged from the bandstand at 9:30 sharp, to loud cheers. The bunny, accompanied by official bunny handler Kevin Hickey, made his way to the designated age areas to shake hands, give high-fives, supervise the hunts, and then posed for pictures. The Jaycees estimate the crowd at over 150.

The Jaycees also provided free pictures to folks without cameras or those who wanted some extra images of their child with the bunny.

Interestingly, Devlyn, who has been helping the Jaycees with many events since he was a little boy, and was busily working Saturday morning getting the eggs ready, vanished just before the arrival of the Easter Bunny, and mysteriously reappeared right afterward, saying he was sorry he missed the bunny. Derek and Laureen just smiled, noting he had an important appointment. For any children who might be reading this, we’ll leave it at that, but we will say that the Easter Bunny did a wonderful job and we were so happy to have him!

The Foxboro Jaycees are grateful to the selectmen for allowing use of the Common, to the volunteers who helped, and especially to the people of Foxboro who attended the event.

The Jaycees have been holding this event for well over 20 years, and we certainly hope to continue to do it for many years to come!

Laureen House adds, “We wish everyone a very happy Easter!”

 

When people ask me why I am in the Foxboro Jaycees, I like to show them pictures like this. My heart pretty much melted when I took this picture today. THIS is why I am in the Foxboro Jaycees.

When people ask me why I am in the Foxboro Jaycees, I like to show them pictures like this. My heart pretty much melted when I took this picture today. THIS is why I am in the Foxboro Jaycees.

Learn more about the greatest young person’s leadership organization in the world at www.FoxboroJaycees.org. One or more images in the post appear on the Foxboro Jaycees web site; many were taken or created by Robert Gillis and others were taken by other Jaycees – in all cases, they remain the property of whomever took the image and are used to here to show how incredibly awesome the Foxboro Jaycees are – and that you should join!
Vendome Firefighters Memorial Boston

Vendome Firefighters Memorial Boston; Robert Gillis photo

By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 4/2014

This past week, less than one year after the Marathon bombing and its horrible aftermath, the city of Boston is grieving again.

As you all know, a nine alarm fire on Beacon Street in Boston claimed the lives of two firefighters. There have been memorials, tributes, and by the time this column runs, these two fallen heroes will be laid to rest. Their families and friends lives will never be the same.

But they will never be forgotten.

Not too far from Beacon Street, a few years back, a high school buddy of mine and I were walking the Commonwealth Mall area, a tree-lined park running alongside Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. We came upon the memorial to the nine firefighters who had died in the Hotel Vendome fire of 1972.

I honestly got chills standing there that day, looking at the bronze firefighter helmet and coat, so near where these brave heroes had fallen.

Last week, once again, the heroes ran INTO the fire, INTO the danger, to battle the blaze, and try to save lives and property.

These brave men and women do what most of us could NEVER do. Their courage is immeasurable. And if you talk to any firefighter, any police officer, any first responder, they will usually humbly defer any complements of them being, “courageous” with a sincere response that they are just doing their job.

Most of us go to work each day have a very real certainty that we are coming home that night alive. Police, fire fighters, and first responders cannot say the same. Most days might be mundane, but there is always that chance, there is always that possibility, that while they are out there, “just doing their jobs,” they are NOT coming home.

I would like to offer this to each of you today: THANK THEM. Obviously, don’t bother them if they are “on the job” in the middle of something, but if you happen to see a police officer, fire fighter or first responder, and they are able to talk for a moment, SAY THANK YOU for what they do. Let them know how much you appreciate them.

There are absolutely no words to convey the loss of these two brave men who perished in Boston this week, protecting us, “just doing their job.” But I would remind each of us to thank the people who keep us safe.

Most of us could never do the job they do.

It usually takes a tragedy like this, young lives cut short so quickly, to make us stop and realize how very lucky we are that there are men and women who are courageous, who will step up, and take on the responsibility of protecting the rest of us. To paraphrase something Bruce Springsteen once said, “It is a debt we can never repay, and it is a debt we cherish.”

May Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy rest in peace, know God’s tender mercy, and may their families, friends, and brothers and sisters on the job be comforted by our profound gratitude for their sacrifice and heroism.

Today is a new day. You get to enjoy it because other brave people are out there protecting you. God bless every first responder, every police officer, and every firefighter. We can never thank you enough, but we resolve to keep you in our prayers, our thoughts, and our hearts.

THANK YOU for what you do. May God keep you safe.

Moderating candidates

Moderating candidates Night last year (2013)

by Robert Gillis Published in the Foxboro Reporter 3/2014 One of the many benefits I enjoy as a member of the Foxboro Jaycees is to participate in community development projects and other programs that have a direct benefit to the town of Foxboro. One such privilege is coming up this April 10 at 7:00pm: Candidates night, on Foxboro Cable Access. For over 20 years, the Foxboro Jaycees have held this program at FCA, which is filmed there LIVE and broadcast repeatedly until Election Day. (I should note that the taping is not open to the general public due to limited space at the studio). Each candidate for office in the upcoming election is invited by the Jaycees to attend. Unopposed candidates have the opportunity to make a five minute statement, and candidates in contested races (for 2014, selectman) will make their statements and will also be able to be answer questions from the local print media. Our own Frank Mortimer will be there, and I am working on securing someone from the Gazette as well. And before I continue; there are two important things to mention: 1) The Foxboro Jaycees as an organization cannot and will not endorse any particular candidate, nor can we espouse a particular political point of view. This is specifically prohibited in the chapter by-laws. Any actions or views expressed by the candidates are the views of those individual citizens, and do not reflect the views of the Foxboro Jaycees as an organization. 2) As moderator, I don’t ask the candidates questions and take a neutral position; while citizen Bob has his own opinions and choices and will make them on May 5, as before I will not endorse any candidate in a letter to the editor; as I feel that would be inappropriate. This is my sophomore year as moderator; last year was a tremendous opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and be in front of the camera rather than behind a camera, taping the show. I learned a LOT, and found a great deal of prep is involved. It was an education. Yes, I was nervous but I was also loving the experience; I also found, while hosting the event, that as a voter I was getting a lot of good information as well. With only one contested race and most candidates for re-election running unopposed, you might not tune in. See, while there is a lot going on in town, unlike previous election cycles with red-hot issues such as a casino or dog park, this is a somewhat quieter cycle. For that reason, you might decide not to watch candidate’s night. However, I would encourage you to watch. Here’s why:

  • The best voter is an INFORMED voter. This forum allows you to “meet” the people running for office (albeit on a TV screen) and put a face to the name, and see what they’re all about.
  • The questions the media will ask the selectman candidates may help shape the decision you make at the polls.
  • Many unopposed candidates still appear and talk about the office or some aspect of the job. This has been very informative in the past; for example, a few years back, two unopposed Boyden library candidates took the opportunity to talk about the upcoming (now completed) renovations. There’s still good information to be conveyed. You might learn more about the person, and also about the agency. I’ve watched some of these events and have thought, “Oh, that’s what THAT office does.” Or “THAT is what that person will be responsible for.”

But whether or not you watch candidate’s night, please vote. Even for the unopposed candidates. Yes, it is a foregone conclusion that they will win, but show YOUR respect and support for their sacrifice and service by casting the vote anyway. It’s much appreciated. Read this paper and other news about the election. Read the columns and letters to the editor and submit your own. Participate in the social media discussion groups. BE INFORMED. BE HEARD. And above all, be respectful. CIVIL discourse is a wonderful thing. Watch candidate’s night and learn more about the candidates and their job, and their opinions. Get to know them. They represent YOU. If you’re about my age you remember the old “Cosby Kids” cartoon every Saturday morning. While amusing, Bill Cosby always added this about watching the show, “And if you’re not careful you may learn something before it’s done!” It’s the same with candidate’s night. You WILL learn something. Some good info you didn’t have before will seep in. The event will be broadcast regularly during this this election cycle on Foxboro Cable Access; so put the program on, even in the background. Be informed, be charmed by my lovely personality and choice of tie, and seriously: get to meet the folks who are serving YOU and YOUR community and stepping up to be leaders. On a personal note, may I say THANK YOU to each candidate for stepping up to run for office and help run the town’s business — Your choice to run and hold office involves sacrifice and is very difficult at times, but it VERY appreciated. And thank you to the Foxboro Jaycees – where service to humanity is indeed the greatest work of life. I am very honored by the privilege of moderating this event for a second year. The Foxboro Jaycees are so very proud to continue our tradition of serving Foxboro by providing this forum. And the candidates will be grateful for your attention. So, I hope you’ll watch on April 10 at 7:00pm on FCA (or throughout the month), but no matter what, please be involved, please be informed, and on May 5, VOTE! And I usually say, End of speech.

Foxboro Jaycees Candidates Night 2014 at Foxboro Cable Access

Foxboro Jaycees Candidates Night 2014 at Foxboro Cable Access



April 10, 2014: Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who made 2014 Candidates night a success. Thank you to Michael Webber, Lauren Bitar, Michael Everson, Bob Lomus, Neil Kaiser, Mike Stewart, Matt Shea, Jess Todd, and everyone at Foxboro Cable Access for everything they do. Their professionalism is evident in all aspects of the production.

Thank you to Monica Fisler for being our timer.

Thank you to Frank Mortimer of the Sun Chronicle/Foxboro Reporter for attending the event and asking thought-provoking questions of the candidates – we could never have this event without such an excellent journalist.

Thank you to all of the candidates who participated. Running unopposed or in a contested race, all of you demonstrated a love of this town and a sincere desire to serve this community. No matter where you stand on any issue, no matter your ideology, you all should be so proud to know you make a difference. Running for any office takes courage and personal sacrifice, and our town appreciates your example of great community service, win or lose.

Finally, to the voters of Foxboro, for over twenty years the Jaycees have put on this event to assist you in making informed choices. Please watch the broadcast on FCA (or their web site www.fcatv.org), read the newspapers, visit the candidate web sites, follow the candidates and learn where they stand on the issues that matter to you. BE INFORMED.

Per our bylaws, the Jaycees cannot endorse any candidate, but we do encourage you to cherish your sacred privilege of VOTING – and encourage you to go to the polls and VOTE this May 5, 2014.

DISCLAIMER: Images in this post appeared on Foxboro Cable Access and remain the property of Foxboro Cable Access and their original copyright holders and are used here for commentary / illustrative / entertainment purposes only, under what is believed to be fair use guidelines, and absolutely no copyright infringement is intended.
Saint Kevin School Grades 5-8 and "Center" building

Saint Kevin School Grades 5-8 and “Center” building

By Robert Gillis
Published in the Boston City Paper, 3/2014

(Written at the request of a great group of people on the FaceBook group “ST KEVIN PARISH & SCHOOL / UPHAMS CORNER – DORCHESTER MA” — Current Former residents of Uphams Corner and St Kevin’s Parish, welcoming all residents from the 40′s – 80′s)

This is an open letter and formal request to the people in charge of the former Saint Kevin property – we are asking for a chance to walk inside these buildings one last time and say a proper good-bye.

My name is Robert Gillis. I lived my first 25 years in Uphams Corner, and now live in Foxboro. Although I am a professional computer programmer I also have written a paid published op/ed for the Foxboro Reporter for 17 years and for the Boston City Paper for the past eight years.

I am not a reporter. But I present these credentials to you to demonstrate that I write about the things that matter to me; the things that need to be shared with the community.

You are, I am sure, well aware that Saint Kevin Church and School were the spiritual childhood home for countless thousands of Dorchester residents and far more school children. As an overview: The church and school were created in the 1940s or so and were kept alive and flourishing by its most famous pastor, the late Father J. Joseph Kierce. Father Kierce was a legend in Uphams Corner, and the school and church meant (and continue to mean) so much to the tens of thousands of former students and parishioners. The school closed its doors in 2008 as part of the Archdiocese of Boston changes. We miss it.

Seeing the outside of the shuttered church last summer, walking the grounds, I realized the real reason Saint Kevin’s present state bothers me so much — it’s because it’s just rotting there, boarded up.

If the school or church were OPEN, that would be different… But this is worse — this is something that has died, and was not buried. Forgive me, this isn’t poetry, it’s from the heart – Saint Kevin Church and school died in 2008 and no one took the time to bury it. How can you mourn the loss of something that hasn’t been buried or recycled back into nature?

Like thousands of other Dorchester kids, I was baptized in that church, made all of my sacraments, and graduated (class of 1979). And I attended church there until I moved away to Foxboro. There are thousands of memories imprinted on those walls. Thousands of stories. Whether we still live in Dorchester or across the country, we are still OFD, and we are all still Saint Kevin alumni and communicants.

And Saint Kevin? Permanently imprinted on my heart of hearts.

Saint Kevin School Grades 1-4 and Church

Saint Kevin School Grades 1-4 and Church

We need a proper good-bye.

Something that lived and was so vibrantly alive and meant so much to so many, something that gave birth to and nurtured so much energy, so many dreams, so many classes of kids, so many dramas and masses and sacraments and funerals and weddings and playground fights and teachers and books and now… DEAD. Boarded up. And slowly decomposing, forgotten. Abandoned. In flux.

Until, FINALLY, a plan is in place. New construction is finally about to begin.

A literal phoenix from the ashes.

I have read, and been told, that that many, many former parishioners and alumni have repeatedly been denied the opportunity to walk the inside of the property one final time.

We respectfully DEMAND a proper good-bye. If a church official is denying the request, then I respectfully suggest that official does not understand how important these buildings are to us and should be overruled.

The time to do this is running out. The construction equipment will soon be there. The memories scattered to the winds. True, scattered and reborn – new housing, new futures — Father Kierce would be so happy.

But we need to say good-bye.

Our beloved church and school will soon be reduced to rubble – as it should have been after the church was decommissioned and the school closed. But we parishioners and faithful – after many, many decades, need that final wake, that final funeral, a chance to say a proper good-bye.

I, and so many other Dorchester residents, and former Dorchester residents, are pleading for one final INSIDE visit to those two buildings. A chance to say a proper good-bye, to put the ghosts to rest, to take our pictures, to make peace with our past, and to thank the spirits of the priests and nuns and faculty who worked so hard to guide us and teach us. To stand one last time inside those school rooms. To walk those halls. To say a final prayer in a place no longer a church, but forever scared and holy to us.

We can be supervised. We won’t bring the children. We will wear construction hats. We will sign waivers. We will travel in groups. But allow us a final chance to say good-bye to the place that for so very many of us, will always be — sacred ground.

Please allow us this chance to close this chapter of our lives for good — because it’s the right thing to do.

We respectfully await your response

Sincerely,

Robert Gillis


(Note: I also submitted this to the Dorchester Reporter, but their response was, “I see that this letter has already been published in a weekly newspaper in Boston, the Boston City Paper. As such, I do not plan to use your letter in the Reporter. We typically run letters that are addressed to us exclusively.”)