Monday, November 15, 2010

Bill Cronin (1940-2010) - Go Rest High Mr. C!

Every once in a while, we are fortunate enough to cross paths with someone who, through love of family and strength of character, is able to impact our lives in ways words could never begin to describe. And rarer still is a person who, through undying faith and a relentless spirit, is able to touch the lives of every single person he meets. The world is less one hero today – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a firefighter, a friend.

On Saturday, Mr. Cronin lost his battle with cancer, with his wife and children at his side, in the very home where he raised his children and entertained his grandchildren. To adequately express the sorrow we are all feeling with the passing of Mr. C is simply impossible. But to celebrate his life and to share what he meant to so many people in our lives is easily done.

Bill was a devoted, loving husband to Pat and a giving, dedicated Dad to Kathy, Kris, Danny and Billy. Family and friendship were 1 and 2 on Bill’s “What Is Really Important” scale. He willingly opened up his home to everyone he knew. Third Street was a place we could go and hang out and feel like we were at home. I remember Bill always being there, swilling a Diet Pepsi and making sure the pool was ready for swimming if we wanted to swim. Simply stated: If you were a part of his kids’ lives, then you were a part of his life. That’s just the way he was.

Mr. Cronin does not know this story and shame on me for never sharing it with him. Years ago, I was working at a group home in Dracut with adults with developmental disabilities. While there, I spent a great deal of time working with Mark, a man who had spent most of his adult life in an institution and had just moved into the group home. A couple of things about Mark – he loves to swim and he loves “power tools.” Of course, when I asked Mr. Cronin one day if I could bring Mark over to swim, the answer was absolutely. Mark walked around the pool chest deep and just laughed and splashed for at least an hour and he had a fantastic time. But that is not the end of the story. While Mark was swimming, Mr. C had come out of the house to do some yard work and he had a leaf blower in his hands. Well, needless to say, this made Mark a very excited man. He got out of the pool and wanted to look at the leaf blower (it is a power tool after all!). So Mr. Cronin spent just a few minutes showing Mark the leaf blower and he let him use it for a couple of seconds. This was probably 18 years ago. I happened to see Mark about a month ago. Like I always do with Mark, I relive memories with him. I mentioned Mr. Cronin and the smile on Mark’s face was one of sheer elation. “Mr. Cronin has a leaf blower!” he said with a hearty chuckle. It may have been just a brief moment in Mark’s life 18 years ago, but it has stayed with him and it goes to show exactly what kind of man Bill was to everyone he met.

As a firefighter in Lowell, he spent 34 years kissing his wife and children as he headed off to work, knowing that he was putting his life on the line for the safety of others and that any of those goodbyes could have been his last. With his wife and children at his side this Saturday, Bill had that final goodbye. Like in everything he has ever done, Bill was courageous and strong to the end.

Bill’s family is coping with an indescribable loss today. And because of the man Bill was, that family stretches beyond the walls of his home to include an entire community - a community that holds a special place in its heart for Mr. C. Rest in peace Bill – you will be sorely missed!

Lowell Sun Obituary

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10, 1775 - Happy Birthday

"That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant-Colonels, two Majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of Privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalion of Marines."

On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress issued the above resolution and ordered newly commissioned Captain Samuel Nicholas to establish two battalions of Marines, commissioned to conduct offensive and defensive combat missions during boarding actions and to protect a ship's officers from mutiny.  Captain Nicholas established the recruiting station to be Tun Tavern in Philadelphia with the then bar owner, Robert Mullen as chief Marine Recruiter.

From that November in Philadelphia 235 years ago to this overcast morning in New Hampshire today, Americans have been kept safe and have remained free because United States Marines have gone first.  Freedom comes with a heavy cost and the United States Marines pay most of your share.

To my brother Jim, my brother-in-law Steve, my California friend Maria and every other Marine, Happy Birthday!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

MessFest (aka Guys Weekend) at the Lake

“No, no, no. I meant to say we were at Cash Bingo,” was the text message on his Blackberry. 9 guys from Lowell stood inside the Looney Bin, faces pressed against the cold plate glass window, watching the entertainment unfold in the Fun Spot parking lot across New Hampshire Route 3. Wait for it…. Wait for it… THERE HE GOES!!! The crowd cheered and 18 arms were raised simultaneously signaling touchdown as Rosco’s black hat came into view through the parked cars and made its way across the parking lot to the Cash Bingo building, his second stop on his search for his friends. The no-strings attached puppet show came courtesy of one really hungover friend and some careful text messaging. It was 2pm and Rosco had awoken from a temporary detoxification slumber in the back seat of a Nissan while the rest of us continued the beer swilling inside the Looney Bin with Michele the bartender and the rest of the regulars. By way of texting, Rosco asked if we had eaten yet. The opportunity was too good to resist. Although we were a mere 50 yards from his car, inside my new favorite bar, the text reply told Rosco that we had gone across the street to Fun Spot. And quicker than Oprah can make a meatball sub disappear, Rosco took the bait. While we all ducked out of view inside the cozy pub, our new puppet slid out of the car and began the 300 yard stroll to the front door of the Fun Spot. The laughing was such that my cheeks started to ache. Why bore you with this story? These are the kinds of things that happen when a group of guys in their late 30’s and early 40’s get together with no wives or kids in sight. Most mature adults might wonder where the entertainment value is in making a grown man walk around in circles – if you can’t see the belly busting humor in that, then you probably don’t laugh during the French castle scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail and you should probably never come near our WinterFest.
I can only handle it every other year, and at that I cannot even last a full 24 hours. It taxes my system and clouds my thinking. It leads to stories which, if heard by the wrong ears, could destroy careers. But it is worth every fukkin’ moment!! Every year, a bunch of guys, most of whom I have known since high school, meet up at a lake house in February. It has become known as Guys Weekend or WinterFest… but the more accurate name would be Mess Fest. Beer can towers and midnight pizza runs; chili farts and cheeseburger flavored Doritos; Scary Movie 2 and Hangover. It all blends together for a fukkin hell raisers symphony!

So what exactly defines a good guys weekend? It is not a guys weekend until someone drops trow and slaps his pasty white ass cheeks to celebrate a win in 45s. Nor can a guys weekend be complete unless someone falls sound asleep with his forehead on the kitchen table and his knuckles nearly reaching the floor. Guys weekend is 10 grown men sitting in the same room watching Holy Grail, quoting each line out loud in horribly drunken English accents. Guys weekend is 3 crockpots full of chili that are nearly empty by the first night, followed by three days of what always follows chili. Guys weekend is scraping the crusty remains off the bottom of the crockpot on day 3 for breakfast because the Pop Tarts and Devil Dogs are all gone. Guys weekend is bribing the bowling alley clerk to let us borrow the scale so we could declare a winner in the “How Much Does Tiny Weigh This Year” pool. Guys weekend is laughing our asses off as a 50-something bar hag makes the moves on one of us. And guys weekend is trying to decide if the bar hag’s friend looks like the Cowardly Lion or Witchy-Poo from HR Puffinstuff. And guys weekend is celebrating with one of your buddies when he finally has that 50th shot at the Looney Bin and gets his “free” sweatshirt (that cost him $250 in shots).

Not sure if I’ll make it next year – these stories all happened in the 17 hours I spent there. Three days and I might need to hang my liver out to dry.

The stories in this blog are completely true and only the names were changed to protect the fat, drunk and stupid. Well, Rosco and Tiny are made up names, but Oprah really can knock back a meatball sub. Don’t worry Mac – no pictures… Jimmy dropped the camera in the chili.