VACATION PAINT PARTY: Lydia Chhim, 7, of Whitman checked the point on her brush as art teacher Kathy Patrick gave helpful tips for their painting techniques at Camp Kiwanee in Hanson, Tuesday, April 20. A finished turtle painting as an example sat for the students to view. See more photos, page 6. Photos by Stephanie Spyropoulos
PEMBROKE — A public vigil will be held on the Pembroke Town Green Thursday night at 7 p.m., for two Pembroke High School graduates of the class of 2016.
Joey Birolini, 23 of Hanson, and Billy Hickey, 23, of Pembroke were former co-captains of their PHS hockey team and succumbed to their injuries in a horrific car crash in Pembroke on Elm Street early Sunday morning.
Pembroke Police received several 911 calls reporting a single-car crash at 104 Elm St., at about 12:57 a.m., April 16. When Pembroke Police and Fire responded to the scene, they found they needed to free the passenger from the 2012 Lexus SUV by mechanical means.
The driver was located outside the vehicle, according to a statement from Plymouth County DA Timothy Cruz.
Both men were transported to South Shore Hospital, where the passenger, identified as Birolini, was pronounced dead. Hickey died of his injuries the next day.
The pair was well known in the hockey community along the south shore and has been remembered by local teams such as: Whitman-Hanson Boys’ Hockey via their public Facebook page.
“Whitman Hanson Boys’ Hockey family mourns the loss of former Pembroke Titans hockey star, Billy Hickey, who died in a tragic accident this weekend.”
Joey Tarquini of Pembroke said the two young men who were killed were his two best friends. They were well known and loved.
Joey Birolini, 23, had four siblings and was a great role model. He was the kindest most thoughtful best friend you could ask for, said Tarquini.
William Hickey also known as “Billy” was a senior hockey player at Salem State the college paid tribute to the senior player.
“Billy was such a tremendous human being. He strived to be the best in everything he did,” said Salem State Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Bill O’Neill. “You would want Billy on your team as he was the player that made everyone else better. You would want Billy to be part of your family, as you could trust him and his loyalty was unwavering. We all loved him and are devastated by the loss.”
Whitman-Hanson High School Superintendent Jeff Szymaniak via Twitter shared the GoFundMe pages of the two victims
“Please send prayers to our neighbors in Pembroke who lost two young men last night in a tragic accident.”
Tarquini said the pair will be remembered in a vigil on Thursday night to pay tribute to two outstanding men.
Hickey also leaves a sibling behind and was known as “a protector” of his friends showing bravery and sharing his courage like a big brother to their group of friends. He was a goofball, was kind and will be missed by everyone, said Tarquini.
The victims who had family and friends with local ties to Hanson have GoFundMe pages on Facebook, which were set up to assist in alleviating the costs of funeral services. www.gofundme.com/f/billy-hickey
https://gofund.me/e11b769a for Joey Birolini.
Massachusetts State Police were also summoned to the scene. It was determined that the SUV had crossed the centerline, leaving the roadway and stuck a tree before rolling over. Cruz’ statement indicated a preliminary investigation indicated that speed and inclement weather may have been factors. The investigation is ongoing.
CLEANING UP: Michael Ganshirt president of the DFS Whitman-Hanson chapter thanked a patron after students emptied her car at the April 10 Electronic Recycling Day in Hanson. See more photos, page 6. Photo by Stephanie Spyropoulos
HANSON — All ages and races joined in unity along the Town Hall sidewalks, Friday, April 2, armed with signs of peace and awareness to denounce hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In light of recent random and calculated attacks throughout the nation including the March 17, Atlanta, Georgia murders of eight Asian Americans have raised the level of awareness of hatred against the Asian population, which has been on the rise nationwide during the pandemic.
Event organizer Marianne Dimascio Donohue of Hanson was moved by the recent violence against Asian Americans and she set out to show that there is no room for hate in Hanson.
“I was outraged by the killings in Atlanta and other Asian hate and violence that have been happening,” said Dimascio Donohue.
How will the community keep the ball rolling in the right direction against hate?
“I think that this year… so much has happened and people are really ready to take action not just sit back anymore but I feel like the energy here (we have high school students who started a social action club) and I just feel like people are really outraged by what is going on,” she said. “I hope we can capitalize on that and keep things moving and not just have this one off event.”
Teacher Ashley Balbian, who is also the advisor of the Social Justice and Activism club at Whitman-Hanson, was joined by colleagues and several students from the club at the April 2 rally.
“Participants attended the anti-hate rally on Friday to speak up and publicly show our support for our Asian American friends at W-H. It is especially important to us that we help amplify injustices we see taking place in our country and feel that starting in small places like W-H is where we can make the most impact,” Balbian said. “We hope to help educate our community by participating in events like the rally and further offer opportunities for students at our meetings.”
The W-H clubs mission strives to foster a safe and accepting Panther community within the school and beyond by empowering youth through projects that focus on serving, understanding and educating one another. While reflecting on the past and present, our club engages in conversations regarding issues of injustice and inequity and how we can move forward in creating a better world for all, she said.
Attacks have escalated in light of the COVID-19 virus, which was determined to have originated from China. The skyrocketing anti-Asian violence has become a topic at the forefront but the behavior is not by any means new.
Lidy Chan attended the rally and resides in Foxboro she attended with friend Juvy Hartweg, of Hanson, both women are of Filipino heritage. She felt it was time to stand up for her race and others who endure hate because of their ethnicity.
“Because we have been victimized for a long time and we have just been quiet and I think enough is enough. It is time for us to take action. I am just glad that each community is doing something like this (inaudible) a peaceful vigil.”
To read more about Chan’s nonprofit national outreach visit Chan migrated to the United States in the early 90s. She works with several non-profit organizations and as a community coordinator is heavily involved in outreach for underserved and at risk communities.
National Federation of Filipino American Associations – Filipino American Solidarity. One Voice, Four Million Strong. (naffaa.org)
NAFFAA.org National Organization
Nearly $2,000 was raised by Whitman Hanson Best Buddies and Student Council as part of a Best Buddies’ project during the culmination of Inclusion week.
Whitman-Hanson students and staff had a daily dress up theme and special guests from the post-graduate program and students with disabilities participated in the morning announcements. Students also had eight different videos highlighting their strengths and what inclusion meant to each of them. The videos were played at the end of the school day throughout the week, according to student council advisor Dan Moriarty. Best Buddies and Student Council were hosts to the event, which was open to all school staff and students to participate.
The end of the week in past years included a Polar Plunge with a run in and out of the ocean on the Cape, said Moriarty.
The new plunge, in view of COVID restrictions, was completed by doing an ice bucket challenge.
Colleen Patterson a teacher at Whitman-Hanson was chosen by a raffle ticket to dump a bucket over the head of WHRHS Principal Dr. Christopher Jones. Several of the teachers dressed in scuba gear, face masks, and Dylan O’Neil a special education teacher wore a snorkel mask and a donut shaped float. His brother Sean O’Neil of Hanson is a student in the post-graduate program. He took a minute to line up and readied his bucket but spared his big brother and instead of his face, soaked his belly with the ice water.
He had fun dumping the water on his brother, O’Neil said following the event.
For information on ways to donate through the April deadline visit the Special Olympics Massachusetts wesbsite support.specialolympics.org/massachusetts. The polar plunge challenges ended this week but donations are still open.
WHITMAN — A picture is worth a thousand words as the old adage says — and a photograph found this month in a Whitman home told a story that was 43 years in the making.
Two Whitman families collectively shared one another’s stories and memories through a surprising find at 69 Chestnut St., Whitman where Jessica Curtin her nine month old baby and her parents reside.
The bathroom needed remodeling and they decided to tackle it together, she said. She needed help during the pandemic and was happy her parents were willing and able and are such a part of their grandbaby’s life.
During demolition inside the wall behind the cabinet there was a hard, plastic laminated photo. The couple in the image was later identified as Richard Warren Parker and his wife Helen Olympia Parker who bought the home in 1945.
Curtin said her father recalled the name as the former owners of the home but he wanted to see if they could locate their relatives to hand the photo back over.
Curtin posted the print on social media with a brief story. Later that evening Jessica Quagliozzi who lives in New Jersey with her husband Jerome responded that it was her husband’s family.
There were many Whitman locals who assisted through Whitman town social media pages but ironically there were three Jessica’s involved in ultimately determining how to get hold of Jerome.
He is not wel-versed in social media but was flabbergasted at the efforts made in finding him. With help from his wife he communicated his thanks to Curtin and others for reaching out to him but the story did not end there.
Including a slight step toward learning social media, Quagliozzi felt a higher power was aligning the recent happenings. He was able to thank Curtin and share some memories but most importantly he got to tell his family story.
He was raised by the Parker’s who were his great-grandparents. They took him in as an infant and in an unselfish act raised him; giving him the best life he could have ever dreamed of… “my best opportunity was to be with them,” he said.
Finding the photo has become a way of memorializing them and the life they gave him, said Quagliozzi in a phone interview with The Express from their home in New Jersey were they have four young adult children.
Quagliozzi was raised in Whitman where he attended Conley Elementary School through Whitman Hanson until his junior year.
He was reunited with his biological mother and two half siblings in New Jersey and moved there for his final year of high school. It was difficult as all his schoolmates and close friends were in Whitman where he had lived for over 16 years of his life, he said.
His memories of growing up with his Pappy and Mimi are full of happiness, love, complete support — they attended all his activities and enrolled him in numerous sports programs —Pappy attended every game. They instilled great work and religious ethics in him. They attended Holy Ghost Church where he was an altar boy at one time, he said.
They dedicated their whole life when they were already in their 60’s and it was their time to relax. He never took that for granted, he said.
They had been married just shy of 40 years and were fairly healthy but when Mimi passed away in 2001, he could only imagine that his Pappy was declining from a broken heart.
He in fact passed just 33 days after his wife.
The very night the photo was unearthed in Whitman Jerome and his wife Jessica were out to dinner near their home in New Jersey. They were celebrating his 43rd birthday.
They had been talking earlier that evening about returning to Whitman to see and relive their fondest memories.
They were eating clam chowder and although it was not New England clam chowder the dinner was good, he laughed.
He saw a man with a Boston Red Sox hat on at the restaurant another prompt in their discussion.
They got engaged on the sledding hill in Whitman Town Park 20 years ago. His great grandparents are buried in the Colebrook Cemetery on Essex Street. He said he hasn’t been back for many years.
When they got married, he and Jessica drove up in a cargo van with her family so Pappy and Mimi could see him get married as they were unable to travel, he said.
The conversation ended with their decision to go back home and visit Whitman. To take in all the things that Jerome had been thinking about. Then the messages started to arrive about the photo and Jerome’s family.
The exact photo of his great grandparents is framed on his living room wall.
The photo was not lost completely it had however brought forth significant reflection for Quagliozzi.
“ I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without them. It was so meant to be,” he said.
Quagliozzi lost his biological mother in August 2020. He had a close relationship with her when she passed he said she was very strong in her faith.
He recently spoke with his pastor about the challenges of life and received this advice.
“The Lord does speak. We have to shut out the noise. When you are distracted — you don’t pay attention,” he said.
I am blessed for who I am today because of them. It’s time to go home – for a visit. The message is received.
He called the divine timing a sign from his “angel army.”
Curtin and Quagliozzi did get a chance to speak and she realized after hearing his story that their lives parallel one another in several ways. The most heartfelt equivalent — her son will have shared life experiences and his own memories with his grandparents’ just one room away- in the same house.
HANSON — Having completed six months of chemotherapy this week at Mass General Hospital, Anthony Sevieri was welcomed home by a car parade filled with his family and friends.
The 20-year-old Whitman Hanson graduate known to all as “Big Tony,” was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in October 2020 and has received treatment every two weeks.
Tony stood outside his home on County Road taking in the love like a seasoned rock star. Balloons, streamers and confetti flew through the air celebrating his resilience.
His sense of unwavering positivity and his determination to beat the disease is what got him through, according to his mom Erika who is an OBGYN nurse at Mass General Hospital.
His elder sister Alexis who is a special education teacher north of Boston said it was the first time since Christmas she got to hug him.
She quarantined in order to come home for Christmas, she said.
They talked via face time almost daily but seeing him home and done with treatments was a great relief.
“He is a remarkable kid,” said Colleen Cole a family friend and colleague of Tony’s mom.
Sevieri gave the thumbs up and pointed to his shirt, which he created while in quarantine and during his chemotherapy.
Many of his well-wishers wore his T-shrt brand lettering stood out with bright yellow and black as they gathered on the lawn at his home.
A milestone he is looking forward to is turning 21 in a few months he had a mixed set of emotions on completing chemotherapy, he said.
“Tired, excited and in a weird way kind of a slight sense of loss because this has been my focus for six months just getting through each treatment, getting to the last day- just day- to -day. The last day is here. The treatments over now (pause) what’s next,” he said of how he felt.
What’s he looking forward to?
“A lot more of these, he said pointing to his t-shirt brand. Good vibes and good times,” he said with great enthusiasm.
He is also waiting to get the all clear from his future scan in April. Mom Erika said they are expecting a good prognosis and are optimistic he is on the path to better health.
The support from co-workers and family was tremendous with father Thomas adding “they are very happy” that he is doing so well. He credited Tony’s unwavering commitment
HANSON — After 30 years, the Hansen family owners of Jay’s Carpet in Hanson are ready to roll up the carpet and they are “going fishing.”
Peggy and Jay Hansen formally retired last week after “saving their pennies” as they called it. Luckily, they were not one of the mom and pop shops across the country forced to close due to COVID-19 or the economy.
In fact it was just the opposite.
The couple sat with The Express this week at the Whitman Park during the 60-degree sunshine. They have resided in Whitman for the last three decades. Prior to Whitman they lived in Hanson for 42 years.
“Best part of the country,” said Peggy.
In the last two years including 2020, the year everyone stayed home, Jay’s Carpet was collecting significantly higher profits as house quarantiners were redoing rooms with carpeting and renovating their spaces. The uptick in sales allowed the Hansen’s to reach their savings goal they declared many years ago, when they had agreed to officially retire.
Recalling their love story, Peggy and Jay met 55 years ago while she was on vacation in California. His home outside of the San Fernando Valley and five-plus years of the carpeting trade, gave him a running start as the couple eventually pursued their own company back in Massachusetts. Also a licensed subcontractor and retail and installation specialist, Jay had the skill set to be in business on his own.
Married and starting a family in the late 1960s, the couple put a deposit down in April 1991 to officially launch their company — Jay’s Carpet.
They eventually expanded the Old Pratt building which was 1914 built house located in a commercial location after they gathered what was needed to make a deposit and the rest is history.
She said she learned early on the taste and meaning of success. Never afraid of a day’s work, Peggy painted a picture of herself as a 10-year-old girl whose pride and joy was her first lemonade stand, which eventually sold lemonade, popcorn and popsicles.
By age 12 she gained a paper route and has been working ever since. With a strong work ethic the couple knew they were both ready to fulfill their dream of owning their own business.
“Being in business for ourselves was not always easy,” Jay said. “It’s like a marriage when you own your own business you are married to it.”
What was the key to their success?
“It is not something that you have when you are done. It doesn’t mean you’re rich. It is the feeling of success, the satisfaction of selling something to someone which the glass of lemonade made me feel successful when I was only 10,” she recalled with a laugh.
Jay expressed his thankfulness for all the customers and the loyalty of repeat business over their three decades with 98 percent of their years filled with positive interactions. He called their relationship with employees and other sub-contractors more than work – they got to know them and they became friends.
The Hansen’s have two adult daughters. Peggy Number Two, as she is lovingly known to customers, was named after her mom and has helped run and establish the business for nearly 20 years alongside her parents. Their second daughter Pam is a hospice nurse who has two children now in their 20s.
Peggy guaranteed her two grandchildren would have plenty of hugs for her considering lighter COVID restrictions and their recent completions of their vaccinations. She is preparing her arms for lots of embracing.
They are planning on enlarging their garden for starters on their list of fun. They plan to enjoy breakfast together now.
Some of their memorable experiences at Jay’s Carpet were their giant yellow tent sales a once in a year clearance that customers always looked forward to. They had over 1,000 people at one of their largest tent sales with cars parked in any spare area a site to be seen, she added.
It became harder as they aged to host the traditional tent sales and subsequently decided it was too much for them.
They have received well wishes and congratulations from all of the south shore and were unbelievably humbled by the outpouring of calls and social media.
With an emotional tone in her voice Peggy held her arm against Jay and expressed she was sad that age had caught up with them.
:…Because if we were younger we would still be there – but we are going out on a high note,” she said.
At the age of 81 and 76 their new found time she said is called freedom!
Friends encourage and inspire one another, laugh together, and create memories. Finding a Best Buddy and someone who will clap for you is truly admirable.
Jack Dunn, 16, is a junior as well as the current President of Best Buddies Whitman-Hanson Regional High School chapter.
His Best Buddy Riley Miller has reached a milestone of 19,000 cans and bottles that he collected on his own giving the proceeds back to his club.
Dunn wanted to highlight his friend of two years and his consistent efforts to be a positive influence in the club.
Riley who has Down syndrome is in the post-graduate program at Whitman-Hanson. Can donation fundraisers have been created over the last year with the help of Miller’s dad through the local chapter of Rockland-Hanson Rotary Club. The cans were recycled and the monies given back to the WH Best Buddies.
Best Buddies is a national nonprofit program which pairs students with intellectual disabilities who attend the high school such as Riley and Jack and as Dunn said “makes them a forever friend”.
The idea of Best Buddies is to have fun and be social in the community, said Dunn.
In the pairing process Dunn, who was a freshman when he met Riley, said many of the students don’t know one other when they are first paired up.
Despite the pandemic the Best Buddies are staying in touch via Google meet with Special Education teacher Catherine Bouzan.
During their last online meeting members made cards for All-American Assisted Living in Hanson and the Sachem Nursing Home in East Bridgewater. They also played the game Kahoot.
In a recent fund raiser for the Best Buddies the Whitman Hanson chapter also raised funds for the food pantries in both towns. Several area businesses donated gift cards to raffle off. The group raised $167 with $83.50 going to each town, according to Dunn.
The group set aside monies for t-shirts with some of the funds.
The group is looking forward to more outings as COVID restrictions evolve for school groups. Some of the activities in years past have been attending games for local Boston sports teams, playing Bingo and creating positive socialization.
To read further on Best Buddies and their missions see their main website: bestbuddies.org/what-we-do/mission-vision-goals.
HANSON — A prognosis of complete recovery and riding her longboard are the two things Jess Nihan, 22, of Hanson desires with undeniable determination. She knows only time will restore her health and bring her these rewards but for now she is happy to be alive and at home with her family.
“Every day I think of a reason to be happy. My life is better than a lot of people’s and I am lucky the whole way through,” Jess said, smiling at her mom.
Jess, a graduate of Whitman-Hanson’s Class of 2017 suffered a stroke as a result of arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is shaped during uterine development. AVM is a snarl of abnormal and inadequately formed blood vessels present at birth but in most cases — such as hers — it is never discovered.
According to Brigham and Women’s website, the tangle of arteries and veins usually develops before birth or shortly after. Occasionally, an AVM forms later in life, though it is unclear if the risk for an AVM is passed down through families genetically. For someone with an AVM, an increase in blood pressure is a risk factor for rupture.
The sequence of events and emotions surrounding Jess’ stroke are still raw for mom Julie Nihan, who spoke with gratitude as she recounted the hours following Jess’ brain bleed the day after Thanksgiving. She credited the quick assessments made by EMS, which saved valuable time during her daughter’s medical crisis.
In each step the medical professionals made all the fastest and most accurate decisions in saving Jess’ life, she added.
Following the November holiday, Julie and husband Greg had their sons home and a sister visiting, who happens to be an ICU nurse.
The Nihan’s had a relatively quiet day.
Jess had come downstairs for Tylenol complaining of a migraine and returned to her room but in minutes was calling for her aunt. A seizure ensued as Hanson Firefighters/Paramedics were called.
Jess has no recollections of the incident or the four weeks following.
She was transported to the Brockton Hospital by Hanson firefighters and paramedics and was evaluated with imaging in the Emergency Room. The ER doctor diagnosed the bleed and she was airlifted to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston within the hour.
Jess comforted her mom with a tissue-taking a break from medical facts and talked about her short hair, which is just starting to grow back. Her scar is thick and resembles a zipper where her skull was removed then replaced as her brain healed.
With a giggle she called her scar “Bad Ass” when she described it — in the sense it is a sign of her survival — as a reminder of her resilience and her determination to recover.
She keeps an eye on her mobile independence physically but she also cannot wait to drive again in due time.
Her work at The Home for Little Wanders as a social service residential relief counselor gives her insight to the lives of less fortunate youth. She cannot wait to return to the work she loves, she added.
Jess is passionate about her profession and strives to be a positive role model in their world.
Describing herself as goofy, thankful and lucky for her life she talked about the appreciation that she has gained as her family has surrounded her every step of the way.
Nihan is working intensely on regaining her speech. Her mobility is slower but she is intentional with skills such as: drinking from a glass. Her rehabilitation is intense and has become her purpose. Recovery after this medical crisis can take a year or more, according to data from Brigham and Women’s Hospital AVM treatments and diagnosis.
Jess’ Neurosurgeon Dr. Nirav J. Patel of Brigham and Women’s Hospital performed her repairs needed to stop the bleed and correct the entangled vessels from AVM.
According to his in-depth discussion on AVM treatments and diagnosis Patel explained what AVM is on his patient page which includes videos of the type of repairs he makes to the brain.
“The tangle of arteries and veins usually develops before birth or shortly after,” according to data on Brigham and Women’s website (AVM and Neurological specialties). “Occasionally, an AVM forms later in life, thought it is unclear if the risk for an AVM is passed down through families genetically. For someone with an AVM an increase in blood pressure is a risk factor for rupture.”
For more information on AVM and data on recovery from the procedure such as Jess’ visit brighamandwomens.org.
Jess is the only girl with three brothers one of whom is her twin — she has always been close to her mom and now more so than ever.
This month when she returned home after three months at Spaulding Rehabilitation in Boston Jess still has her appointments for outpatient services as she continues to gain her strength. She was welcomed with an outpouring of messages, well-wishes and flowers.
“Living in a small town all the training helped save her life, said Julie when every second counted.
The family is grateful for each person who had a hand in the positive out coming.