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 — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, March 23 heard some sobering numbers with a potential to affect the town’s budget from both the school district and public works officials.
Selectman Brian Bezanson said that, following the evening’s sessions with the DPW Commissioners and school officials, following the board’s meeting with South Shore Tech officials earlier in the month, the town has some “sobering numbers” to contend with going forward.
“We’re putting the squeeze on everybody and it’s going to be very difficult going forward,” he said. “I think we all need to come together to try to figure out ways that we can get through this together without causing a mass exodus out of Whitman.”
Selectmen held a meeting with Department of Public Works Superintendent Dennis Smith, DPW Commission Chairman Kevin Cleary and Environmental Partners Group consultants about the 20-inch sewer force main project.
The pipe alone will cost about $6 million, with another $1.7 million for Auburn Street water main replacement and $4.5 million for restoration. Incidental work is estimated at nearly $1 million with general conditions priced out at $2.3 million — the construction subtotal coming to $12,331,350. Engineering services and contingency costs would bring the total to $14,471,950.
“As of originally setting up this meeting, the commissioners were still, I think, having some internal debate about which version of this project they would be recommending to go forward [with] at Town Meeting,” Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman said.
He said the commissioners had decided at their last meeting to go with the base work, and not some of the alternates originally viewed as part of the project. Heineman added that he wanted to make sure Selectmen were aware what the project now entails as well as current cost projections as well as possible funding sources.
“I will say they were definitely keeping an eye out for the rate payer to keep the cost as low as possible,” Selectman Randy LaMattina said.
But he said, in watching the commissioners’ last meeting he did not recall discussion of replacing the water main.
Commission members said that decision was made several meetings ago to avoid having to dig the road up later, bringing the cost up by about $1.8 million, largely for water main work.
Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski asked if the commissioners had voted on the new numbers yet. Cleary said the new numbers would have to be voted at their next meeting.
“I don’t argue the veracity of this project one bit,” LaMattina said. Sometimes the people who pay the bills get lost in a lot of what we do — and that’s the ratepayer. … Are we dealing with a definitive need or are we talking about a want?”
LaMattina said that, if the DPW Commissioners want a vote from Selectmen, he definitely wants a vote by them.
Selectman Justin Evans said the water main replacement had been discussed with Selectmen in December or January.
“It makes sense to do it while the road’s open,” he said. “It makes sense in the long run — the sewer system is close to 40 years old, the water main is close to the same age.”
Evans suggested it could be a good time to look at retained earnings as a funding source. Heineman said there is about $4.1 million in retained earnings.
After a few significant breaks over the past few years, the DPW is seeking to replace the force main in the sewer line leading from the Auburn Street pump station due to corrosion issues.
The line carries 500,000 to 1 million gallons per day into the Brockton system.
The project the commissioners have worked on for the past two years is aimed at repairing the problem and addressing infrastructure improvements to town water and roadway systems in the Auburn Street area, according to Cleary.
“We’ve got our longevity and then some since the pipe was put in during the 1984,” he said.
Ziad Kary of Environmental Partners Group reviewed the project’s need and proposal for Selectmen. Options ranged for a new main and abandonment of the existing main to cross-connections and partial replacement.
“We focused on alternative number one,” Kary said. “Simply put a new force main in and abandon the existing.”
Design began in October, using corrosion-resistant materials. Permitting is expected to be complete by March 31 with final design done by April 30. Bids would be advertised in May and awarded in June with a construction start planned for July or August this year.
“We believe this is about a year of construction,” Kary said.
Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak and six members of the School Committee also met virtually with Selectmen about the budget. [See related story, page one].
“It will certainly be a challenge to balance this budget with the number that was certified by the School Committee on Wednesday [March 17],” Heineman told the board.
LaMattina took issue with School Committee member Dawn Byers’ outline of the work of Whitman’s Override Committee at the March 17 meeting.
“The School Committee should deal with that person,” he said.
Szymaniak admitted he misspoke on the issue at the meeting.
Moving on to the budget itself, Szymaniak said some money from the American Recovery Act should be helpful in offsetting the budget as presented where one-time costs and funds for regression programs are concerned.
“Sometimes we talk about dollars and cents all the way to the week prior to Town Meeting,” Szymaniak said, adding that Heineman had asked for solid numbers by April 13 when Selectmen vote on a budget article. “I don’t know if the School Committee is going to have a budget for you by that time.”
He argued that the budget is a good one for students in Whitman and Hanson to open the doors in September after a “year of displacement, of virtual learning, of remote learning, of anything that we can do to get them back in the building.”
“You have to realize, big picture, what a blow it was to realize our assessment was going to go up by about 10 percent, when last year we had bent over backwards to try to compromise and help the school system — and then we see a school budget that gives us a very difficult path to walk down,” Kowalski said. “We’ll all try to work together to try to sort all of this out.”
Kowalski said that, as a fierce supporter of the schools, even he was set back by the school budget.
Evans lauded Szymaniak for trying to use the ESSER III federal funds to put forth a strong school budget without setting back the towns, but suggested it might be easier if the budget process could be started earlier.
Szymaniak said the intent was to start the budget work in December, but COVID threw a lot of things off track.
“I don’t have any concerns about starting the budget process earlier,” he said.
“We’re not finding another $800,000 to $900,000 this year,” LaMattina said. “It just isn’t happening.”
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
WHITMAN — The roller skating rink is not being sold.
Humorist Mark Twain asked by a reporter about a rumor that the great author had died, is said to have replied, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
For Charlene Conway, owner of Whitman’s Carousel Family Fun Center, it is a familiar feeling.
“We’re back open again and we’re very happy and we’re moving forward,” she said Monday, March 8. “We had a great weekend and we’re very happy to be open again an back at it. We’re here to stay for a while.”
Over the weekend, a post on real estate website Crexi.com which listed the rink property for sale with an asking price of $1.3 million, had tongues wagging in Whitman.
“I had a realtor reach out to us while we were closed because of COVID,” Conway said this week. “That started when we didn’t know what was going to be going on.”
She said a license fee waiver from the town for the period during which the rink was closed because of the state’s order concerning indoor gatherings, has helped the business tremendously. Selectmen had been hesitant, when Conway made her initial request in January, to approve the waiver over their concerns about opening opportunities for other businesses to make the same request and the wish to determine what kind of relief she may have already received. The waiver was, however approved last month.
“It’s kind of hard to pay for permits when you didn’t use them,” she said. “Every penny counts now.”
Conway is not letting dust gather in the corners, either, planning a St. Patrick’s Day Family Skate event from 2 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, March 17 and a welcome back to roller skating Superhero Skate from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 20 “with special guests.”
Conway stressed that the facility follows the recommended COVID-19 guidelines, and provides details on the website carouselskate.com.
She is also planning the regular schedule of public skating hours: Family skates from 6 to 8 p.m., on Wednesdays; 7 to 10 p.m., on Fridays; 2 to 4:30 p.m., and 7 to 10 p.m., on Saturdays as well as 2 to 4:30 p.m., on Sundays. A Saturday skating class, from 8 to 10 a.m., is also continuing.
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.
Deputy Chief Rob O’Brien prepped Henry Wrightington for his shot during a clinic at Hanson Middle School Friday, Feb. 5, in which the communitiy’s seniors age 75 and over received a COVID-19 vaccine. Jack Concree, right, received the vaccine as he was joking that it was not painful at all. See more photos, page 9.