This final DD Cup is for you, Tommy

This is a column I suspected I may write some day, but never wanted to. It’s no secret that the beloved Msgr. Thomas J. Harrington died on June 30.

Since that painful day, so many words have been eloquently spoken by brother priests and myriad lay people whose lives the good monsignor touched.

I can’t add to what’s already been said about the priest, the man, the brother, the uncle, and the friend. What I can add are some thoughts and anecdotes from our friendship and bond that was such a great gift to me and my family for nearly 20 years.

My life is so much more enriched having known him, and better yet, establishing a friendship that brought the two of us countless laughs, conversations, and maybe a tear or two along the way.

I met Msgr. Harrington not too long after I started working at The Anchor in 1996. The bond was immediate — perhaps because of the plethora of sports memorabilia I had in my office. Like my pooch Igor when I come home from work, Msgr. Harrington’s ears pinned back when he realized he stumbled upon another Boston sports fanatic.

That was the beginning of weekly sports dialogues, of which I couldn’t possibly number. This relationship started much before the explosion of championships by Boston sports teams beginning in 2001-02 with the New England Patriots, so we had a great deal to discuss, complain about, and hope for.

My family and I would have the great fortune once in a while to attend a Sunday Mass celebrated by Msgr. H. His homilies were always from the heart, not from notes, and always uplifting. My daughter Lauren liked to call him “Father Santa Claus,” because he was always so jolly. Ironically, she married Steve Reney, who was baptized by Msgr. H., and whose father was captain of the Fall River Fire Department. Nine degrees of separation I guess.

It’s here in this column where I would like to switch gears and preface the remainder by saying I mean no disrespect to his priesthood, or any other priest, but I’m going to refer to him as Tom.

As the years passed the bond grew. When Tom found out I liked to golf, that forged the already strong friendship — one that will last eternally.

He asked if I was any good. I told him, “I like to golf.” We both laughed and realized we would be the perfect duo out on the links.

We started playing when he was still a member at Hawthorne Country Club in New Bedford. Despite being legally blind, not able to operate a motor vehicle, he always took the wheel of the golf cart as we zipped around the hills, trees and lakes in the Whaling City. He couldn’t follow the flight of his ball, which I did for him, and boy I could have gotten away with some shenanigans there, but I was always the gentleman. But he could handle a golf cart as well as Dale Earnhart Jr. And I told him, “Listen, if we crash at least you’re here to give me last rights.” We never crashed.

We couldn’t go out and play without something on the line, and that something was always a medium, regular Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee for him, and a strawberry-kiwi Coolatta for me, with cream of course.

It was match play and whomever won the most holes, won the beverage. When the season wound down, we would play, for what we dubbed the DD Cup (not exactly the Claret Jug), representing that year’s champion golfer.

Looking back, it came out pretty even. Also looking back, Tom wasn’t averse to giving me some advice while I was putting: something along the lines like, “Gee, I’m not quite sure you have that lined up right.” He was playing those, as John Lennon sang, “mind games.”

Circumstances lead to our changing venues to the Back Nine Club in Lakeville. Having never played there before, Tom took over the shotgun seat and let me drive.

Our times on the golf course were precious to me, and I do believe to him as well. We shared many laughs and stories. We talked about sports, about the Church, about the diocese, about family, about life. I always came away from our nine-hole expeditions feeling better than when I went in.

I would go in to get his clubs when I picked him up, and brought them back in when I dropped him off. He was always so grateful for such a simple gesture, and made sure he told me how thankful he was.

On this page, I’ve included a selfie with Tom, taken the last time we went out together. I asked if he wouldn’t mind, and said he believed this was his first selfie. I don’t know what made me take that picture, but I’m so glad I did. We didn’t even finish nine holes that day. The health battles he fought for so many years were beginning to take its toll.

After four or five holes I knew he was struggling. I got in the cart and said, “Why don’t we call it a day, OK?” Tom said OK but he also said he didn’t want to spoil my day. Tom Harrington couldn’t spoil any day.

There were times when circumstances in my life would overwhelm me some times and Tom would say just the right things to make me keep on plugging.

Tom died at Charlton Memorial Hospital while I was alone playing a round of golf at Back Nine.

Tom used to come by my office mostly every Thursday to chat. Last Thursday I went to see Tom — as he lie in state in St. Mary’s Cathedral. I got to squeeze his arm and whisper, “Good bye Tommy.”

A few years back Tom bought a couple of sleeves of golf balls with the Red Sox “B” and the stockings logo on them. He gave me some and he kept some. “These are only for putting,” he said. “I don’t want these ending up in a lake,” which we were both more than capable of doing. Those golf balls are now on the mantle in my office and our selfie is on my wall.

Tom got to see one more Patriots Super Bowl championship, the greatest game ever. His beloved Celtics made the playoffs, as did the Bruins. And on the day he died, the Boston Red Sox overtook the New York Yankees for first place. How fitting.

Tommy Harrington was one of my best friends. I loved Tommy Harrington. I am going to miss Tommy Harrington, and I’m going to miss Msgr. Harrington.

God grant you eternal rest pal.

davejolivet@anchornews.org


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