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The Sheehan World
Vol. 9, No. 2
Archive Edition
Fall 2003 © Media Synergy, Inc.
Don't Forgette!
Vote Paulette
In Lowell, Mass.
(Lowell Sun article)

PHOTO
GALLERIES:
John & Becca wedding
msnbc.com trip (03)
Granny Ruth (03)
Xmas 2002
R&R Wedding (02)
T&K Wedding (01-02)
2002 Graduations
Cousin Visit (02)
Big Basin, Calif. (02)
Fall/Winter 01-02
Dad/Halloween/Hot Tub (01)
Walrus fans (01)
Tibetan Monks (00)
Mt. Baker Air (99)
Mikes' Adventures (98)

Previous issues
Obituaries
Letters
Dad eating sushi!
Publisher's Profile
Visitors from past
Weddings

Music Schedule
News From
The Old Sod

Sheehan World Forum

Dad makes
"Irish Sports Page"

Sept. 28, 2003 — William E. Sheehan Sr., aka "Whitey," who was a toddler when the Red Sox last won a World Series, has died of complications from two hip surgeries. He fractured his hip on his 87th birthday, July 3.

Dad rejected feeding tubes, a third surgery and other aggressive treatments that would have left him bed-ridden and dependent on others.

A Cambridge Fire Department Honor Guard, bagpipes and soft Irish music marked his funeral on Thursday, Oct. 2 in Cambridge, Mass.

A long-time North Cambridge resident, Dad moved to a Medford apartment downstairs from No. 1 son, John Sheehan, after 9/11 and after fugitive look-alike James "Whitey" Bulger went on the lam.

Dad retired from the Cambridge Fire Department in 1977 on "the heart bill" after some 30 years on the force. He slid down the poles at the Porter Square (Engine 4), Sherman Street (Engine 8/Ladder 4) and Central Square (Engine 1) stations and occasionally drove the apparatus by Verdun Street so his kids could ring the bell, sound the siren and boast, "That's my father!"

He also had several part-time jobs to support his six kids, working as a landscaper, plumber’s assistant and at other jobs that fit a firefighter's changing work schedule, including delivering film in a Ford Falcon. His favorite side job was at Slade’s Pepper factory, on the road to Nahant Beach, where he picked flies out of the pepper with boxing gloves.

He was an avid reader of The Boston Globe obituaries, which he called the “Irish Sports Page,” and of the real sports pages where he followed professional golf, the Red Sox and other Boston teams.

Dad taught his six kids that we could depend on him for a ride to the skating rink, movies or park and for a safe viewing point for the Fourth of July fireworks. Also never smoke in bed.

He let an adolescent Johnny take apart transistor radios and put them back together and tried hard to stifle his anger when Johnny, helping to paint the house during the Vietnam War era, used primer to draw a giant peace sign on the Pemberton Street side of the house. He cheered on Billy's losing high-school basketball team and traveled across the state and elsewhere to see Robert at track meets.

He called Trisha "Kathy" and Kathy "Trisha" or sometimes he just asked where "Trisha-Kathy" was. He and Ma supported Joanie in innumerable ways as she fought breast cancer in the 1980s.

A classic Boston driver (before he totaled his car last fall), Dad stopped at many green lights but not enough stop signs. He claimed to know a cop in Chelsea who would let him drive the wrong way down a one-way street. "I'm only going one way," he would say.

He was famous for taking "short cuts" that avoided red lights but usually took him miles out of his way. "Even so, his back-road wizardry in Cambridge and Medford was second to none," said his youngest son, Robert.

After being widowed four years ago, Dad expanded his cooking repertoire beyond the hockey pucks he called biscuits and started a little cookbook with recipes for chicken soup and tuna casserole. Mostly, though, he preferred a meat-and-potatoes meal cooked by Trisha or Lynne or barbecued by Billy. When he was still driving, he showed up at Trisha's house in Medford nearly every day at 3 p.m. Was it the cooking or Moe's cigars? Or both?

He enjoyed dining with any of his kids or grand kids so much that he once ate sushi in Vancouver, B.C., with Robert, Kathy and son-in-law Chuck.

"It's fish and rice, Dad. You'll like it."

"Isn't this raw?" he asked.

"No. It's cooked. You'll like it," we lied. He ate it.

Dad eating Sushi

Dad was a 1934 graduate of Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge and worked as a machinist at the Charlestown Navy Yard for five years before enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He followed his good friend Al Renault to war and married Al's sister Alma in 1944, a week before he left for Europe. Traveling across France, Germany, Switzerland and Poland, he participated in the Battle of Ruhrpocket, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. A sharpshooter, he was awarded a Bronze Star.

Dad spent his retirement in North Cambridge and West Yarmouth, occasionally driving to Florida to escape the winter weather.

He still amused himself and others with whoopee cushions, fake fangs and other gags. A picture of the Last Supper hanging in his house in West Yarmouth shows Dad as the 13th Apostle.

He is survived by three sons, John H. of Medford, Bill Jr., of Medford and Robert of Cambridge; two daughters, Patricia Mahoney of Medford and Kathy Dingée Sheehan of Bellingham, Wash.; and 11 grandchildren, including John H. Sheehan Jr., (fourth from left, below) who married Rebecca MacDonald the day Dad died.

Puffing for Dad
The groom's party and Sheehan family members smoked Dad's last pack of cigars as a tribute to the missing grampy at John Jr.'s wedding.

A funeral Mass was celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 2 at St. John the Evangelist Church, Mass. Ave., Cambridge. He was buried at Cambridge Cemetery next to Alma with: plenty of bus fare in his wallet; his handwritten MBTA bus schedules; long distance phone card; a pack of Phillies blunt cigars (with matches); his squirting rose pinned to his lapel; a golfball; a photo of Alma and him at their 50th anniversary; and a baseball signed by all 11 grandchildren.

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