By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
Fifty years ago, two men placed an advertisement in the Record American about a meeting at the VFW Logan Post for anyone interested in forming a youth hockey program in Somerville. Five men—all veterans—showed up to serve. By the end of the night, Somerville Youth Hockey had its first board in place: Raymond Deeran as president, Joseph Guidi as vice president, John Doncaster as secretary, George Hughes as treasurer and James Papaluca as players’ agent.
On Saturday, we honored these five Somerville legends and veterans who epitomize service to country and to community, when we officially dedicated our new ice rink on Somerville Ave. as the Founders Memorial Skating Rink. During a ceremony emceed by the voice of the Boston Bruins, Jim Martin, and with special guests like Boston University legend and Somerville native Coach Jack Parker, we paid tribute to Ray, George, John, Jim and Joe as ours. Hundreds attended to hear the tribute to the five founders of Somerville Youth Hockey. This was their day, and now that will forever be their rink.
These men truly are Somerville legends. When I was growing up, every kid knew their names. They coached our friends, our families, or us personally. They are legends because they created a legacy, and on Saturday, we permanently memorialized that legacy, so that no one will ever forget who they have to thank for Somerville Youth Hockey, for our city’s rich history in the sport, for this rink, and most importantly, for the fabric of this great community.
Everything we do in Somerville is based on one core value: Building community, and making our city an exceptional place to live, work, play and raise a family. Somerville Youth Hockey and its mission is a testament to our core value, and that speaks to the core value of these five founders. When officials talk about building community, we like to talk about investing in what’s called “human capital” and “human infrastructure,” about investing in families. That’s just what these five founders did. They selflessly invested in us. They spent their time, their energy and their spirit creating something not for themselves, but for the kids of this city.
I personally benefitted while growing up from Somerville Youth Hockey and these men’s contribution to our community, as did my friends, family and my kids do today. I remember walking up Prospect Hill through the cold and snow with friends, bags slung over our shoulders filled with hockey equipment. I wouldn’t have those memories without George Hughes, John Doncaster, James Papaluca, Joseph Guidi and Raymond Deeran. It’s because of them we have this incredible community organization, this rink and the memories we can all share.
It’s only fitting that the Founders Rink sits next to the Veterans Memorial Rink, neither of which may have ever been built without the groundswell of support created by these five men. Hughes and Doncaster both served in the Army, Deeran and Guidi served in the Navy and Papaluca served in the Marine Corps. As Col. Richard Johnson said at Saturday’s ceremony, many veterans give the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. Those who do return from war carry on that tradition of service in their communities. When the Veterans Rink was built in 1970, these five men honored their fellow veterans in helping to have the rink dedicated to them. Now we get to return that honor by dedicating the new rink to them.
This isn’t just about hockey. This is about our community, and what we want for all our kids and all our families. It’s about the values we want to instill in our children about service—to community and to country. That’s the bedrock of this city. These five men are the bedrock of this city and role models for every person of every age. We should thank them for showing all of us how to build a community. We are humbled that we can claim Ray, George, John, Jim and Joe as ours. They are Somerville.