Standing in the Charlestown High School gym, Charlestown’s Patty Suprey could almost hear the sound of the wall-to-wall crowd on that January night in 1980. She could put her feet on the free throw line where she stood and shot the memorable free throw that made her the first girl in Boston Public Schools history to score 1,000 points in a career.
She could even relive the memory with her sisters, one of whom was on the team, and the many Townies in the community that remember her winning jump shot and remarkable passing ability.
However, on the wall next to the other 1,000-point scorers from more recent history – there was no recognition for more than a decade of Suprey’s amazing achievement during a time when women’s sports weren’t as celebrated, but especially, during the turbulent times of forced busing in BPS.
No banner had ever been put up for her back after the event, which was witnessed by hundreds and denoted in many newspapers in Boston. Later in the 1990s, the community held a ceremony and put up a banner for her. That banner, though, was not the same as the others and eventually was taken down during renovations to the gym. After the renovations, no one seemed to ever be able to find it.
This year, on the 41st anniversary of her fete, a new momentum came about and family members and friends of Suprey started a push to get her banner back up and her achievement recognized properly. It had been ignored for so long that few had any hope.
However, the persistence of Suprey’s niece, Maggie Suprey, was unmatched, and Charlestown High Athletic Director Paige Lemieux eventually was contacted and revealed that she had found the banner in storage when cleaning out spaces during COVID shutdowns.
Soon enough, a new banner had been made for Suprey, her jersey property retired under glass with the others, and a ceremony set for last Saturday, June 5.
“I’ve been here seven years and I’ve heard so many stories about Patty’s exploits as an athlete,” said Lemieux. “As a woman of sport myself, I have a lot of respect for a woman like Patty who paved the way for me and helped all of us women athletes be able to play sports in the City of Boston.”
Charlestown High Principal Joel Stembridge said it was important to recognize Suprey with a banner – noting that it was evidence of the achievement and a recognition that she is here and they see her.
“It’s not only to show what it is you did and how hard you worked, but it is also as an inspiration to our students now that they can work hard and achieve what you did,” he said. “Next to your banner there are some empty spaces up there, and perhaps one day our students can be inspired to join you with their own banners.”
Maggie Suprey told the large group of family and friends assembled that when she heard about the banner not being on the wall, she wasn’t going to let that go. As a star hockey player in high school and college, Maggie Suprey said she understood how hard it is to succeed in high-level athletics as a woman.
“When I heard my aunt tell me she couldn’t get her banner back and how many years it had been – I said no way,” said Maggie. “It’s amazing to score 1,000 points, but to do it 40 years ago is incredible. That was still a time when women couldn’t get a mortgage without a male co-signer. And in that time she’s out here and she did this. It’s amazing…You’re one of the people that made people start paying attention to women’s sports. You helped women athletes like me.”
Patty Suprey, who was very emotional, thanked all of her coaches, her parents, her siblings, her teammates and those players that came before her.
As a little girl, she said she always went to games and watched them play – boys and girls – and decided she wanted to be out there too on championship teams.
“It’s because of them that I stand before you now,” she said, while also recalling fond memories of she and her friends beating the boys at basketball on the courts at Doherty Park.
But it was her family – many of whom were there on Saturday with her – that she thanked the most. From her sisters whom she played ball with, to her mother who was a pro softball player, to her father that taught her how to play, and to her niece, Maggie, who wouldn’t give up on getting the banner up, she gave them tremendous praise.
“On the court or off the court, you made me a better person,” she said. “Because of you I would not be standing here. I love you all to death.”