-By Charlie McGonagle
They came to the Keohane Funeral parlor in Quincy to say goodbye to a man who had been their coach and their mentor, but more importantly, he had been their friend. He had come into their world when they were younger, so young, in fact, that many had no idea in which direction their lives would be heading. He was a football coach then, and because of his knowledge of the game and his burning desire to help young men find their way in life, they were drawn to him. Jack Green’s passion for football was unparalleled, but in no way could it ever exceed the intensity that he displayed while attempting to help shape the life of a young man.
Football, though important to him, was his personal tool, one he used to build character and compassion for people and for life.
Hundreds of those former players came to Keohane’s last Saturday, and because Jack Green had used football to teach them life’s valuable lessons, they had become better men than they could have ever imagined. They had come from every walk of life to pay their respects. When their playing days had ended and Jack was no longer their coach, they knew that a friendship had been formed, a friendship that was to last a lifetime.
Jack’s boys, now men, most middle aged and beyond, made their way on Monday from Keohane’s to Saint Anne’s Church a short distance up Hancock Street. The journey offered them some time to reflect on the impact that Jack’s presence had had on their lives. To a man, they silently agreed that his influence on them had been tremendous.
The former football players, Jack’s family, and his many, many friends were greeted at St. Anne’s front door by Father Peter Quinn, a man whose friendship with Jack reached far back into the Dorchester neighborhood in which they had been raised.
Father Quinn would preside at the funeral mass, and from the very beginning, it was clearly evident that the emotions that he felt from the loss of a close friend would be very difficult to control, but he carried on in a way that only a true friend would.
Grown men, most former football players who had at times been fierce rival on the field of battle, had come together as one to say goodbye. On that morning each stood on the same side of the line of scrimmage, and many, quite unashamedly, wept as their thoughts of Jack came flashing back while Bob Beckwith, a man who had played for him at both Charlestown High School and for the Charlestown Town Team, so eloquently spoke of both his and the Charlestown community’s gratitude for having known Jack Green.
In 1966 Jack’s first exposure to Charlestown came in the form of a street worker who was employed by the City of Boston. He served in this capacity for only a year or so before becoming part of the Charlestown High School faculty and coaching staff. The year, though, enabled him to lay the groundwork for what was to come. Through his work on the streets, he had gotten to know the young people of the community, and they, in turn, had gotten to know him. The Charlestown kids of the 1960’s were very parochial, and because Jack was not a “Townie”, he knew things might not be easy for him, but before long the sincerity and true feelings that he exhibited began to make him a favorite on the streets. Not only did the kids take to him, but they began to eagerly anticipate his presence. It was not long before his home address would become totally immaterial.
With his place with kids in the community now firmly entrenched, Jack moved onto Charlestown High School in 1967, a place where he would remain until his retirement in the year 2000. During that first year he became part of the football coaching staff, and in 1975 moved onto the head coaching position. Not long after that, both he and his very close friend, Jack Morris, resurrected the Charlestown Town Team, and because so many had come to know him as the football coach at Charlestown High School, they came to join forces with him again in his new position. Under his tutelage, the “Townies” won a number of championships, and he became solidly entrenched in the community.
It is impossible to guess just how many friends Jack Green made over his many years of work in Charlestown, but it is safe to say that the numbers easily reach into the hundreds, and this was clearly evidenced by the large number of “Townies” who attended his wake at Keohane’s and his funeral at Saint Anne’s in Quincy this past Saturday and Monday.
Jack Green was not born in Charlestown. Jack Green’s home address did not find him living in Charlestown, but don’t ever think, not even for a single moment, that Jack Green was not a true “Townie.”