In Memoriam of My Cousin Roger: He Did It His Way

IMG_20160821_091100 (1)Roger Concannon died yesterday. He had been living in Berlin. When I last spoke to him he told me that Berlin reminded of how Southie used to be in the old days.

My earliest childhood friends were Roger and Jimmy Concannon. Their mother, Honey, and my mother Alice, were the two “Rogers sisters” who were about a year apart in age and very close to each other. They would have given Ginger Rogers a run for her money in the looks department. My mother was more the quiet type; Honey was full of fun and tricks whose favorite day of the year was April 1. Roger did not fall far from that tree.

Each sister had six children. The oldest girls, Kathleen on my side, Carol on the other were charged with riding herd on us. Roger was the most difficult to corral.. I was sandwiched in age between Jimmy and Roger. That’s me in the navy suit. Roger is in front of me whispering.

Roger always had a smile on his face and a trick up his sleeve. The adjective mischievous well fit him although the harm he caused was mostly benign. He was a born story-teller who would regale me with his tales, some seemingly quite tall.

Up to my teen age years Jimmy, Roger and I were together more often than not. We were altar boys at the Immaculate Conception Church in the South End. When Roger received his last rites from a priest last week he told him he did not need them because as altar boys for the Jesuits we had all received plenary indulgences.

Over the years we slowly drifted apart. My family moved to Savin Hill. Roger’s family stayed in South Boston. Our attempts to have inter-neighborhood football games or other relationships were disastrous. These were rival neighborhoods whose ill will went back to the gang wars between the young returning soldiers who formed the gangs like the Shamrocks, Loopers and Trojans after WWII.

The last time I saw Roger was in the fall of last year at the Connolly/Concannon reunion in New Hampshire at the home of my brother Jim.  Roger who neither drank nor smoked would drive down for the day from Berlin which is up near the Canadian border and back at night. He was there when I arrived. I spent several hours in conversation with him off to the side. He had a lot of background information on things that interested me. You will understand if you read this article about  him as reported on June 19, 2003, in the Boston Herald which is here. Warning, keep in mind that Roger had no fondness for newspaper people so if he could throw them a curve ball he would delight in doing it.

Roger lived across the street from Whitey’s long time girl friend Theresa Stanley. He saw Whitey often and referred to him to his face as Seamus and outside his presence as Mr. White. He told me how one of Theresa’s kids told him that Whitey was quite generous. He gave the kid five dollars each day to go outside and start up his car.

Roger knew all of the gangsters who Whitey knew. He bartendered at the Mullins Club and had his own club near by that was reached by “members only” through some circuitous route. Membership was limited to Southie people.

Roger was as tough as nails which he had to be considering the company he kept. He was a fighter from his earliest age. Countless times in my single digit years I stood in front of him as he picked up a twig and put it on his shoulder and with a wry grin dared me to knock it off which inevitably led to a tussle. The hardest part was when I occasionally beat him he would never give up. How long can you pin another kid to the ground knowing that if you let him up the punching will start again?

Roger loved Southie. He survived there because he belonged to no gangs. He did things his own way. He was respected and let alone. He became a Boston police officer like his father Jim; retired on a disability after some years while still young; came back on the force in his sixties after going through the police academy training again with guys forty years younger and passing with flying colors; rejoined the force for three more years and then retired for good.

He raised his family in Southie and then took them to Ireland for a bit. He loved being Irish. He came back and invested in the Coconut Beach Inn on an island in the Caribbean called St. Vincent. I first knew that because my friend Terry who was a nurse bumped into him there. Roger would tell how FBI agents would come there and try to blend in to see if he could give them information on Whitey. He told how they were easy to spot.

I have a good number of Roger stories which space and discretion do not allow me to tell. Those who knew him in Southie will have an abundant amount of others. I’ll always remember him with the twinkle in his eye, the smile on his face, and his devil-may-care life style. Going off with him always meant an adventure of one kind or another. No matter the outcome Roger would be there smiling and ready for another.

May he rest in peace.

 

20 thoughts on “In Memoriam of My Cousin Roger: He Did It His Way

  1. Matt, wonderful memories of Roger. He was always good to us. Always warm and welcoming. Always fun. He will be missed. May he rest in peace.

  2. Matt — A great memorial to our great cousin.

    After I stopped crying (a lot of crying) over the loss of my unique and spectacular cousin, I could not stop smiling about the amazing and amusing memories I will always have of him and his great stories and adventures — not only the stories themselves but of the theatrical way he told them. He truly was one of a kind, an amazing man, a great cousin. My heart is broken over his loss. Although I saw him only once a year at our Connolly-Concannon Reunions, I felt a bond with him as if he was my brother. He was a great guy, a great cousin, and he will be missed. God bless you Roger !!!

  3. Matt, I am very sorry for your loss!! Roger without a doubt was one of the great ones
    From SOUTHIE . HE Was a pleasure to be with at all times. When you thought of Roger
    A smile or humorous story would come to mind. Yes may he rest in peace and MAY HEAVEN BEWARE.

    1. 251:

      I’m sure they have made advanced plans in heaven to have a couple of those archangels assigned to keep an eye on Roger. I’m told that even though he was on his death bed and the priest was giving him the last rites he had the priest roaring in laughter with some of his comments.

    1. Jeff:

      You probably know a lot more of them than I do. But the few I know are quite amazing in themselves especially since some are of my personal knowledge.

  4. Great post. Condolences to Jimmy, Kate, Carol, Mary and the other Concannons. A great character with an excellent sense of humor. How many people frequented the gangster after hours card games in Uphams Corner circa 1960 and lived to tell about it? Those affairs were run by the murderous Flemmi brothers and Barboza. Who won a fist fight with Billy Kelley and walked away without being shot? Who was the only person questioned during the Whitey investigation not to use a lawyer? The stories are numerous and fascinating.

    1. NC:

      The story of his involvement with Billy Kelly (who is on death row in Florida) is really amazing and it showed what courage Roger had to go up against him. I wanted to tell the tale of the FBI man dressed like a priest; or two of them who had fresh water lures when they said they were planning to fish in the Caribbean Sea. He did go before the federal grand juries without a lawyer – he did it because he had nothing to hide in his relations with Whitey.

  5. Thank you Matt for that special post. I know it has made my family feel a little better today. I have always been called Jimmy Jr. But in fact my fathers middle name is Rogers and mine is Patrick. I am proud to be the namesake of your Uncle and Hero James Patrick Rogers who was killed navigating a B-17 on September 25th 1943. My Uncle Roger always brought laughs and mystery to me. I always remember the St Patricks day celebrations at his house on Broadway. One year TV sports reporter Bob Gamere showed up at the party with a’package on’and started trash talking about Southie. The next night he did his news broadcast wearing a hockey goalie mask, someone maybe Roger punched him in the eye. As my Grandmother always said, may God be with you, Uncle Roger.

  6. Great Post Matt on our Roger, So many great memories, racing back to the Perkins School after lunch, Mrs Shea’s Shows, listening to the “Shadow and Green Hornet on Sunday evening, hanging out at the Statues, football games in the Courtyard at 18 O’Callahan , the Gaughans, Brennan’s, Ryan’s , Murphys, punchball in your back yard where over the Arch was a homer, snowflake sandwiches for lunch at Carson Beach for lunch and a thousand more are possible. SLAINTE Rouri, Roger from your much younger brother SEAMUS

    1. I was truly blessed to be part of the Concannon family. My condolences to all. Roger was absolutely one of a kind and provided me with many many memories that I will cherish forever. God bless rest in peace.

    2. Jimmy, I am so sorry for your loss! I just learned of your loss. I haven’t wrapped my mind around this yet and am heart broken. A great friend!

  7. I knew Roger as Kate’s brother and from the Irish Volunteers. But his stories and those of his brother Jimmy will forever stay with me. I am proud of my roots – to have been born and raised in South Boston. There were many hardworking families like the Concannons.
    We were lucky indeed. God bless Roger and the Concannon family. Thank you , Matt, for sharing your memories.

  8. Sorry for your loss. I remember Roger well. I/we the Donovan’s grew up at N and Second. Our sincerest condolences from our Family to all the Concannons. May he Rest In Peace…….

    1. Nice to see these rememberances. My father was a retired Boston police officer, and my family was greatly comforted upon his death to receive many kind thoughts and prayers, including some from perfect strangers.

  9. Hi cousin Matt, it has been so nice to read about cousin Roger, it has saddened me knowing he has moved on. I recently saw Roger at my mothers wake in February, he came down from N H, to show his respect, so glad he did, he left me with some stories of my mother and father I had never known, which put that smile of my face and curious for more, I will miss him, but now he will be answering to Honey and the fun and games will start again, just in a different location, very nice blog Matt, say hi to the cousins for me.. Cousin Eddie

  10. I am in a state of shock as I learned of Roger’s death today. I have been blessed to get a birthday card from Roger for the past 27 years. When I didn’t receive one this year I knew something was wrong. I googled his name. Roger was a great guy and a true friend. My thoughts & prayers are with the entire Concannon family and Roger’s friends. He will be missed! My heart is broken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *