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.