When Joseph Petrie ’61, of Norwood, Mass., attended the 50th anniversary of the King Edward Society, he looked forward to sharing memories with his former classmates. Thanks to the youngest of his four sons, author of a column in Masslive.com, stories of the society’s “good old days” also reached a few thousand readers. David Petrie unexpectedly—and reluctantly—found himself accompanying his parents to the Mass and reunion. The following is excerpted from his June 15, 2010 column.
All I could picture was a bunch of old men standing around with their wives talking about the good old days while I stole glances at my watch. “No, it’ll have been a long day,” I explained. “What time is the Mass? I can probably meet you for that and then I’ll want to head home.”
So that Saturday night I met my parents at Saint Anselm College. My father was returning to campus to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the King Edward Society, a charitable fraternity he had founded with a couple of classmates. I had forgotten to ask where the Mass was being held, but after a few wrong turns I found them in the sanctuary under the main chapel.
The Mass was well attended by young and old. The current batch of King Edward Society members all sat in the front pews in green blazers with gold insignias. Men my father’s age—and my age—warmly greeted each other and Fr. Mathias, who said the Mass, joked as if leading a locker room prayer. When he smiled and told everyone, “Don’t worry, this Mass counts for Sunday,” the sanctuary filled with cheers.
When the Mass ended my parents tried to convince me to go eat with them at a restaurant. They didn’t want me driving home on an empty stomach. Men kept interrupting us to introduce themselves to my father. Something told me I needed to go with them to the hockey rink where the banquet was scheduled to take place.
We walked into the Sullivan ice arena and carefully climbed down the steps to the floor of the rink. We took a seat at a round table away from the crowded and noisy bar. A slide show looped on a big screen, and my mother kept trying to point my father out in one of the old photos. “There you are, see?” she’d ask, and then his young face would disappear again.
As we sat I watched the rink fill. Men of all ages, some alone, some with their wives, streamed down the stands, reuniting with old friends.
There were men like Gerald Good, who graduated in 1981. He was president of the King Edward Society in his senior year. He owns a Dodge dealership in Weymouth, Mass., and his two sons attended Saint Anselm and both became members of the King Edward Society. His son Gerry graduated in 2009 and his son Sean was a sophomore. Gerry said, “The men I was fortunate enough to be involved with are still the greatest friends I have in this world. We can always count on each other when needed, even today.”
There were men like Walter Gallo, the former vice president of Saint Anselm College. For 35 years he was the moderator of the King Edward Society. He raised two sons who went to Saint Anselm and both became members. His son Walter graduated in 1983 and Geoffrey graduated in 1985.
There were men like Andrew Litz ’78, who is now the college’s associate dean of students. He works with current King Edward Society members, and every year coordinates the fraternity’s involvement with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
There were men like David Cosgrove ’95, who was elected president of the Society in his junior year. He’s now a principal member of a leadership training company. He met his wife at Saint Anselm. They live in Duxbury, Mass., with their three children.
And then there were young men like Ryan Turner ’10 from Charlton, Mass. He’s the outgoing president of the King Edward Society. He’s heading off to a career at EMC, just like Tom Cullen, from Quincy, who graduated in 2009. Tom’s father went to Saint Anselm, and yes, he was also a member.
The men of the King Edward Society have touched countless lives. They’ve pulled together food donations to create Thanksgiving baskets that they distributed to needy families—something my father told me he used to do with his father. They’ve become Big Brothers for at-risk children. When the economic downturn clobbered a local Catholic school these young men stepped in and supervised recess and ran extra-curricular activities so the teachers could focus on teaching and maybe get a break during the day.
When an elderly woman’s apartment caught fire they helped her move all the possessions she had left. Every fall, members drive around town looking for elderly residents who can’t rake the leaves and then they pull into the driveway and silently clear yards and lawns. They’ve coached youth basketball, coordinated dances for senior citizens, helped fellow students, and over the years, raised thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society.
And to think my father founded this group. As I sat next to him on the floor of that iceless hockey rink, my father was thrilled. Part of his excitement came from the distant memories of a group of students he pulled together to try to do some good. Part of it came from all the people, known and unknown, who stopped and thanked him for his work. Part of it came from me just being there. …At that moment he was one of the happiest men alive because I sat at his side. And I didn’t want to leave.