PETE’S FIGHT GOING STRONG
Year after false report of Frates’ demise, his name inspiring more good works
They say that when one door closes another one opens. Such was the scene, literally, at the Frates house last week.
It was Fourth of July morning, and so many peo- ple were coming and going — relatives, neighbors, friends — that their spacious Beverly home had a pleasantly cramped, happily noisy feel to it, turning this Fourth of July morning into a holiday all its own.
That old-timer just coming in from the pool? That would be Jerry D’Alfonso, father of Nancy Frates, grandfather of Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball captain-turned-internationally-known-ALS fighter.
That young man, just now leaving the house? That would be Justin Hannon, who joined the family when he married Pete’s cousin, Liz Cronin.
In a way, the celebration of our nation’s birthday is its own holiday for these people, given that it was on July 3, 2011, that Pete met Julie Kowalik, the woman who would become his wife and the mother of their daughter, Lucy, who turns 4 in August.
“This holiday means so much to Pete,” said John Frates, Pete’s dad. Because of that, he said, anyone with a connection to what is now known as Team Frate Train understands the significance of this time of year.
A year ago, however, a not-so-happy event took place on July 3. Just as family and friends will remember July 3, 2011, as the date Pete met Julie, they can’t un-remember what happened on July 3, 2017, when an erroneous tweet blared the news that Pete had died.
“On that July 3rd when we got that call, it’s forever cemented in our memory,” said John Frates.
It’s also cemented in his dreams.
“For whatever reason I woke up last week in the middle of the night and I kept looking at my phone, and I saw July 3,” he said. “And the memories kept coming back.”
“It’s such a special day but at the same time now there’s a little bit of a cloud to it,” said Andrew Frates, Pete’s younger brother. “You don’t know what’s going to happen on that day.”
For just as Pete had been admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital on the day before last year’s erroneous July 3 tweet, he was admitted to Mass General again on the day before the one-year anniversary. It was enough, John said, to have him wondering if the tweet announcing Pete’s death had the wrong year but the right day.
Given what this family has gone through since Pete’s diagnosis in 2012, emotions of this kind can be understood.
And yet another scary July 3rd led to a happy July 4th: Pete was able to return home. Hence the ballroom feel to the Frates place as everyone waited for news that Pete had busted out of MGH and was headed back to Beverly.
“Once again, Pete is responding so well to the medication,” John said.
“Once again, Pete comes home,” said Nancy.
And once again, Pete’s name continues to inspire good work: A group of determined neighbors is forging ahead with its grand scheme to overhaul a local playground and rename it ... Pete’s Park.
The playground, located between Middlebury Lane and Emerson Circle, was built as a complementary piece to the subdivision
where, in 1990, John and Nancy Frates built their dream house from the ground up. Pete and Andrew played at the park when they were kids, and, later, their older sister Jennifer helped staff it with counselors during the summer months while working as a parks and rec employee.
Now, with a new wave of children growing up in the neighborhood, comes a new wave of commitment to the playground.
“The park had been in disrepair because there was a period when there weren’t children in this neighborhood,” said Nancy. “It had become a haven for older teenagers to hang. Now there’s been a revitalization, and these young parents came to us. We had no knowledge they were planning this. They said they wanted to honor Pete by rebuilding the park.
“They wanted it to be a park for everyone,” she said. “That’s their line, not mine.”
Some of the funding has been derived from staging a road race, the Pete’s Park 5k, held in late October. The first race, there years ago, attracted more than 1,000 runners. In addition to traditional runners, athletic teams from Boston College, Endicott College, St. John’s Prep and Beverly High School have participated.
“It’s now the largest road race in Beverly history,” said John. “Last year there were 1,400 runners.”
“And it runs by the ocean,” said Nancy. “It’s a beautiful race.”
When Pete was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 he stunned his family by viewing it as “an opportunity.” As in an opportunity to do something.
Doing something led to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised millions of dollars for ALS research.
At the grassroots level, doing something inspired a bunch of neighborhood folks to clean up and trick out an old playground.
“You’re given a terminal diagnosis — who would look at this as an opportunity?” asked Nancy, still incredulous after six years. “But Pete did. Opportunity comes in many different costumes. I just happened to have a kid who looked at a terminal diagnosis as an opportunity — within six hours of being diagnosed.”
“This is almost the resurrection year for Pete,” said John Frates. “He’s lived a full year after being delivered (via Twitter) the news that he’s no longer with us.
“And today he’s coming home — again.”
A PLACE TO PLAY: John and Nancy Frates, parents of Pete Frates, stand at a neighborhood park in Beverly under redevelopment that will be named after their son.
‘OH, I’M STILL ALIVE’: Pete Frates in a 2017 video he posted on Twitter utilizing the Pearl Jam song ‘Alive’ to refute erroneous rumors of his death.
‘AN OPPORTUNITY’: At left, Nancy and Andrew Frates, mother and brother of Pete Frates, discuss Pete, seen above at the baseball Beanpot at Fenway Park in 2006 and below at a BC game after a ceremony in his honor at Fenway in 2017. Frates is seen bottom left relaunching the Ice Bucket Challenge with members of the Red Sox at Fenway in 2015.