Year af­ter false re­port of Frates’ demise, his name in­spir­ing more good works

Boston Herald - - NEWS - Steve BUCK­LEY

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.



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