St. John’s, Bishop Brady alumni work to merge histories of two schools

  • The 1946 St. John’s basketball team. Courtesy of the Concord Historical Society

Monitor staff
Published: 6/15/2016 11:40:01 PM

In 1964, St. John’s basketball fans in Concord flocked to cheer for their hometown boys, as they had been doing for years.

But that season, the team had a new name: the Jolly Green Giants.

For the past 30 years, fans had cheered for the Fighting Irish of St. John’s High School. But in the fall of 1963, Bishop Brady High School opened its doors – a regional school, built to consolidate all the small-town Catholic high schools in the area.

At the new facility, former St. John’s students from Concord were joined by classmates from Laconia, Suncook, Tilton and a number of other nearby towns.

“Without those busloads of kids from all over, the schools couldn’t have survived,” said Christine Gaunt, a 1969 Brady graduate and vice president of the school’s alumni committee.

Bishop Brady inherited a number of attributes from St. John’s, including the old school’s motto, colors, many of its teachers and the basketball coach – Tom Hardiman, a 1947 St. John’s grad who led the first-ever Brady team to a state championship.

“For the first year at the new school, it couldn’t have been better,” Hardiman said. “The team – whatever nickname you want to call it – had one of the best basketball seasons the school has ever seen.”

John Donovan, a member of Bishop Brady’s first graduating class, used Shakespeare’s words to describe the move from St. John’s to BBHS: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

“We loved the old building, which had maybe five classrooms and a chemistry lab. The desks were from the 1930s,” he said. “Being able to finally get into a first-class building that had everything finally allowed us to see the school prosper and be what we’d always thought it could be.”

Others viewed the switch with more resentment, said Eileen Tormey, a 1965 Brady grad who left St. John’s after her sophomore year.

“There was a lot that felt lost without the old school,” she said. “It was a financial decision to make Brady a regional school, and I understand that now. But at the time, we were upset.”

Tormey said many St. John’s alumni do not identify with Bishop Brady, creating a sense of separation between the two schools in the years since the move.

However, two years ago at Bishop Brady’s 50th Jubilee Celebration, a small exhibit at the school caught the attention of many St. John’s and BBHS grads alike: a collection of photos and stories showcasing the schools’ military veterans.

“It was the catalyst, in terms of bringing the two schools together,” Tormey said. “That era, there were a lot of veterans. That’s a commonality for people to come together.”

Collectively, the two schools have 512 veterans, including nine who were killed in action and one prisoner of war.

Recognizing a need to honor their vets, the alumni committee drew up plans for a 6-by-10 mural for the school’s wall – a giant American flag overlaid with small plaques showing the name and graduating year of alumni who served in the military.

Hardiman, who was in the service from 1951 to 1953, said the memorial would be a nice tribute to all those who made sacrifices for their country – in the past, present and future.

“What it means is that somebody remembers us,” he said. “A lot of times, the veterans are forgotten . . . but they really deserve being remembered.”

The committee is in the fundraising process, looking to gather $6,000 in donations. It hope to raise enough money to unveil the mural at the school’s annual Veterans Day breakfast in November.

And hopefully, Gaunt said, the mural will help rebuild the connection between Bishop Brady and its predecessor. After all, for many, the schools are a source of community and family – even after all these years.

“All of us got such a good foundation here, and that carries over into your life,” said Kathy Woodfin, a 1982 BBHS graduate and president of the alumni committee.

Tormey credits the nuns with creating that strong communal foundation.

“They really gave us a real core community. And it’s sustained me in different stages of my life. That’s why I give back,” she said.

John Forrestall, a member of St. John’s last graduating class, said he keeps up with many of his high school classmates to this day.

“The school, the tradition – now at Brady, too – it’s something special,” he said.

For Bill Hardiman, the former basketball coach’s son, Bishop Brady has always been about family.

“My father, his sister and two brothers all graduated from St. John’s,” he said. “I’m the oldest of six kids – we all graduated from Brady. I met my wife at Brady. My son went to Brady.”

And maybe someday, the 1972 graduate said, his grandsons will keep the tradition alive.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “I love it.”

For more information

To donate to Bishop Brady’s Alumni Veteran Wall or for more details, visit bishopbrady.edu/veterans.

(Katie Galioto can be reached at 369-3302, kgalioto@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @katiegalioto.)




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