I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been coming to an understanding recently that I left my heart in … Newport, New Hampshire.
That’s my hometown, a place where I experienced Little League, best friends, learning to drive, succeeding at school, failing at love, a broken nose by way of a fistfight, a broken tooth by way of a BB-gun, Village Pizza, all-day golf marathons, roller skating at The Barn, the joy of Swedish fish, “Fireball” with the Bates family, Grinders with the Coronis family, ball-tag with the Applebee family, Intellivision with the Guenette family, parties with the Radford family, and everything else with the Spanos family.
I got out of town soon after high school, and I return too infrequently, but even though I seem to know fewer and fewer people each time I’m there, it’s home. It really is home.
The occasion on Monday was the wake, Tuesday the funeral, of one of the town’s giant figures, John Coronis, Navy Veteran, benefactor, community builder. He is a man who made me feel as though I could handle responsibility even when I probably couldn’t, giving me a job at his store, the legendary Coronis Market, at a time in my life when I desperately needed to be part of exactly that sort of community. He taught me how to shoot pool, wrap a Grinder, read the stock charts, break down a cardboard box, and love with fierce loyalty. He was as much the heart and soul of the town as anyone, and his son Brian now ably carries that torch.
It was being in Newport, among that extended family, that prompted me to be there later today for another occasion — Hoops For Heroes foul shot No. 250,000, a quarter of the way there, at the Towle School. PJ Lovely, a former schoolmate who is now the recreation director, pied piper and all-around amazing human being, arranged for the gym on very short notice.
So, following 1,200 made free throws on Monday, 1,500 on Tuesday, 1,200 last night and 1,293 this morning, there are 100 made shots left to the quarter-million mark. That means I’m going to score 100 points at the Towle gym today, which I can assure you is more than I scored in my varsity basketball career on that very floor.
To say I was “mediocre” might be an overstatement. To say I was a “defensive specialist” would be diplomatic.
Anyway, there’s no place I’d rather be for the milestone than Newport, the home from which I left quickly but return lovingly.
For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.
A whole lot of family.