Give Another Hoiah!

By John W. Gearan
Holy Cross Magazine

Fresh out of Springfield College, Jackie Moriarty grappled with the uncertainties of life. He had always hustled about doing odd jobs, from soda jerk on up, to make a buck and to complete his pay-as-you-go education. At 26, the late-bloomer now stood at a personal crossroads in his hometown of Worcester, wondering which way to go. All he knew for sure was that he needed a full-time job.

In 1971 “networking” wasn’t as lickety-split as logging onto a job search site and e-mailing résumés to potential employers. Moriarty’s résumé could be only understood with a handshake, by feeling the calluses on his hand. His references were guys like himself who were no strangers to hard work or sweat.

One autumnal day, Jackie’s father, John Moriarty, was tending bar at the White House restaurant when Jackie Scott came in for a libation after work. Scott, an assistant trainer/equipment manager at Holy Cross, lived in the same Main South neighborhood where he had performed as a Hall of Fame football lineman at St. Peter’s High. Back then, his dad, Skitchy Scott, ran a popular diner on Pleasant Street.

“What’s Jackie doing?’’ Scott inquired.

“He just graduated from college in Phys. Ed.; he’s been substitute teaching,’’ John Moriarty replied proudly. “Looking for a full-time job.”

Scott didn’t miss a beat. “Would he be interested in helping me handle the equipment up at Holy Cross?’’ Moriarty nodded yes. “Tell Jackie to come up and see me,” Scott said.

The next day, Jackie Moriarty arrived at the Holy Cross fieldhouse and started working. No interviews. No résumés. No vetting by any personnel department. No checking to see if he even graduated from Springfield. No need. He had the recommendation of Jackie Scott. And Scott had a solemn promise from Moriarty that he would never let him or Holy Cross down. Jackie Moriarty stayed 38 years, serving as head trainer and head equipment manager and everything in between, until retiring this past June.

Today Jackie Moriarty and the late Jackie Scott reside together in the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame. Not for scoring points, but for uncomplaining labor, unwavering loyalty and a dedication to helping everyone they could.

*****

As it has been for many local kids, Moriarty’s love for Holy Cross just seemed a natural part of growing up in the shadows of Mount St. James.

He recalls hiking up to Crusader football practices with his pal Tommy Quinn, who lived next door to him on markedly unposh Kilby Street, and going to baseball and football games at Fitton Field—and slipping into basketball games through side doors at the Worcester Auditorium.

He and Tommy became excellent athletes at St. Peter’s High, Tommy as a hoop star and Jackie as a fireplug running back. His football coach was Crusader immortal Jim “Bubba” Healy ’59, a man Jackie idolized.

Moriarty learned the art of athletic training on the job, from Scott and team doctors like James Walsh, M.D., ’52, Phil Lahey, M.D., ’69 and others. Scott offered him one bit of valuable advice: “Take care of the students and take care of the Jesuits and you’ll be here a long time.”

Hard work is part of his DNA. Traveling everywhere with the Crusader teams, Moriarty spent countless hours taping ankles, rubbing strained muscles, nursing cuts and contusions, transporting the wounded, collecting and cleaning uniforms, getting equipment repaired and loading buses with the armaments of athletic warfare. He watched Holy Cross athletics explode to 27 varsity sports and dealt with all the changes. It was a common sight to see him sweating profusely as he scampered about, operating whirlpools, cleaning out lockers, lugging gear and running errands well outside his job description.

Yet the larger part of his job involved quietly counseling the players, encouraging them not to give up on themselves and advising them on how to endure the psychological bruisings they suffered.

Sometimes it was a simple “hang in there” as he massaged a badly swollen foot; at other times, he would serve as a father confessor. Student-athletes trusted him, confiding their feelings and even their secrets. Behind the scenes he would discreetly arrange proper help for a young person in trouble.

*****

For four decades, the man affectionately known to all as “Jackie Mo” opened his heart and mind to young men and women. And they never forgot, seeking him out whenever they returned to campus, just to see that special smile Jackie Mo always wears.

After this season’s Harvard victory, family and friends crowded the Hogan Center for a special reception for him.

“We were flooded with e-mails from others who couldn’t make it,” says Linda George, his dear friend and assistant business manager for athletics. “He never uttered a bad word about anyone. He worked from dawn to midnight. Everyone loves Jackie Mo.”

Former players and friends came from all over and from every era, including Joe Kelleher ’77, from California; Chucky “Moon” Mullen ’78, from Texas; Rose Scott (Jackie Scott’s widow) and their daughter, Rosemary ’86; longtime athletic director Ron Perry ’54; Art Andreoli ’58 and sons; Heisman Trophy finalist Gordie Lockbaum ’88; first team All America Johnny Provost ’75 and, of course, Tommy Quinn, still Moriarty’s best pal after all these years.

Stories flowed as did tears, mostly of laughter. Jackie likes to tell a charming story about Provost, a sensational defensive back. “He was special. Always coming through—a runback, an interception, something when you needed it most,” Moriarty recalls. “But on his first away trip, we gave him a little initiation. On our way to somewhere, we stopped at a high school field to practice and had to change into our warm-ups on the bus.”

As the story went on, Jackie Mo explained how Provost began complaining. “What kind of operation is this? ... No locker room to change in. I suppose we’ll have to dress in the hotel room for the game,” he carped. Deadpan, Jackie Scott calmly replied, “Yup, that’s how we do it here.” The hook is set. Provost’s road roomie, Paul Picarski ’75, played along with the joke.

The next morning, on game day, the team assembled in the hotel lobby, nattily attired in suit coats and ties waiting for team bus. Down the staircase trudged rookie Provost ... dressed in full uniform! The team roared a collective razz. Provost had been punked.

*****

Despite Moriarty’s tireless devotion and his no punch-clock 80-hour work weeks, Holy Cross is only his second family. Through it all, Jackie and Kate Moriarty raised eight children. After Chris and Scott were born, the couple adopted six more children: Jana, Ana, Amanda, then three siblings, Matthew, Joshua and Laura. Chris ’98 and Ana ’03, are Holy Cross grads. In 1993, Jackie and Kate were honored as Adoptive Parents of the Year by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. “Kate is my greatest blessing,’’ says Moriarty of his wife of 35 years (and fellow St. Peter’s High graduate). In February, they are expecting their seventh grandchild, who will not be named John, but Jack.

To keep financially afloat and enjoy the family’s summer cottage on Cape Cod, Moriarty has always worked another job, as a driver delivering the morning newspaper for The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. His old pal Tom Quinn, a Telegram transportation supervisor, got him the job 30 years ago; now 65, he still works the nine-to-three shift as a route coordinator.

These days, Jackie Mo can be seen walking around campus, his daily exercise ritual. And, as always, he can be found kneeling at noontime Mass in St. Joseph’s Chapel, giving thanks for his family and his memorable times serving others at Holy Cross and elsewhere.

Jackie Moriarty is a humble, good-natured man with a simple credo, to comfort those in need. Ann Ash Zelesky, associate athletic director, sums him up nicely in one word, “irreplaceable.”

“He is one of a kind,” Zelesky continues. “Jackie would be here at six in the morning and until 10 at night. He’s our Jack of all trades, always having something positive to say, a man who brightens up everyone’s day.”

Home or away, there will never be another Jackie Mo

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

John W. Gearan, was an award-winning reporter and columnist at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette for 36 years. He resides in Woonsocket, R.I., with his wife, Karen Maguire, and their daughter, Molly.