I was 5 years old when my grandfather, Franics T. Bresnahan, died of colon cancer. I wish I had more memories of him. The few I do I hold close to my heart: listening to him read “The Night Before Christmas” to my cousins and me, dressed in our PJs on Christmas Eve; lining up before him so that he could type our lunch orders for McDonald’s on his rickety old typewriter; sitting on his lap watching the annual parade during Yankee Homecoming.
When I was young, I knew that my grandfather, whom we all called Grandpapa, worked for the schools in his beloved hometown of Newburyport. However, I never understood exactly what he did. I could barely pronounce the word “superintendent,” no less understand what kind of position it was. The year after my grandfather passed away, my mom explained to us that because of Grandpapa’s wonderful work for children in Newburyport, they were going to name a new school after him.
On the day of the dedication of the Belleville School, my brothers and I were dressed in new coats and outfits. I remember I wore a fancy white muff in lieu of gloves. Along with our 10 cousins, we unveiled the new Bresnahan School sign. I remember listening to my aunt speak, listening to many, many people speak about what a remarkable person and educator my Grandpapa was. I heard stories about his invigorating and much-anticipated first-day-of-school speeches; I heard stories about how he inspired teachers to continue to perfect their craft; but most commonly, I heard about how he always put the children of Newburyport first and foremost. I knew on that cold November day that someday, I too, would work in schools for children.
In the years that followed, my parents made the decision to transfer my older brother and me from the Immaculate Conception to the Bresnahan School. I will never forget walking into the Bres on my first day of first grade. There was a picture of my grandfather hanging in the front hall. Everyday of the next four years, I got to go to school with my Grandpapa beside me.