The Haverhill Gazette
---- — Terry O’Reilly can be counted among the best players who ever donned a Boston Bruins uniform.
Over a distinguished 20-year career, he scored more than 2,000 points, captained the squad and later coached, before having his jersey retired.
So why would such a hockey icon entrust his son to Haverhill’s Don Wilson when he could have had his pick of any NHL All-Star who joined the coaching ranks?
Because, you see, O’Reilly trusted his friend, had great respect for his ability, and liked the manner in which he developed players. Living in nearby Georgetown at the time certainly helped Terry with the arrangement.
On any given day, you’d find O’Reilly and Wilson working with Terry’s son Connor in a program called STARS. Together, they brought the joy of skating to people with special needs at the Haverhill rink. Wilson worked this program to the hilt for 20 years and two more coaching decades elsewhere.
Wilson earned the name “Mr. Hockey” for conducting clinics, coaching high schoolers at Haverhill High and Timberlane Regional High, and running camps locally and at Salem State College. Forty years of it, with no plans to hang up the skates.
Wilson was among three honorees to earn a Distinguished Citizen Award May 22 given by the Yankee Clipper Boy Scouts. He was joined by two other spirited recipients: Tim Jordan, a financial/insurance consultant, and Ann Regan Flynn, a family-driven auto dealer.
All three have given this city homage and respect with their golden deeds. As for the awards they received, each of them would have preferred being under the radar.
“I’m not much for all this attention,” noted Wilson. “I’m a background type of guy.”
For years, his name was gushed to the forefront by good friend Ted Xenakis, only to have Wilson beg off politely. Finally, Ted caught Don in a weak moment and made him reconsider.
The introductory honors fell to Peter Mills, who played and coached with his elder role model. It was a surefire hat trick that moved the 100-plus guests who had gathered. Seated at Don’s table was another hockey guru, Pep Wood. A knee replacement and subsequent stroke could not keep him away.
No need belaboring speeches, only to say the honor was long overdue. Don paid tribute to Cathy, his wife of 50 years, along with four children and seven grandchildren all living nearby. The only way Cathy could spend time with her husband was by visiting the rink.
What’s more, Don came up through the ranks of Scouting and applauded its every innuendo. He spoke from the heart, not a prepared script, regaling one story after another until it was time to give up the mike.
“Kids are not born bad — give them a chance and they’ll succeed,” he emphasized.
Like Wilson, Tim Jordan built up his own resume with community service and sports, whether it’s the Haverhill Y League, Riverside-Bradford Baseball or Haverhill Youth Soccer.
He does triathlons and cycling. This will be his fifth year participating in the Cycle for Shelter, a 100-mile charity ride which takes place each July.
A local boy who’s made good, Tim breathes Haverhill. As owner and operator of a financial and insurance enterprise, he is closely associated with Team Haverhill where he was deeply involved with the Essex Street Gateway Community Mural and the Art Walk.
Add to that the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Greater Haverhill Foundation and Sacred Hearts Parish Finance Committee. He and wife Lindsay of 14 years enjoy four children.
Regan Flynn remains another home-grown icon, taking over the Ford enterprise from her dad Frank Regan and building it into a venerable success story. She credits her mom as a role model — a businesswoman with great insight into management.
Philanthropy is also her niche outside the business. Ann’s been a staunch supporter of Tribute to Women, the Haverhill Boys & Girls Club, the Chamber of Commerce and her church. Her priority now is Merrimack Valley Hospice. She and husband Kenneth of 24 years are blessed with daughter Colleen.
Two other presenters deserve their share of applause, Elaine Barker and Dr. John Maddox, with their impeccable deliveries.
Stories like these manifest themselves accordingly. One does not have to elaborate about the merits of Scouting and the thousands who emanate from its ranks over time. I can only tell you what the Eagle rank did for my two sons.
Without sounding boastful, it opened the door of opportunity and gave them qualities you don’t always find in classrooms or a baseball diamond. And now, their own children are on the road to Eagle.
While we’re at it, let’s also give a cheer to Troop 1 for entering a second century of service. As for this testimonial, it was a happy 25th anniversary!
Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.