Radio Talk Show Host St. Pierre to be Inducted into Pawtucket Hall of Fame

Published in the Woonsocket Call on October 22, 2017

After 40 years, the life’s work of Ron St. Pierre, who grew up on Vine Street in Pawtucket’s Darlington section, has not only stood the test of time, for he has become a longtime fixture in the Rhode Island broadcast community. One of his most shining achievements was being inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. This Pawtucket native has certainly gone a long way in his broadcasting profession and its particularly rewarding to hear his local pride is still there, as he tells stories on-the-air about growing up here.

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame is extremely proud to welcome St. Pierre into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame, who will join 7 other award recipients on Friday October, 27, 2017 at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center beginning at 6 pm. This award is given to those individuals who have gone “above and beyond” in helping their community and/or have been a vehicle to shine a positive light on the city. This is a way of recognizing those pertinent and outstanding contributions.

A Four-Decade History of Achievements

Once he got into the broadcasting profession, St. Pierre turned his talents up to full throttle. During his time at Rhode Island College, he began to learn the ropes of TV production as a weekend cameraman for WJAR TV10 in Providence. He started his radio career at WNRI in Woonsocket in 1977 and never looked back. His first major position was as Program Director for 920 WHJJ AM from 1982 to 1988, now known as NewsRadio 920. He was also part of The WHJJ Morning Show at that time, eventually serving as Program Director for both 920 WHJJ AM and its sister station, 94 HJY FM during the last year of this tenure.

During his time at WHJJ, St Pierre literally helped revolutionize talk radio in Rhode Island in terms of listenership and ratings. He recruited then-mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci for his first stint as a talk-show host at this time, while working with other local radio stalwarts such as Steve Kass.

In his “spare” time, St. Pierre served as a weekend sports anchor for WPRI TV-12. During the early and mid 1990s, he managed several stations in Providence, before taking a series of management positions in West Palm Beach and New York City. He returned to Rhode Island radio in 1997. Now, he began with a highly successful on-air and program-management tenure at WPRO 630 AM, again enabling his chosen station to rise to the apex of listenership and ratings in our state’s highly competitive radio market. The station’s hosts at that time included the legendary Salty Brine, along with the return of Buddy Cianci to the airwaves — with whom he co-hosted a highly successful afternoon drive-time show.

Fittingly, Ron St. Pierre’s career has now come full circle as a popular morning-drive host at NewsRadio 920 (formerly 920 WHJJ). His unassuming, authentic style and natural quick-wit are enjoyed daily by a wide expanse of radio listeners in Rhode Island and neighboring Southeastern New England.

The early genesis of a creative spirit

Anyone who knew Ron St. Pierre back at Pawtucket-based Saint Raphael Academy was pretty sure that he would in up in the broadcasting business. It would also most likely be in front of a microphone — where his personality, wit and intelligence could take him quite far.

“In his high school yearbook profile, at St. Raphael Academy in 1973, Ron said his life’s goal was to become a sportscaster. So a career in broadcast was always in his mind. But he opened it up a lot wider than any of us could imagine,” says Ron Fournier, an advertising copywriter and musician who’s known the WHJJ talk show host for over 40 years.

During high school and college days, St. Pierre was already working magic with his reel-to-reel tape recorder. He would create uproariously funny audio bits, in the style of the classic National Lampoon and Firesign Theatre albums at that time. He was already setting himself up to be a voice talent and producer back then.

“Ron is a virtual encyclopedia of comedy who’s studied all the greats — from the Marx Brothers to the present day,” Fournier adds. “That’s where his quick wit comes from. On the air, you never know what kind of quip or one-liner is coming next. But you know it’ll be a classic in his trademark. tongue-in-cheek style of humor.”

St. Pierre now lives now in East Greenwich with his wife, Patti, and their dog, Hazel.

Announcing the 2017 Pawtucket Hall of Fame Inductees

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame cordially invites the public attend its annual Pawtucket Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony on Friday, October 27, 2017 beginning at 6pm (reception), 7pm (dinner) at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket, RI. Tickets may be purchased at the Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI, open 7 days a week from 10-4pm. Our Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Anchor/Reporter, Alison Bologna from WJAR NBC10.

This year’s 2017 Pawtucket Hall of Fame Inductees are: (civic activist) Janina “Jean” Babiec; (American film director) Kevin Lima; (the late) coach and coordinator Robert K. Neill, Sr.; and (legendary Rhode Island radio broadcaster) Ron St. Pierre. Also, being recognized this year as “historical inductees” are (the late) Dr. Ellen R. Jolly and (the late) Edwin Darling. In addition to these inductions, the tradition of presenting the “Person of the Year” award, which began three years ago as a special award given to recognize the person(s) the committee believes has made an outstanding contribution over the past year will be shared by two recipients this year: Mayor Donald R. Grebien, City of Pawtucket and Adrienne Marchetti, Director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen.

Tickets are $45.00 per person (cash or check only) and must be purchased in advance. Tables of (10) may be purchased to accommodate a group or family, and should be purchased early and as available. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Tickets may be purchased at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, 175 Main St., Pawtucket, RI – open 7 days a week from 10-4pm. Checks should be made payable to: Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee.

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization established in 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pawtucket as a city. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor the contributions of people whose efforts, in any line of endeavor, have added to the heritage of the City of Pawtucket.

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Duffy’s Legacy as Coach and Educator Lives On

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 7, 2014

            One of Rhode Island’s “Greatest Generation,” Pawtucket native Tom Duffy, passed away on Feb. 2, leaving behind a legacy in the Ocean State’s College sports world.  As a life-long educator, who now resides in Little Compton, he inspired and personally touched the lives of tens of thousands of Pawtucket students, as a teacher and educational administrator, when he worked in the Pawtucket school system.

            Duffy’s , (the son of the late Thomas L. Duffy and Mary (Kennedy) Duffy), educational ties to Pawtucket began early in his life. He attended St. Joseph’s School, later graduating in 1942 from St. Raphael Academy.  During high school, the young man’s leadership skills became quite visible to all when he was elected class president and became captain of the school’s 1942 Class B championship basket ball team.

            Once graduating, like many of his generation, Duffy enlisted in the United States Army (from 1942 to 1946), serving as a water purification engineer in the Philippines campaign.  As luck would have it, he fell into playing basketball for the U.S. Army basketball team.  “.  As his daughter, Barbara A. Duffy-Protentis, remembers, he would say, “I never got shot at, I got fouled a lot.”

             After his honorable discharge from military service, he would attend St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire, receiving his Bachelors Degree.  Later on, he completed a Masters in Education degree from Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

            Duffy’s professional journey, as a teacher, basketball coach and principal in the Pawtucket School System, began in 1950, where he drew Sayles Junior High for his first teaching assignment.  Leaving the City in 1956 to teach English at Warren High School, he also served at this school as assistant basketball coach for three years and head coach for one year.

            In 1960, Duffy, returned to Pawtucket, serving as guidance counselor at Jenks Junior High for seven years.  Then, for thirteen years (two as assistant principal and 11 as principal) he was at Slater Junior High School.  At age 56. as principal he took the reins of the former Pawtucket West High School (now called Shea) for three years, where he also served as the baseball coach for two seasons.   Turning fifty nine years old, he had a cerebral aneurysm, forcing him to ultimately retire two years later from teaching the public school.   His love for teaching would bring him out of retirement to be the Assistant Principal at St. Teresa’s School in Pawtucket for the remainder of his career.

            Later, Duffy was inducted into the Bryant University Hall of Fame and the City of Pawtucket Hall of Fame. He served as chairman of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Association and Chairman of Pawtucket’s Centennial Committee.  For several years, Duffy also served as the Chairman of the Rhode Island Secondary Principal’s Association.

Inductee in Pawtucket’s Hall of Fame

             Duffy’s passion for teaching and his impact on students was captured in the 2000 Pawtucket Hall of Fame program where he was inducted into this prestigious group:

             “Tom’s thoughts and actions always had the basic theme. Is it good for the kids?”  But, words from former students and fellow educators best describe him, notes the program: “He was principal and number one cheerleader for Slater.” “He turned a school (Slater) around from a so-called tough school to one that had a positive attitude, strong academics and a wide range of extra curricular activities.”

             “Tom was known as an administrator that teachers knew they could go to for extra materials or to add a new club or to fundraise for projects.  Tom’s theory was if it’s for the students then I’m for it.  He truly lived the motto of Slater – loyalty, perseverance and cooperation.”

One of the Greatest Coaches

            From 1962 to 1969, Duffy would take on new professional challenges while teaching in Pawtucket School System.  He became head basketball coach at Bryant University.  His teaching skills would translate well to the basket ball court with his basketball players breaking all records.

             According to Bryant University’s athletic department, “Tom Duffy was one of the greatest coaches in the school’s history, serving as the men’s basketball coach from 1964-68, going 70-22 during that time period for a .760 winning percentage that still stands as the best in the school history.

            The University’s athletic department noted that among Duffy’s many sports achievements was a 1966-67 team that went undefeated in the regular season and set the school record for wins in a season with 22.  This winning streak earned the squad a place in the Bryant Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.  Duffy’s team was considered to be one of the best small university basketball ball teams nationally, even capturing the Naismith Conference Championship and advanced to the NAIA District 32 National Tournament.

            Furthermore, in addition to the induction of the team itself, four members of the unit would see themselves inducted as individuals, including all-time scoring leader Tom Smile, Don Gray, Tony DeQuattro and even Duffy himself.

            “Tom was a great coach, a great mentor to numerous Bryant basketball players, had a great sense of humor and, above all, was a great family man, stated Mike Fisher, Bryant University Chairman of the Board and a member of the Hall of Fame 1966-67 team. “He was a very important part of building the foundation for Bryant’s many years of successful men’s basketball.

            In 1967, the Rhode Island Association of Sportswriters and Sportscasters, named Duffy the “coach of the year.” This marked the first time a Bryant coach had received this prestigious honor.  One year later, he chose to step down as the University’s head basketball coach, choosing to continue to teach in Pawtucket’s public schools rather than taking on a full-time position as Athletic Director and basketball coach.

 Remembering Father

             Barbara A. Duffy-Protentis, 55,  remembers her father as being “the most godly human I knew.”  While he put his family first, he never forgot others.  “He spent his entire professional life doing things for people,” said the resident of Easton, Massachusetts.

             After Duffy’s death, Protentis noted that she found a letter in her father’s personal papers that he had saved for 36 years.  The young student, living in a bad home environment, wrote to thank him for constantly checking in every day to “see how she was doing.”  She also noted his prediction was correct, that she ultimately became the only person in her family to make it.  “You will never know the impact you had on me.  I went to College and because of you I became a teacher,” she said.

             “The best thing he instilled in his children was “we are put on this earth to help others,”  adds Protentis.  This philosophy ultimately drove her younger sister, Mary, into the teaching profession and Protentis entered a field to assist at risk 14 to 22 year olds.

            Mary Tetzner, 54, (married to Ed Tetzner, an official of the Doyle Administration) recalls how her father and mother took in young students from bad home situations, to live with them.  In one instance, Duffy bought a young girl a prom dress because her family was unable to purchase one.  No one knew except the Duffy’s and the girl, says the Greenville resident.

            Even in his final days, Duffy remained a teacher.  At the Rhode Island Veterans Home, he tutored employees, helping them get through their GED courses.  “Even though he was not in a class room he was always a teacher,” notes Tetzner.

            Duffy was married to his wife, Barbara (Molloy) Duffy, a former school nurse, for over 59 years.  After three weeks of dating, he proposed to her and later married. He leaves two daughters (Protentis and Tetzner) and grandchildren, Elizabeth (Tetzner) Shactel, Thomas Tetzner, Sam Duffy-Protentis, Alexis Duffy-Protentis, Nicole Duffy-Protentis, Jack Duffy-Protentis and his great-grandson, Benjamin Shactel.

            Duffy’s funeral is scheduled for tomorrow, Feb. 8, 2014 at 9:00 am, at the MANNING-HEFFERN FUNERAL HOME, 68 Broadway, Pawtucket. There will be a Mass of Christian Burial in St. Teresa’s Church, 358 Newport Avenue, Pawtucket at 10:00 am. His calling hours will be Friday from 4-8 pm in the funeral home.

            Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, medical and health care issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Pawtucket to Celebrate its Own

Published October 11, 2012, Pawtucket Times  

            Making a difference in your community can be as simple as helping a family member, neighbor or friend who are in need of a little assistance.  Those simple acts of kindness can have far reaching effects that are not always obvious  – whether it be shoveling a side walk for a neighbor, donating canned goods to feed the needy, or volunteering for a nonprofit or civic group, are some examples of giving of ones self.     

             But some Pawtucket residents (or even former one’s, too) excel in their motivation to “go the extra mile” to making a positive impact on their beloved Pawtucket community. Enhancing their home town to strengthen its social fabric becomes their life’s mission.   Founded in 1986 to commemorate the City of Pawtucket’s 100th Anniversary, today the Pawtucket Hall of Fame has recognized 98 inductees, that include 18 historical figures, who have made an extremely positive impact in the Birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.  In two weeks, the following five inductees will join their ranks, to be recognized by the City’s Pawtucket Hall of Committee for 2012:

 A Voice for the Voiceless

             Semi-retired businessman and philanthropist Paul Audette brings his love for the City of Pawtucket with his detailed historical knowledge of the community, combined with 50 years of work experience. “He comes to the aide of those in need”, notes Patty Zacks, who nominated this 83 year old inductee.  “He never wants or expects to be recognized for his help,” Zacks adds. 

             “His actions [to help] are led by his heart and done for the right reasons,” says Zacks,  who believes that he has oftentimes been the ‘glue” that help keeps this community working together.

             Mayor Donald R. Grebien, notes “He is a self-described ombudsman for the City and has worked in many instances to insure that a potential new business can navigate its way through the “red tape” to become a successful Pawtucket business.

             Former President of the Pawtucket Rotary Club, Colin Murray, also recognized Audette’s efforts to help others.  “Because of his determination for making Pawtucket a better place to live and work, the Pawtucket Rotary Club awarded him the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest civic recognition that the civic group bestows upon a individual,” he said.

              According to Murray, Audette has been an advocate for the “voiceless” and has served as a volunteer ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care, was Chair of the City’s Affirmative Action Committee, and worked for decades assisting the down and out in the community, providing financial assistance and helping them navigate the State’s regulatory process.  Audette, a Pawtucket Rotarian, exemplifies the Rotary International’s motto, “Service Above Self,” Murray says.

         Murray adds that since 2006, as co-founder of a nonprofit group, Helping Hands, Audette has continued assistance to local organizations that help at-risk Pawtucket youth, the homeless, and the helpless.  Organizations receiving assistance include Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army and the American Cancer Society.

Bringing Winter Wonders to Pawtucket

            Janice McHale and her good friend, Jean Stipek, of Pawtucket, will also become 2012 inductees into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame.

            Pawtucket resident Dawn P. Goff, who chairs the Winter Wonderland Committee, recognizes McHale and Stipek, for creating Pawtucket’s premier winter event. After experiencing a winter festival in California, McHale and Stipek presented their idea to Mayor James E. Doyle, who gave them the “green light” to organize a “Winter Wonderland” in Pawtucket. 

            For over a decade these two Pawtucket residents directed the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers.  Goff noted that last year, Winter Wonderland turned 13-years-old, showcasing 425 lighted Christmas trees, along with 20 Victorian Houses sponsored by local businesses along with a number of lighted displays.  The two December weekends were jam-packed with festive holiday entertainment, Goff says.

            Winter Wonderland, drawing thousands of Rhode Islanders into Slater Park each December,  began with “two people who had a vision in 1999”,  Goff adds.

            Besides her activities with Winter Wonderland, McHale has served on the Pawtucket Riverfront Commission, the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission, in addition to the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick Day Parade in 2000.    

America’s Legendary Jockey

            John “Red” Pollard rode into American history while overcoming physical disabilities, such as partial blindness in one eye and worked with intense physical pain caused by severe riding injuries that fractured his bones.  The man who rode Seabiscuit, humbly accepted his role in racing history.   As noted by local horse trainer, Nino Calabro “Red had a way with the horses..”. And Seabiscut was considered to be one of  America’s most recognized thoroughbred racehorses in the nation’s history.

             Attorney John J. Partridge who nominated the late Pollard, says “It is not often we can honor someone who lived a relatively quiet life while as a resident of Pawtucket, but was internationally acclaimed and twice memorialized in motion pictures, and more recently in a best-selling book [on the Times bestsellers list for a total of 42 weeks].”  Pollard, who in his later years resided at 249 Vine Street in Darlington with his wife Agnes, raised their two children, Norah and John in Pawtucket and worked at the Narragansett Race Track.  Today, Red and his wife Agnes’ final resting place is in the City’s Notre DameCemetery.

             Supporting this nomination, Mayor Grebien noted, “Between August 1936 and March 1940, Pollard rode Seabiscuit 30 times, winning 18 races including his final start in March 1940, the year the horse and rider won the San Anita Handicap and Seabiscuit was the nation’s top money-winning thoroughbred.”

             According to Mayor Grebien, Pollard was “an outstanding athlete himself in a very demanding sport, and mentored countless young jockeys who rode at Narragansett Race Track.”  He often provided shelter and a hot meal to many of the young jockey’s who needed a hand as they aspired to what Pollard had achieved as one of horse racing’s all-time best jockeys.”

          A  native of Alberta, Canada, Pollard was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1982, says Tom Cosgrove, Archivist. “His name will be forever linked to the days when thoroughbred racing, boxing, and baseball were the only sports in America that truly mattered,” states Cosgrove.  

             Terence J. Meyocks, of the Nicholasville, Kentucky-based Jockeys Guild, says that Pollard “holds a special place in Jockey’s Guild history because he was one of the founding fathers of the Guild in 1940.  He joined other leading jockey’s at the time including Eddie Arcaro, John Longden and Charles Kurtsinger, to create the Guild, which represents the health and safety interests of jockeys everywhere.”

 Unsung Civil War Hero

             Finally, Pawtucket resident, Dale Rogers, nominated Lt. Colonel Henry Harrison Young, who becomes this years’ Historical Inductee.  “Young distinguished himself and his unit throughout the war by furnishing excellent intelligence on Confederate troop movements and by oftentimes even donning Confederate uniforms to either kidnap southern soldiers or gather valuable information for General Sheridan. 

             According to Roger’s,  the Civil War veteran was dispatched at the war’s end to the Texas border to round up Confederate renegades who were making raids, where he lost his life in an ambush while crossing the Rio Grande River.  A statute was dedicated to this Pawtucket resident at BurnsidePark in Providence, (across from the Biltmore, near the skating rink), for his heroics.

             The Pawtucket Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, October 26th at 7:00pm. at the LeFoyer Club on 151 Fountain Street.  To purchase tickets ($30 each)  please call Rick Goldstein, at (401) 728-0500, Ext. 348. 

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.