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Farewell to Mike Pappas (The Golden Greek)

December 29, 2011

By TERRY NAU sports@pawtuckettimes.com
PAWTUCKET — Mike Pappas, who helped build the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club into an organization that profoundly impacts the lives of youngsters throughout this city, passed away early Thursday morning at the age of 86.
Pappas, a World War II veteran, began working at the former Boys Club facility on East Avenue in 1949, joining the staff as a physical education instructor. He moved up the ladder and succeeded Phil Geiger as Executive Director in 1964, serving in that position until his retirement in 1989.
“For me, Mike was a mentor and a friend whose life was dedicated to the kids and families of Pawtucket,” said Jim Hoyt, Executive Director of the club. “Mike helped create change in the club. He impacted thousands of lives over the years. Mike was very open to people and had an outgoing personality.
“Mike was the face of the club for many years,” Hoyt added. “His life just epitomizes the kind of work that is done here. We named the facility on School Street after Mike. It is called the ‘Mike Pappas Complex’ in his honor.”
Pappas first came to the Boys Club as a youngster back in the Depression Era of the 1930s. He recalled those days in an interview last December.
“My mother and father had eight children and they raised us in a three-story tenement house at 355 East Avenue,” Pappas said last year. “We lived on the third floor. We could walk out of our house and head to the old Boys Club building downtown. It cost 50 cents to join and if you didn’t have the money, they let you fold towels to become a member. No kid was ever turned away.”
During World War II, Pappas was stationed in the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast after they had been taken back from the Japanese. At the suggestion of his commanding officer, Mike “volunteered” to serve as physical education director at his base, an experience that would lead to his life’s work after the war ended.
Pappas returned to Pawtucket following the war and went to work for Collyer Wire. Always interested in sports, he became a member of the traveling Pawtucket Hobos basketball team, where he played hoops with good friend George Patrick Duffy.
“I’ve known Mike since he was 10 years old,” Duffy, now 92, said. “It’s a sad day today for everyone who knew Mike.”
Pappas began casting his spell around the city in the late 1940s, making friends and contacts through the force of his outgoing personality.
“One day, I got a call from Phil Geiger,” Pappas recalled. “He knew the kind of work I had done in the Army and hired me as a physical education instructor. I took the job and never left the Boys Club. I enjoyed my work, seeing the kids at the club grow up into men over the years. I also enjoyed working with the people on our Board of Directors, great men like Ned Barlow who gave back so much to the community.”
Pappas became a familiar face at Pawtucket Country Club, where he played golf and enlivened the atmosphere with his anecdotes and connections to the professional sports world.
“Mike brought Ted Williams to our club to play a round of golf in 1976,” long-time caddy master Jim Tanner was saying on Thursday morning. “Ted didn’t want anyone to know he was coming. It was a big secret to most of the members. Ted didn’t have golf clubs so we gave him Bill Harty’s clubs. Bill was lefthanded, just like Ted.”
Pappas would head south to spring training almost every March, often in the company of Pawtucket Times sports editor Ted Mulcahey. He became friends with many Red Sox players and officials, often inviting them to the Boys Club’s biggest fundraiser, its annual golf tournament at Pawtucket Country Club. Former Red Sox third baseman Frank Malzone always came to play golf and chat with his friends from Pawtucket.
“Mike seemed to know everyone,” Jim Tanner said with a chuckle. “We called him ‘America’s Guest’ because he was so popular with people. Golf to him was more of a social game than a competition. Mike just liked to be around people.”
Pappas, who in his prime years worked from early morning to late in the evening, took on public address duties at McCoy Stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox in the early 1970s, spending a decade behind the microphone. This job became another social vehicle for the “Golden Greek,” as he was known to all of his friends.
Pappas and Mulcahey helped smooth the transition for new PawSox owner Ben Mondor and his young assistant, Mike Tamburro, when they began to remake the franchise in 1977.
“I was working ‘The Longest Game’ at McCoy Stadium in April of 1981,” Pappas said last year, telling one of his favorite stories. “The game was played on the night before Easter. Being a Greek Orthodox Church member, I had to leave the game for Midnight Mass. My good friend Jim Murphy had given me a ride to the game. I asked him to take me to church. The game was still going on, in about the 15th inning, when we left. Jim went home after he dropped me off. “The next morning, Jim wakes me up with a phone call, telling me the game had gone 32 innings and it was suspended with the score still tied. Jim loved baseball so much. He wanted to kill me for taking him away from such a historic game.”
Between work at the Boys Club, golf outings at Pawtucket C.C., and his duties with the PawSox, Mike Pappas became the face of more than just the Boys Club. He turned into one of the city’s most prominent citizens, working on the Board of the Redevelopment Agency in the 1970s. A decade later, he would become one of the earliest selections for Pawtucket’s new Hall of Fame.
Still, he had plenty of time for his wife of 62 years, Enid, who survives. Son Gregg went to work at the Boys Club and spent many years working with his father before succeeding him in 1989.
“I thank God I am still here, ready to spend Christmas with my family,” Pappas said last year after surviving a heart ailment that almost killed him. “Enid and I have two children (Gregg and Pam), five grandchildren and two (now three) great-grandchildren. This year we lost Ben Mondor, Ned Barlow and Walt Dropo. It is tough to lose your old friends.”
And now Mike Pappas is gone, too. The friends who knew Mike, worked with him, golfed with him, played cards with him and listened to his stories, will make their way to his wake this afternoon, having one last chance to say goodbye to the “Golden Greek.”

RIGA Hall of Fame Induction Tuesday, December 6, 2012 at Ledgemont CC

The Hall of Fame was created in the late 1990s to recognize people from the Rhode Island golf community who have made significant contributions to the game of golf. The first induction took place in 2001, with subsequent inductions taking place every two years. Thirty-six people have been honored through 2009.
What was most impressive was how much the little state of Rhode Island has accomplished in the golf world. The young players that were recognized last night were great players that have performed well both locally and in national events. Bobby Leopold won 2 matches in the USGA Amateur Championship. Bobby was the low Rhode Islander at the Northeast Amateur finishing tied 22nd. He was the medalist at the RI Amateur Championship shooting 6 under par 136 at Potowomut GC. Bobby eventually lost in extra holes in the quarterfinals. His season took a great turn after he qualified for the US Amateur at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. He was the 64th seed in match play after surviving a playoff where 20 players completed for 4 spots. He beat medalist Gregor Main 2 and 1 and Harris English (Nationwide Tour winner 2011) 4 and 3 before losing to Jordan Russell on the 19th hole. Bobby finished tied for 10th in RI Open and won Mid-Amateur at Carnegie Abbey shooting a 36 hole total of 3 under par 139.
Brad Valois continues to play at the highest level having won his third RI Amateur Championship and winning the stroke average for the 2011 season.
As a caddy at Pawtucket CC in the 1960s and 70s, I was familiar with some of the accomplishments of many of the great players of that time, but was impressed with the level of dedication to the game and how much these individuals gave back to the game.
Archie Boulet retired this year after 47 years at Bryant College. There were a dozen of his players in attendance and another 20 would have been there if the event was not totally sold out. Archie was loved by his players and his accomplishments were many. His program won 11 New England Division II titles and made 31 NCAA tournament appearances. Twenty times his teams finished in the top 20 at the Division IIU nationals. His teams produced 23 Division II All-Americans, 7 New England Players of the Year, one ECAC All-divisions crown and four New England all-division championships. 24 of his players went on to work as head or assistant pros at courses across the country.
Martha Wilkinson Kirouac won the RIWGA Women’s Amateur Championship three times (1974-75-77); the RIGA Mixed Championship four times; the 1975 New England Women’s Amateur Championship; the 1970 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship; the National Women’s Collegiate Championship and the Trans-Mississippi Women’s Amateur Championship. She was a member of the 1970 Women’s World Amateur Team and the 1970 and 1972 Curtis Cup teams. She also served as captain of the 2004 USA Curtis Cup Team and is a member of the USGA Women’s Committee.
Brad Faxon wrote a letter for Martha’s induction that was read by Bob Chaffee. Brad said that as a teenager he caddied for Martha often and learned how to manage a round viewing her expert play. Every shot was hit crisply and with a definite purpose. When Martha missed a shot, her recovery shots often were spectacular. Brad said that Martha would shoot a par or better round effortlessly.
Abrams won the RIGA Amateur Championship twice, in 1972 against Ronnie Quinn and in 1975 over Charlie Hayes. He was a finalist in the Amateur Championship in 1964 and 1976, and won the 1975 State Mixed Championship with Estelle Wolfson of Ledgemont Country Club. He has continued his dedication to golf with his off-course activities in golf course construction and management.
Norm Lutz flew up from Miami to accept Stan into the Hall of Fame. Norm and Stan played many matches over the years. Stan described one State Amateur match at Wannamoisett. Stan was one down teeing off the 18th which is a slight dogleg left par 4. Stan split the center of the fairway and knocked it 15 feet on his approach. Norman hit a poor tee shot and followed with an average second and managed to get his approach shot to the front of the green leaving a 60 foot putt. Stan said he was feeling good that he would make a two putt par to win the hole and extend the match. Norman made the 60 footer! Stan met many great putters, but none compared to Norm.
The late Anthony “Tony” Caranci had a distinguished career as a pioneer and mentor in golf course management. He took over as superintendent at Ledgemont Country Club in 1955, at the age of 25, and continued there until his retirement. He was a member and past president of both the Rhode Island and New England Golf Course Superintendents Association. He received distinguished service awards from both the New England and national organizations.
Anthony J. “Tony” Paolino was awarded the Hall of Fame’s Distinguished Service Award. He served the Rhode Island Golf Association for more than 37 years, including a term as president in 1985.

Melvin, Harty, Lund, Larivierre – 7th @ Pawtucket

Seventh hole at PCC

Jim Melvin, Bill Harty, Jack Lund, Ron Larivierre