Senior Brighid Barratt is the recipient of the first ever John L. Duffy Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was established by Mr. Stephen McParltan, step brother of former Montini Catholic student, John L. Duffy†, a member of Montini's inaugural Class of 1970, Montini's first athletic manager, and whom Montini's John L. Duffy Memorial Stadium was named after in 1968. (The memorial stone in John's honor is located at the foot of the flagpole.)
The scholarship was established to honor and commemorate John's life and experience and specifically supports a current Montini Catholic student who has served or is serving as a manager of one of the Bronco athletic teams. Brighid is currently the manager of the Varsity Football Team.
John L. Duffy made Bronco history at a young age - becoming the school's first athletic manager. He will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Bronco fans. In 2023, a book, written by John’s classmate/teammate, Jim Ronan ‘70, about John and his inspiring
journey will be available in the school's library. (Excerpts from Jim's book are noted in italics.)
In his book Mr. Ronan remembers how John was present when the Bronco Football program first kicked off on August 24, 1966. "He was one of the smallest players present. He was not muscular. He was not fast. He was not an aggressive person, but as John began his Montini career, he had a deep desire to belong and contribute. The Football team was where he chose to take root and grow wings.”
John had been diagnosed with leukemia midway through his eighth grade year. And although he suited up and began living out his dream on the Bronco team, his physical limitations put him at risk. A few weeks into the season, Coach Jim Kavanuagh appointed John as “Montini’s first ever athletic manager.”
"John accepted his role and served in that capacity during the first two football seasons in Montini history," writes Jim Ronan in his book. "He worked hard at his responsibilities; was always an encouragement to his teammates; and was respected by all his fellow peers. John grew in his heartfelt appreciation for the people that made this school what it was and still is: supportive classmates, outstanding teachers, committed coaches and a student focused administration."
"Over his two years as a Bronco, John was in and out of the hospital several times. His parents told him he was anemic, and the infusions he received were to help his blood grow stronger. As a testament to his character, no one remembers John complaining of his pain, his illness, the inconveniences he experienced or the unfair hand he was dealt."
Fifty years later, Armi Esposito, a teammate of John’s and owner of Montini football records dating back to 1969 stated, “Back in high school, none of us knew what John was going through. Looking back now, knowing what I know today about life, there’s no doubt in my mind that day in and day out, he was the toughest guy out on the football field. While in pain and discomfort, he took responsibility for the jobs he was assigned to do. On one occasion, when I began to help carry in some of the equipment he was in charge of, he confidently stated, ‘Armi, you have a job to do and so do I. You do your job; I’ll do mine!’ Even though I was twice his size, I had no desire to argue with him.”
Before John passed, he saw the beginning stages of Montini’s football stadium being built: the land surveyed and graded, the soil seeded, the concrete footings poured for the stands, the cinder track measured and marked. One day he and I sat on the concrete steps leading out to the original football field, now the baseball and softball fields, and talked football, life and dreams. It is a conversation I will never forget. “Jim,” he asked, “what’s it like to be on the field? To be out there with your teammates; all of you working together to win each and every down?” “John,” I replied, “you are on the field. As manager, you have a role to fill just like everyone else.”
He gave me a half smile, and with a distant look toward the stadium rising from the ground, quietly said, “Just once, just for one play, I would love to be on the field. I would love to know how that feels.” He paused and silence filled the air and space between us. He finished by looking me in the eye and stating, “Don’t ever take for granted the gifts you’ve been given.”
I promised not to. Montini’s football stadium initially opened for the 1968 varsity season. The first game played here was a 34 - 6 Bronco victory over Driscoll. Armi Esposito ran for over 200 yards and scored 3 TDS. Fleet-footed defensive tackles Lee Hutchins, a Visitation classmate of John’s, and Paul Cesaretti both picked up loose footballs and ran them into the end zone as the defense scored twice. It was a fitting beginning for a stadium that holds so many significant memories and outstanding athletic performances!"
John L. died of leukemia near the end of his sophomore year on April 3, 1968. "He truly impacted the Bronco community in a very short period of time," remembered his step brother.
That fall, Coach Kavanaugh requested that the new stadium be named in honor of John, pointing out John’s commitment and loyalty to his team and school along with his unselfish and non-complaining spirit, even in the midst of intense, physical, bone marrow pain. "He, Principal Brother Martin, and the entire faculty wanted the stadium named in honor of John as an example for future generations of Broncos who would follow. The outpouring of support from Montini’s students and parents was overwhelming. The official dedication and naming of the stadium took place on October 26, 1968. On that date, the “John L. Duffy Memorial Stadium” became part of Montini history."
"John wanted to play football at Montini. His final career football statistics read: 0 tackles; 0
interceptions; 0 fumbles recovered; 0 carries; 0 receptions; 0 completions; 0 yards gained; 0 plays from scrimmage; 2 years as football athletic manager; and finally, 1 stadium named in his honor."
"I truly believe John L. would have chosen a long, healthy, productive life over having his name placed above the entryway of Montini’s stadium. He didn’t want to die, nor was he searching for or in need of recognition. After his passing however, his coaches, teammates, and classmates, along with Montini’s faculty and parents, did want, and maybe needed,his name, along with his character, to be long remembered."
The faculty, staff and students were welcomed John's step brother, Stephen, along with his classmates Jim Ronan and Mike Manna when they presented the first John L. Duffy Scholarship during their Founder's Day earlier this spring. There were also several members of the Class of 1970 in attendance to witness the emotional scholarship presentation. Mr. McPartltan visited Montini once again on September 1st to take a more fitting photo with Brighid right outside the stadium (photo attached).
"I was very surprised when I found out I won the first ever John L. Duffy Memorial Scholarship," said Brighid. "I am so super grateful for the opportunities that being a part of the football team has given me and where my involvement has led me in life. I’m so honored!"
"If not for a life-ending illness at the young age of 15, John L. Duffy would be turning 70 years old this year," adds Jim Ronan in his book. " I am certain he would be in attendance at the 2022 reunion of Montini’s first graduating class, the Class of 1970, to celebrate 52 years since he and his classmates walked across the stage and received their high school diplomas."
"I have no doubt he would be gathered with his “old” teammates the night before, at the Friday night football game, cheering on the Broncos in a stadium that would bear a different name. Maybe the Broncos would play in: The Corral; or The Stockade; or The Wide Open Range. A name reflecting where broncos are kept or where wild horses are found running unbroken and free. If “only” not for a life ending illness at the young age of 15 . . . "
John L. Duffy Memorial Stadium
(Poem written by Ann McCauley-Finch, Joanne Donnelly-Marella and the 197 ECHOES Yearbook Staff)
I am HIS stadium.
He helped build the spirit that echoes at every game within my bounds.
He gave much to that school standing so close to me, and to those within it.
Yes, for those who play on my field, for those who cheer in my stands, for all of us
...he worked hard.
And when they cheer, I hear him cheer.
I am prouder than any other stadium at any other school.
I am the John L. Duffy Memorial Stadium.
In 2023, Jim Ronan's book will be placed in the Montini Library with details on John’s life and how he dealt with a grave illness at such a young age. "Many people believe John L. still has life lessons to teach us all."
"On behalf of his brother Stephen and sister Jacqueline, their families, and the graduates from the Classes of 1970 and 1971 who attended Montini with John, we all thank you for the honor bestowed upon him. We are confident John is looking down from Heaven, proud to still be a part of Montini Catholic High School and Bronco football."
"John’s life, and death, should remind us all, “Don't ever take for granted the gifts you’ve been given. Use your unique talents to make this world a better place. Encourage someone; be kind to someone; speak positive words to someone; work hard at the tasks allocated to you. Never take for granted the precious gift of today. Put forth the effort to be present, and thankful, for each and every day you are entrusted with here on Earth.”
This article (in italics) was written by Jim Ronan, a Montini football teammate and classmate of John L. from 1966 - 1968, in collaboration with Stephen McPartlin and Jacqueline Streit, older brother and sister of ‘Johnny’, and Jim Segredo, Principal of Montini 1997 - 2004, and President of Montini 2004 - present.
IMAGE ABOVE: Stephen McParltin and Brighid Barratt
Brighid is from Lombard and is a graduate of Sacred Heart School and a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish. She is the daughter of Donald and Maureen Barratt