Super fans: Patriots help keep father's memory alive
Come this Sunday, when the New England Patriots and New York Giants square off in Super Bowl XLII, Janice and Ronald Boyes of Griswold will hunker down and be a bundle of nerves.
It’s tradition, going back to the mid-1980s — back when the Boyes, both Patriots fans, watched the Super Bowl with Janice’s brother, Jeff, at his home in New York.
However this year, as it has been for the last six years, there’s someone missing — Janice’s father, Gerry Palonen. Few were bigger Patriots fans than he.
“At home, when I lived there, we would watch the games all the time,” Janice said. “Sunday afternoons, we would sit down after church and watch the games. We would just have a good time. That’s pretty much all we would talk about was football, and how the Patriots were doing.”
Palonen, who lived in Canterbury, was your typical football fan. During the week, he’d be working at Lisbon Textile, or the pressroom at the Norwich Bulletin, or at the Helen Baldwin School in Canterbury as a janitor. Sunday, however, the focus was on the Patriots.
And for the first 42 years of the team’s history, he suffered along with just about everyone else in New England with the Super Bowl drought.
“Not in my lifetime!” Palonen would exclaim when asked when the Patriots would win the Super Bowl.
Sadly, on Feb. 2, 2002, Palonen passed away unexpectedly at the age of 62. Not even 24 hours later, the Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams to win Super Bowl XXXVI for their first of three titles.
A bittersweet celebration, to be sure.
“It was pretty somber,” Ronald remembered. “It was probably a few minutes after kickoff, and I looked at the clock and said, ‘Jeff, the game’s on. We might might have well just watch it.’ But it’s not going to be the same.
“We turned the TV on, and there’d be a big play — ‘Yay’ — we didn’t really care. It wasn’t important to us. The game had no meaning.”
Janice remembers the game well — even though she was upstairs, while Jeff and Ronald were downstairs in front of the television.
“I could not bring myself to watch it,” she said. “I knew they had won. They both went ‘Yes!’ and both went quiet. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ ”
Since then, of course, New England has won two more titles and is looking to complete the first 19-0 season in league history with a win over New York.
Jeff lives in Virginia now, and the chances are slim that the trio will be able to get together Sunday to watch the game.
In the Boyes’ house, there is also a hutch with all sorts of Patriots memorabilia stuck in any open space. There’s also pictures of Gerry atop the piano.
For some families, sport means more than who won and who lost.
“It brought us together,” Janice said.
Six years after Palonen died, football continues to bring the family together. Chances are that’s just how he would have liked it.
Reach Brian Girasoli at 425-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org