LAtest from your league
My uncle, John T O'Leary, was many things to many people. A devoted husband, loving father, caring uncle, and known by all as an outdoorsman and conservationist. John's love of the outdoors started at his aunt's farm, where he and his brother Dan and cousin Peter would make an untold number of unforgettable memories. One of my fondest stories was where the “boys” (as John, Dan and Peter were commonly referred) were out behind the farm and found a cow that their uncle had dragged out back after it had died. Johnny (John) had the bright idea to plug it full of 22's and needless to say, the boys quickly found themselves covered in a sticky mess.
As Johnny grew older, so too grew his library of stories to choose from, as his love of hunting, fishing and conservation continued to mature. He had a passion for all type of bird hunting and all sports related. I believe the only thing he enjoyed more than plucking a bird from the sky (clay or pheasant), was taking a newbie out to share his stories and educate them in the art of shooting. John took great pride in bringing out new sportsmen and women to shoot their first birds while his dogs would eagerly wait to retrieve and bring them to their master.
John was always involved at several sportsman's clubs and served on many a trap and sporting clay's committee. He was a dedicated member of the Worcester County League, in which he held many positions including President over the years. One of John's passions (known to all that knew him) was sharing is knowledge through the Worcester County League paper and his local newspaper.
It would be impossible to sum up all that John T O'Leary was, or what he accomplished for our community. For I, his nephew, John was a role model; a hero; a sportsman of the like of which I can only aspire. He taught me the art of shooting shotguns and worked with me over many hours breaking clays, going for the 10 ring, and drilling it into my head that one should never shoot large, dead animals without wearing appropriate clothing. I will never forget the sheer joy of shooting my first pheasant over his dogs, bass fishing in the summers and warmth even in the cold while ice fishing in the winters.
Johnny always had a joke and a story (or two) to share with those around him (or within earshot). I am sure that at Leicester Rod and Gun, Worcester County League, Addyville, many other sportsman's clubs around the state, and hunting cabins around the country John's stories will continue to be told, and the legend of the big Irish leprechaun will go on.
Rest in Peace uncle John.
The following is what Mark Blazis a columnist for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette wrote about last year's Worcester County League's Annual Appreciation banquet
Annual Worcester County sportsmen's banquet provides an unforgettable night
The Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs’ annual banquet at Wachusett Country Club in Boylston in some ways resembles Oscar night. Honors are given out, and everybody who’s somebody in the outdoors world attends — and not just for the fabulous prime rib.
Last Saturday, 247 wildlife biologists, environmental police, outdoors writers, sportsmen’s club representatives and supportive politicians were all there for the big celebration. Appreciating the magnitude of the evening, state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) chief of information and education Marion Larson fought bouts of bronchitis to attend.
If the late Joan Rivers had fished and hunted, she’d have been there, too, critiquing everyone’s attire. Respectfully, it wasn’t a night for camo, and nary a redneck was seen.
As usual, no one dressed more sharply or spoke more eloquently than 83-year-young Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs' Hall of Famer, Mel Crouse, who was sporting his signature Arizona stetson.
Rivers definitely would have highlighted the big stars of the evening: retired Masschusetts Wildlife magazine editor Peter Mirick, retired MassWildlife director Wayne MacCallum, and state Department Fish and Game commissioner George Peterson. Deputy fish and game commissioner Mary-Lee King was there, too, along with MassWildlife director Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Central District manager Bill Davis, and fish and wildlife board members Bonnie Booth, Dr. Joseph Larson, Michael Roche, and former board member Ernie Foster.
State Representatives Kim Ferguson, Susannah Whipps Lee, Kate Campanale, Hannah Kane, Joseph McKenna, David Muradian, Kevin Kuros and Jonathan Zlotnik all brought their legislative good will. They all support the sportsmen’s tradition and their critical role in preserving land and wildlife for all segments of the state's population.
Also on the celebratory red carpet were Mike Moss, John Fabroski, Dan Kenney and state Environmental Police Col. James McGinn, along with lieutenants Anthony Wolsky and Charles Ziemba.
Two women with great voices and good senses of humor, commanded the attention of the audience, as Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was the evening's first guest speaker, highlighting emphatically how Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration supports sportsmen. Then, state Sen. Anne Gobi of Spencer, “one of us,” presented numerous awards to her sporting “brothers,” delighting them with her renowned wit and ready laughter.
A second Polito — Jim — of WTAG-AM radio talk show notoriety was there to present the keynote address.
Polito, poking fun of the current snake island controversy, started off with a rattlesnake joke but he soon got to the matter of our first president’s sporting life. Polito shared how George Washington was in fact both a fine horseman and passionate red fox huntsman. He spent much time following his hounds on the chase in Virginia. Our greatest president also enjoyed fishing for sturgeon, cod, sea bass and tautog.
Next, Gun Owners' Action League (GOAL) of Massachusetts president Jay Beard and executive director Jim Wallace addressed the group firmly standing up for Second Amendment rights. Beard warned there are some radicals wanting to take away our right to shoot a pellet gun on our own property. Fittingly, Bettina Romberg received the Words of Wisdom Award, most notably writing for the GOAL newspaper on gun rights.
Gary Zima, one of the best waterfowl hunters in the state, was there and being deservedly congratulated for his perennial leadership at the Big MOE (Mass Outdoor Exposition), where he succeeds every year in exciting many kids to get passionate about the outdoors.
The WCLSC presented Carl Dewey with its Farmer/Landowner of the Year Award. His Hardwick farm is managed to have room for wildlife. Dewey broke up the audience with his trapping tales.
During the Depression in 1938, while only an 8-year-old, he saw that a trapper could earn $1 or $2 for a great skunk pelt. Back then, the fur was sold vigorously as Alaskan sable, many being shipped to Europe for luxurious coats. A dollar was a lot of money during the depression — especially for an 8-year-old.
Well, Dewey proudly caught his first skunk, and in the process of dispatching it with a club, got sprayed. When he tried to go to his one-room schoolhouse the next day, he hadn’t succeeded in hiding the offensive odor. Everyone immediately objected to his presence and he was summarily sent home. Not to be discouraged, Dewey continued trapping skunks, and even with a .22-caliber rifle in hand, subsequently got sprayed again. Yes, he had to miss school for another couple days!
Dewey never lost his love of trapping, hunting and fishing, and kept his farm, when he inherited it, open to outdoorsmen. Without hospitable private landowners like Dewey, sportsmen would be pretty desperate in Massachusetts.
Rep. Muradian was deservedly given the Legislator of the Year Award. As his assistant, Muradian was well mentored by Peterson, showing his support for sportsmen with efforts in trapping and crossbow legislation.
Pam Landry was given the Youth Mentor Award. Mirick confided she was an environmental giant here in Massachusetts, over the years instructing literally thousands of teachers how to teach about the importance of wildlife and conservation — Project Wild and Envirothons all have her stamp on them.
The WCLSC also presented a very humble L. A. Jones with the Sportsman of the Year Award, in recognition of his work promoting the issues of sportsmen and sportswomen and helping the League stay fiscally prudent with his financial advise.
The League also inducted Dave Paple into the Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs' Hall of Fame, which includes the legendary likes of Ray Gribbons, Franny Walleston, Charlie Yanusas, Charlie Bucko, Noel Hare, Dick Woodard, Frank Smith, Crouse, Fred Warren, Jim Malo, Jim Berube, Ray Whitaker, Ernie Foster and Ed Foley, all of whom have had an important impact on our sportsman’s privileges in Massachusetts.
Ron Amidon, Berube, Dave Morin, Joe Afonso, Jim Nishan, John O’Leary, Jones, Rosemary Charron, Crouse, Phil Dumas, Foley, Randy Klockars, Paple, Ken Stidsen, Bob Polchlopek and Pete Silva should all be commended for perennially pulling off this mega event.
The Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs is a class organization that promotes not just sportsman’s rights, but just as importantly, ethics and education, and land conservation. They’re a major community asset working to join sportsmen and naturalists together for the benefit of all.