|A handout photo of Jeff Beatrice.|
A man missed
NEWTON - Everybody in Newton knew Jeff Beatrice because he had coached every kid in town at one time or another. Their mothers would stop his wife, Elinor, in the street to tell her Jeff was the best basketball, baseball, softball, football coach their kid had ever had.
He was a big, funny, boisterous guy. He lived in the pretty green house where he grew up on Ashmont Avenue, with Elinor and seven of his 11 children. Eleven. And they were just the official ones. Kids from all over the neighborhood hung out at their house. A few even moved in for a while. It was organized chaos, and it was glorious. And Jeff, a man for whom fatherhood was a vocation, was king of it all.
“We had a nice life,’’ Elinor said on Monday afternoon, wiping tears away.
But then that nice life began to collapse - only collapse seems like too mild a term for it.
A few years ago, Jeff, a self-employed CPA, did a property deal that went bad. He lost a huge amount of money, and a suit by his former business partner ended with a lien on the family’s house. He fell behind on his huge mortgage payments. Their money drained away.
They got through the last three Christmases with turkeys from Our Lady Help of Christians, the nearby parish where Jeff went to school.
Elinor has been to the food pantry too many times. She applied for scholarships so their kids could continue to play the sports they love.
“The begging wears you down,’’ she said. “You feel like people are saying, ‘You again?’ ’’
They let a lot go, including Jeff’s life insurance.
Outside, Jeff was still the jolly, gravel-voiced color announcer for the local Pop Warner games. At home, away from the legions of locals who adored him, and after the kids went to bed, he oscillated between despair and the hope that things would turn around.
They didn’t. Last January, Jeff and Elinor awoke to sirens. The house next door - Jeff’s mother’s house - was ablaze. Trapped upstairs, Dorothy Beatrice, 85, died in the fire. She had been caring for Jeff’s older brother John, who is blind. Jeff took him in.
After the fire, locals rallied. But few of them knew of Jeff’s financial troubles until they read the foreclosure notice in the paper. The green house was going to auction on Nov. 5.
Early Friday morning, Elinor heard Jeff struggling on the stairs. Asthmatic, and recently diagnosed with pneumonia, he could barely breathe.
He stepped outside for air, turned toward her, and fell. He died of a heart attack. He was 49.
“All of this stress just killed him,’’ Elinor said.
There were tributes to Jeff at all of his kids’ games over the weekend. Madison, 14, scored 22 points in her basketball game; Curtis, 13, won his Pop Warner championship.
On Monday, Elinor was sitting on the couch in her rose-walled living room, as friends stopped by with food and support. They had been calling the mortgage company all day, trying to get them to hold off on the auction, at least until she had a chance to bury Jeff. A couple of hours before the wake, Elinor finally got good news: The foreclosure will be delayed for 60 days. She can grieve in peace for now. Jeff’s funeral is this morning, at Our Lady’s.
“Jeff was my best friend,’’ she said, pulling tissues from a box. “Whatever I made for dinner was wonderful. Whatever I did with the kids, it was the best. We relied on him for everything.’’
The kids trickled home from school, disappeared upstairs, went to friend’s houses. Nathaniel, 9, snuggled in close to his mother.
“Have you been crying?’’ he asked, searching her face for traces of the day’s tears.
Elinor stroked her son’s pale cheek and lied.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many readers have contacted us asking how they can help the Beatrice family. A fund has been set up for them:
The Jeffrey Beatrice Family Fund
c/o The Village Bank
307 Auburn St
Auburndale, MA 02466