“Aunt Beth always looked for the happy or the humor in any situation,” he said. “Stuff happens, but you have to get past it and move on. There’s always something happy to take out of something, whether it’s good or bad. There’s always a bright side.”
Still an inspiration
For Acton-Boxborough’s Hoang, his inspiration is drawn from someone he met through soccer.
He remembers hardly recognizing Rich Filippetti when the coordinator for youth soccer referees approached Hoang to deliver a routine assessment of his performance in the role. Filippetti had been dealing with esophageal cancer for about a month. He looked like he had aged 10 years and badly needed some rest. He just wanted to tell Hoang he was doing a great job.
Hoang didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into. He was just 13 at the time, and yet there he was, wearing the black-and-white stripes and running up and down a soccer field in Manchester-by-the-Sea, blowing the whistle when he thought he saw a foul.
The kids playing in the game were his age, some maybe even older. But parents yell at the referee regardless.
“Being a ref is very hard, especially as a young kid with all the pressure,” Hoang said.
Filippetti made sure Hoang never felt that.
Cancer took Filippetti’s life in December 2010, at age 59. Hoang is still refereeing soccer games.
“He was just a teacher almost,” Hoang said. “A teacher of refereeing, and what it takes to be a good person and a good leader.”
The wig comes off
Tommy Wilson was too young to understand why his Aunt Hendy was always wearing a wig. He kept asking her to take it off. Finally, she did. The chemotherapy for her breast cancer had left her bald.
“It’s just a lot to go through,” said Wilson, a senior midfielder for Acton-Boxborough. “Not only for the person, but for everyone involved. Mentally, it’s a lot. It’s really heavy.”
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at email@example.com.